Emily Y. Wu ’06 remembers a particular moment when Hollywood’s Mona Lisa Smile was filmed on campus her first year. A sea of costumed extras stood on Severance Green. “I walk down the hill, and I [come upon] a line of chairs,” she says. “On this side of the director’s chair was the 1960s, and on this side was 2003. … It was a split world. I thought that was so cool. Moviemaking was magical. We can recreate moments, recreate history.” In her senior year, Emily founded a video production club for students who wanted to make, not just watch, films.
Emily is still telling stories. Having traded in her shot list for headphones, she is the co-founder and CEO of Ghost Island Media, an award-winning podcast network in Taiwan, where she produces audio stories. Emily always knew she wanted to be a journalist. After graduating from Wellesley as a studio art major, she worked for several years in broadcast and cut her teeth in studios in New York and Taipei. She worked on projects covering subjects as diverse as migratory birds, political satire animations, and North Korea’s only university outside the country.
Podcasts first drew her interest when she was on the road in China. People around her were all abuzz about Serial, a true crime podcast. “I was hooked right away,” she says. While on the road, podcasts became her lifeline. Since the shows could be pre-downloaded, there were no streaming issues. Plus, news podcasts connected her to the outside world. At the time, the New York Times website was walled off, but its podcast had somehow been overlooked by Chinese censors.
In 2019, Emily founded Ghost Island Media to share perspectives from Taiwan on global issues. Ghost Island currently produces 15 podcasts in Mandarin, English, and French on culture and current affairs. Shows cover everything from environmental sustainability to metal music to cannabis. The network’s name in Mandarin, gui dao, is a pejorative term. “It basically means s— - town,” Emily says. Tired of hearing people write off Taiwan as a stagnant backwater, she decided to reclaim the term to name a network spotlighting Taiwan’s vibrant culture and politics.
For Ghost Island, Emily co-hosts Metalhead Politics, an English-language show at the intersection of music and politics, with death metal musician and member of parliament Freddy Lim of the band Chthonic. She recalls that a listener from Poland wrote to them in solidarity after tuning in, “Look, I didn’t think I had anything in common with Taiwan, but I realize we have to stand together. We have to fight authoritarians together.” Dos Salidas, a narrative documentary series in Mandarin, was the first of its kind and prompted many listeners to respond, too. The show recorded a year of reconciliation between a mother diagnosed with terminal cancer and her daughter. Taiwanese listeners reached out with their own experiences, grateful to feel less alone.
Emily has returned to her role as mic-wielder, this time in front of the camera with her eponymous television show, Game Changers with Emily Y. Wu. She has hosted and interviewed 30 emerging leaders across industries—tech, education, human rights—about how they are making a difference in the world, starting in Taiwan.
In this era of high political tension in Taiwan, Emily credits some of her boldness to Wellesley. Women in leadership roles in Asia are rare, and change has been slower to come than in the United States, she says. But, Emily says, “The Seven Sisters alums here are quite strong, confident go-getters. That’s one huge advantage of coming from a women’s college, especially one as good as Wellesley, that prepares you to have that mentality. At some point, everybody comes to that, but I think we got a bit of a head start.”