Meet the 2012 AAJA National Journalism Award Winners


Each year, the Asian American Journalists Association recognizes the best journalism in the categories of Online, Photography, Print, Radio and Television.  The 2012 winners were announced at AAJA’s Gala Awards Banquet on Aug. 3 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Issues: Online 

Momo Chang, Freelance Writer,

R.J. Lozada, Videographer,

“Motherhood Rooted: Asian and Pacific Islander Moms in the U.S. Embrace Ancient Post-Birth Traditions”

Judges’ comments: “The strength of ‘Motherhood Rooted’ is the voices of Asian mothers and the cultural rituals and practices they observe following the birth of their child.  The piece illuminates a movement not well known or reported in mainstream media. And the personal stories Chang tells bring to life the mythology of motherhood and what we do to protect and nurture mother and child. The sidebar and video complemented without being overly duplicative. We enjoyed, too, the recipes that helped enliven the senses.”

Asian American and Pacific Islander Issues: Photography

Paul Sakuma, Photographer, The Associated Press

“Filipino Worker Looking for Work”

Judges’ comments: “The plight of the unemployed is often a quiet story; the jobless often face empty days of silence and painful self assessment. Photographer Sakuma helps viewers connect with the dismay of this job seeker beyond unemployment numbers and statistics.”

Asian American and Pacific Islander Issues: Radio

Momo Chang, Freelance Journalist, National Radio Project Making Contact

Pauline Bartolone, Producer and Reporter, National Radio Project Making Contact

“The Toxic Truth About Nail Salons”

Judges’ comments: “In Chang’s radio entry, we not only learn about the ‘toxic trio’ and its negative health effects, we root for the women who speak out against it. One source said she quit her job at a salon as a manicurist and became a health advocate, serving the Vietnamese-speaking community.  The narrative is loaded with chemical compounds that are hard to pronounce — kudos to Momo and her partner for their spot-on pronunciation.  ‘These women,’ she says, ‘shouldn’t have to put their health at risk to make a living.’ As a listener, you really care about these women and hope they can make a change.”

Asian American and Pacific Islander Issues: Television

David Ono, News Anchor, KABC-TV Los Angeles

“Witness: American Heroes”

Judges’ comments: “Ono elevated this local story into a national tribute. His piece could easily have been told through the use of file tape and local interviews. Instead, he took the story to its origin in Europe, guiding the audience through lesser-known historical monuments and even to remote fields that were integral to the story. Although history granted Ono mere glimpses of untold battles, he was able to weave together a clear storyline by reconnecting the principal characters despite the obstacle of distance, time, and even death. Masterful.”

Unlimited Subject Matter: Online

 Moni Basu, Reporter, CNN Wire

“The War at Home”

Judges’ comments: “What made ‘The War at Home’ a standout was the reporter’s thoroughness and patience in telling one soldier’s story. The three-part series detailed the upheaval that Spc. Shane Parham found in his time in Iraq and upon his return to civilian life, a story some six years in the telling. We were impressed that Moni kept a tight focus on the narrative, and even a tighter one in the accompanying ‘in his own voice’ video replete with compelling images.”

Unlimited Subject Matter: Photography

 Conner Jay, Photojournalist

“Small Towns, Big Gangs”

Judges’ comments: The “multiple-picture entry presents a complete and disturbing view of small rural communities struggling with the scourge of gang violence.”


Unlimited Subject Matter: Print

Mina Kimes, Writer, Fortune Magazine

“America’s Hottest Export: Weapons”

Judges’ comments: “Impressive for its thorough reporting and lively writing. Judges called it a comprehensive and well-researched piece that looked at how U.S. defense contractors have begun targeting customers abroad as funding for weapons dries up at home. It unraveled a complicated and potentially dry topic, and turned it into a riveting piece of journalism.”

Daisuke Wakabayashi, Staff Reporter, The Wall Street Journal

“Making Home Sweet Again”

Judges’ comments: “A moving account about a Japanese baker finding purpose in his craft after a devastating tsunami took almost everything from him. Stories of death and loss abounded in the wake of the tsunami, but the story of one man’s resiliency and his sense of hope was truly powerful.”

Unlimited Subject Matter: Radio

Yowei Shaw, Freelance Audio Producer, WNYC’s Studio 360

“My Parents’ Extreme Tango Makeover”

Judges’ comments: “It was a thoughtful and interesting way of explaining a universal story: Sometimes it’s weird seeing our parents as adults once we’ve become one, too. The story was fun when it was awkward (like seeing her parents doing the sexy tango) and tender when it was sad (the crying instructor and the dad talking about dying while dancing with a beautiful woman). The conversational tone really kept me listening.”

Unlimited Subject Matter: Television

 Troy Espera, Writer/Producer, ABS-CBN Global’s Adobo Nation

“Sari Sari, Etc: United Playaz”

Judges’ comments: “Troy Espera’s piece about the urban Filipino is refreshing, edgy and newsworthy. I especially enjoyed how the quick edits reflected the uncertainty of the lives of the people featured in the story. Espera allowed the subjects of his Adobo Nation piece to tell their own stories, in their own voices, and in their own way. They dispel the myth that Asian Americans are timid, shy and quiet. These young people know what they want, and Espera is able to capture that in his piece. Heart-tugging, compelling and raw. Definitely deserves a second, and third, and fourth look.”