Reflecting on successes, challenges — and the bright future ahead for AAJA

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Dear fellow members of AAJA:

We’ve celebrated many successes over my four years of leading AAJA:

  • Partnering with more than 30 community groups to host the first Asian American Presidential Town Hall, which featured principals and surrogates from all major campaigns.
  • Launching “The Heartland Project,” a first-of-its-kind partnership among the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to help newsrooms in the Cornhusker State do a better job in covering communities of color and LGBT issues.
  • Securing funding for a criminal justice reporting project that is soon to begin in New Mexico.
  • Raising more than $300,000 in grants and sponsorships to reboot AAJA’s signature journalism programs, including the Executive Leadership Program.
  • Holding newsrooms accountable by aggressively responding — via our MediaWatch team — to unfair, irresponsible and inaccurate coverage of our communities.

But for all the hard work that we’ve done, advocating for diversity and inclusion remains a challenge. Many preach diversity but few follow through; or, worse, they may not truly believe in its value.

One of my first experiences as AAJA president was meeting a representative at a major tech company who questioned the need for an organization like ours. “I don’t understand why these minority organizations exist,” she told me. Her words still resonate with me.

As I met with more people, I realized that championing diversity would be an uphill battle, even within our own industry. In a meeting with the leadership team of a major news company — predominantly white men — one representative believed their organization was already a destination for journalists of color. Therefore, they saw no need to partner with AAJA.

These experiences reminded me that the onus to move forward is on us. No one else will understand our experiences and struggles better than members of AAJA.

In order for AAJA to thrive, we need our entire membership to stay engaged. We all need to support AAJA’s programs. We need to remain connected with our communities. Let’s help each other by serving as mentors to other members from coast to coast, whether they be in large cities or in out-of-the-way small towns.

We might not always agree on how to approach our collective mission, but we must stand together. The success of AAJA’s mission depends on you, our individual members.

Here’s how you can help ensure the next generation of Asian American journalists enter an industry with fewer barriers.

  • Renew your membership.
  • Encourage others to join AAJA.
  • Help spread the value of AAJA in your newsroom or college campus.
  • Invite your colleagues and friends to an AAJA event (Convention, mixers, trivia bowls or regional meet ups).
  • Donate to an AAJA program (JCamp, Voices, ELP and MediaWatch).

Do not underestimate the power of your membership and these simple steps. These actions can influence the course of AAJA for the better.

Finally, thank you for letting me serve as your president for the past four years. It has been a true honor and privilege. I’m so grateful to all of the individual members and corporate partners who continue to support AAJA.

I’m especially grateful for the officers who have served with me: Niala Boodhoo, Yvonne Leow, Michelle Lee, Nicole Dungca, Shawn Nicole Wong, Ted Kim, Ken Moritsugu, Tom Lee and Gautham Nagesh. And I am grateful for the leadership of Executive Director Kathy Chow and the national office staff — Glenn Sugihara, Karen Sugihara, Justin Seiter, Daniel Garcia and Patricia Villon. They are the heart, soul and innovators of AAJA.

Please join me in wishing much success to our incoming president, Yvonne Leow, and to AAJA’s leadership team. Their success is our organization’s success.

Thank you for some happy memories.

Best wishes,

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Paul Cheung
AAJA President, 2013-2016