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Cale Holmes ’16 returning to Randolph to talk about his journalism career

Cale Holmes ’16

During his time at Randolph College, Cale Holmes ’16 pursued longtime interests—including a passion for China—while embracing new ones in topics ranging from art history to economics.

“I’m very thankful to have had a liberal arts education. So much of my life’s work at the moment is influenced by it,” said Holmes, whose most recent gig was as a producer for CGTN, a state-run English-language news channel based in Beijing, China.

At Randolph, he served on the Sustainability Council, studied the Caribbean region in the American Culture Program, tested pH levels in the James River with environmental studies professor Karin Warren, and wrote for The Sundial.

Holmes returned to campus to talk about his career, and how Randolph prepared him for it, in February. His talk, Live shots and lockdowns: Life of an American journalist in the new China, was free and open to the public.

“Cale is a role model for current Randolph students, and it will be interesting to hear how he wrote truth in his news reports without violating Chinese press regulations,” said Kun An, a professor of Chinese language who taught him and has remained a mentor over the years.

Holmes, who majored in global studies and minored in Chinese studies, still remembers his first class with her as a first-year.

“From that first lecture onward, she incorporated a very entertaining pedagogy, which kept us all engaged,” said Holmes, who had started studying Mandarin the summer before his first year, driven by burgeoning interests in international relations and the environment.

“Students couldn’t wait to link up 15 or 20 minutes before class and study together in Leggett Hall. We would joke and converse with whatever new vocabulary and grammar we had learned in the previous class. I passionately studied Mandarin because I had found a community.”

He finally got the chance to visit China after being accepted into Duke Study in China, a three-month summer immersion program based at the prestigious University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.

“With the foundation Kun An helped me build, I was freely communicating with local students and residents,” he said. “By the first month, I was going to the dentist and the bank, using only Mandarin. It felt like I’d unlocked the key to learning more history, meeting new friends, and thinking about the world in a different way.”

Holmes continued pursuing his passions after graduating from Randolph in 2016. He earned his master’s from the Columbia School of Journalism and later worked as a news producer for WBOC, a television station in Salisbury, Maryland.

He returned to China in 2019, working through the COVID-19 outbreak, the trade war between the United States and China, and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s removal of presidential term limits from the Chinese constitution.

“Being a journalist in China is honestly a rewarding experience, but it’s challenging depending on what you’re covering,” he said. “It’s a lot of push and pull. It requires a degree of knowledge of Chinese society and political norms to understand what the sensitive stories are and how best you can cover them based on China’s political preferences. I did my best to cooperate, learn, and advocate for practices fit for a media company in the 21st century.”

The job also required a lot of intercultural competency, which he said he cultivated at Randolph.

Now back in the United States, Holmes wants to pursue his passions for journalism and the environment, raising awareness about the threats of climate change.

“I want to continue these efforts in my next job and join a growing network of scientists, educators, activists, and frontline communities working to fix the damage done to our planet.”

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