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Melissa Hung, Editor in Chief
Photo credit: Seng Chen

Melissa Hung of Hyphen

When you think “non-profit” you don’t usually equate the word “selfish” to it. For Hyphen, that is exactly the reason and motivation for the magazine’s success. Melissa Hung, 29, Editor-in-Chief shares with us how her frustration to find a print media that she could identify with led to her launch her non-profit business idea. She utlized her journalism background and work experience and transformed her frustration to create what Hyphen is now. Her selish motivations have been praised by her readers because now they too have a magazine they can identify with. For the culturally and politically savvy, Hyphen has everything you’d want to know about cultural trends, entertainment, politics, music – the list goes on and on. So what are you waiting for? Learn more about what makes Hyphen so addicting and the person that made it all happen in this week’s Non-Profit Spotlight.




March 2002




Melissa Hung




Houston, Texas

Current residence

Oakland, California


Northwestern University, BS in Journalism (1999)

Work Experience

Formerly a reporter for the Houston Press and East Bay Express



About the non-profit

Hyphen is a magazine about Asian America for the culturally and politically savvy. Built around a clarity of image, word and social awareness, Hyphen takes form from the artists, thinkers and creators who are shaping a new multiethnic generation.

Each issue includes:
• Stories about cultural trends, art, politics and more
• Profiles of musicians, filmmakers, athletes, activists and other busybodies on the rise
• Quirky analysis of media and pop culture
• Reviews of new albums, books and music
• Products made by Asian Americans, from comics to jewelry to strap-on harnesses
• A photo essay, fashion spread or gallery art by a notable visual artist
• Literature by up-and-coming creative writers

Hyphen is a nonprofit, run completely by volunteers. We are not out to get rich – our goals are to contribute to the community, educate and increase awareness.

Most notable milestones

Hyphen was nominated for an Utne Independent Press Award for Best New Title. We also won Best Cover at the Independent Press Association for our Body Issue, which featured a hot Asian man in a bathtub full of edamame. This year we presented the first ever Mr. Hyphen contest – dedicated to honoring Asian American men who have contributed to the community through nonprofit organizations. The winner received a donation to his nonprofit and a blinging rhinestone belt. We also started a blog on our Website that gets quite a bit of traffic. Lots of crazy discussions take place there.

What’s the niche?

Hyphen’s a quirky magazine that covers entertainment and silly stories like why East Asians turn red when drinking. We made the case for why New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” is the Asian American anthem. But we also cover hard news, politics and important issues that get missed by the mainstream media, such as immigration, or what’s going on with the Vietnamese American community in New Orleans after Katrina.

What’s the biggest challenge?

Securing financial support. Buying Hyphen on the newsstand is great, but subscribing is even better. People don’t understand that it’s important to subscribe and donate to small indie publications. Like public radio, we depend on our readers to support us. We don’t have pages of corporate ads to fund us. Not yet, at least.

What’s in store for the future?

Many many subscribers, we hope. More subscribers means we’ll be able to fund important projects, like publishing more often, engaging in investigative reporting, and building a more interactive Website for our readers.

Who would you like to be contacted by?

All sorts of people! Advertisers, donors who believe in our mission of independent media, business professionals, and subscribers. We also love hearing from those who tell the stories – editors, writers, photographer, and illustrators.

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What motivated you to get started?

I was motivated by selfish reasons. When I was at the newsstand, I couldn’t find a magazine that really reflected me. And I know there are other Asian American like me who are interested in arts, media, politics, and DIY (Do It Yourself) culture. So, a group of us got together to talk about what we’d like to see in a magazine. And Hyphen was born.

What keeps you motivated?

Injustice, stereotypes, and the fact that Asian Americans are not fully accepted in American society. Plus, there are so many interesting people who get overlooked and we want to tell their stories.

Like best about what you do?

Meeting those interesting people! Providing a voice for Asian Americans.

Like least about what you do?

Stuffing magazines in envelopes and mailing them, tracking down bookstores who owe us money – we roll up our sleeves and do everything ourselves.

At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An astronaut.

Three interesting facts about yourself

I can write backwards. I’ve never had a cavity. And I run a short film festival called Slant in my other spare time.

Favorite cause

Women’s rights, the environment, and a cure for cancer.

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Interview by Vanessa Chan
Introduction by Sumaya Kazi

Also this week

Alexis ParraAshwini SrikantiahNarges Bajoghli and Nikoo Paydar

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