An interview with Kate Springer, Journalist & Editor
Name: Kate Springer | Occupation: Journalist & Editor| Location: Hong Kong | Known for: Works published in Condé Nast Traveler, CNN, BBC Travel, Sotheby’s, W Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, Fodor’s, Munchies, Time Out, and more, Managing Editor for Ariana Magazine
Hong Kong is home to an abundance of creative talent, spanning across different career paths from restaurateurs to feng shui masters. Each week we interview some of the most notable creatives and entrepreneurs from around the city to learn some of their quirky habits, hopes and dreams, and “favourite things” to share with us—all within the short timeframe of 10 minutes. This week, we got up and personal with Kate Springer, a Hong Kong-based freelance journalists and editor, covering topics from food and culture to social justice issues.
Thermal River, Iceland | Image courtesy of Kate Springer
A Little Background…
If you read travel and leisure magazines, or Ariana Magazine, a Hong Kong-based magazine bringing light to social justice issues across the globe, then you’ve probably come across the work of American-born Kate Springer. Kate is a Hong Kong-based freelance journalist who covers travel, food, culture, design, and social justice issues.
Her work has been published in numerous notable publications, including Condé Nast Traveler, CNN, BBC Travel, Sotheby’s, W Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, Fodor’s, Munchies, Time Out, and more. She is also a freelance producer for CNN Travel and the managing editor of Ariana magazine. Kate holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. As an avid reader of Kate’s work—which frequently crops up on our radar—Faye Bradley got in touch with the journalist to delve a little deeper into the story behind the name.
1) Could you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing/journalism?
Absolutely! After graduating from college, I volunteered as a teacher in Chile for six months, then as a volunteer coordinator in Antigua, Guatemala for another four or five months. In Antigua, I’d welcome groups of volunteers, help coordinate schedules, host drinks or dinners, and join the volunteers on various cultural excursions.
The group I was working with, Cultural Embrace, invited me to write about the experience – everything from our local partners to specific missions, social issues, food, and culture – on their blog. And that was really a catalyst for me!
I fell in love with storytelling, which led me to pursue a quick but intense master’s degree in journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Before I graduated, one of my professors helped me secure a residency at TIME magazine’s Hong Kong bureau – and I’ve been here ever since.
Image courtesy of Kate Springer
After the TIME residency, I worked at an online travel magazine called Smart Travel Asia for a few months before taking a job at HK Magazine (a now-defunct weekly lifestyle publication). I took the leap and started freelancing in 2015, which was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
From there, I started pitching ideas about Hong Kong and Asia to US-based magazines, websites and airline magazines while simultaneously working on a few guidebook projects. Around that time, I also started accepting copywriting and branded content assignments, normally things like blog content, newsletters, flyers, brochures, press releases, editing and proofreading. When the corporate work became too much for me to handle on my own, I hired a few part-time writers, editors and translators – and that’s how my content agency, Springer Creative, came to be.
2) Where in the world would you like to be right now?
Well, I have to say, if there’s anywhere in the world that I’m happy to be grounded, Hong Kong tops my list! I feel really lucky to be here during this global crisis and I’m taking it as an opportunity to reconnect with Hong Kong. I’ve been taking lots of micro-adventures, such as hiking on Lantau, hitting up the beaches, visiting far-flung islands, and I even have a scuba diving certification course booked for late May (restrictions pending).
But if I could travel anywhere, I would probably rebook an earlier trip to Germany, France and Switzerland, which my husband and I had to cancel. The primary motivation for the trip is to meet our adorable nephew, who was born about six months ago. But we are also keen to drink our way through the Alsace Wine Route, which runs along France’s eastern border.
Via Ferrata, Oman | Image courtesy of Kate Springer
3) What is your most memorable trip so far and why?
That’s a really hard one. While traveling in my capacity as a journalist, I would say that a trip to Oman in 2017 was particularly memorable. It was my first time stepping foot in the Middle East where the landscapes, food and culture are so different from what I’ve experienced in the past.
I also tried a via ferrata course – it’s essentially a mountain climbing route with fixed steel cables and ladders – for the first time while I was in the Hajar mountains, a few hours south of Muscat, the capital. The climbing course was set on the edge of what’s called the Grand Canyon of Oman. Needless to say, I will never forget that adrenaline rush or the incredible views!
4) Who do you look to for inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere. In terms of people, I really admire game-changing scientists, like Dr. Jane Goodall, who not only furthered our understanding of primates as a species but works tirelessly to conserve wildlife for future generations.
Then there are the everyday heroes. I’m lucky to live in Hong Kong, where I find inspiration in hard-working women like Ah Por Tofu Fa (famous for her silky, ginger tofu pudding) on Lamma Island or Ho Sau Mei (one of the city’s last mahjong tile carvers), who are keeping traditions alive.
5) Can you tell us about Ariana magazine?
Sure! Ariana magazine is a quarterly magazine focused on social justice issues in Hong Kong, Macao and greater Asia – we also have a newly-launched website, as well as audio stories and video content to follow shortly.
In 2018, a fellow editor and project manager, Mariana Cesar de Sa, invited me to work with her on the project. At first, I was just going to consult on the overall story direction, tone and design ahead of the launch at the end of 2018, but I ended up staying on as the magazine’s Managing Editor. So I’ve worked on the project for about two years now and have had a really unique opportunity to watch it evolve.
With each issue, the magazine does a deep-dive into a different theme – think sexual harassment, forced migration, climate change, disabilities, cancer, LGBT+ rights, reproductive health – while our website will cover a mix of these topics, plus timely news.
Our aim is to challenge social taboos, include often marginalised voices in the conversation, and investigate outdated laws and social mores.
6) Quote you live by?
I’m not really a motivational quote kind of person, but I do like this one from Eleanor Roosevelt: “If life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavor.”
Image courtesy of Kate Springer
7) Favourite thing about Hong Kong?
Easy access to nature. Within a 20-minute walk of my apartment, I can be on the Morning Trail, Hong Kong Trail 1, or the waterfront. The sheer variety of food is a close second – Sri Lanka, Korean, Cantonese, Shanghainese, Taiwanese, French and Japanese cuisines are all at my doorstep. It’s really amazing.
8) What’s on your destination bucket list?
My bucket list takes the form of a handy Google spreadsheet, with a few notes about best times to visit, visa and immunisation requirements, minimum days I’d hope to spend there, etc, which helps me plan. In my top 10, I have Bhutan, Tasmania, Tibet, Laos, Denmark, Tanzania, Bolivia, Morocco, Portugal, and Jordan.
9) What should everyone be reading right now?
I am obsessed with Audible, so I will suggest my top picks for what to ‘listen to’ now. I just finished “Girl, Woman, Other”, an exceptional work of fiction that follows the interconnected lives, loves and struggles of 12 British women, many of whom are immigrants or non-binary individuals.
I also loved “Educated”, a memoir by Tara Westover about growing up in a fundamentalist Mormon family, surviving emotional and physical abuse, and eventually being disowned by her parents. She never had any formal schooling but was able to teach herself enough to pass the GED (a secondary school equivalency test in the US), then eventually went on to earn her PhD in history at the University of Cambridge.
10) Do you have any advice for aspiring writers and journalists?
Try everything. Ask questions. Indulge your curiosity. If you personally find something surprising, counter-intuitive or otherwise cool and worth exploring, chances are that your readers will too.
Recent Work by Kate Springer:
Ariana May 2020 CNN Travel: Around The World Without Flying Fodor’s Travel: What Happens to Tokyo Now That the Olympics Are Postponed? ALMAVIVA 2017: Wine Of The Decade CN Traveler: Things To Do in Hong Kong
Kampot Pepper Plantation, Cambodia | Image courtesy of Kate Springer