Posts Tagged AAJA
I’ve been coming to these conventions since the very first one in the 80s. But the “convention” has evolved, as has the media itself. It’s more like a modest, yet big meeting. But still very valuable as it brings together veterans and young people who haven’t given up on journalism as a career, or as a way to make a difference.
The drive for diversity plays some role in that, but the young are less conscious about the civil rights aspect of journalism. Free speech? First Amendment? The new generation hates trolls slightly more than racists. (Sometimes they’re one and the same. But in this digital post-racial world, racism doesn’t quite compute. Until you experience it first hand).
Generational differences in perspective actually make AAJA more interesting. In DC, I said hello to old friends, some who met their spouses at AAJA, had babies while at AAJA. Some have kids who have entered journalism/media/writing.
My personal memory from my years of convention going? It’s not asking Connie Chung a question in an open meeting about her lack of involvement with AAJA. It’s not even our nice chat at the 2010 LA convention when we were both among the “Pioneers.” No, my personal AAJA story is about coming back from an opening night of the first Chicago convention, and then being forced to leave the next day.
I got a call. My mother had died.
AAJA. It’s journalism, life, and death.
These days at conventions, I speak more often to young people than the veterans. (Most of the best ones have retired, or like Dith Pran, have passed on).
In DC, I’ve met with young men and women who are working their way through the path we’ve left.
And with each one, comes a reminder of why we’re all in this game to begin with and why we stay.
We’re all yearning to have a voice.
Are you ready for Unity Lite? Some thoughts on the Hispanic withdrawal and the future of the minority journalism group once known for its unity; (UPDATING with “Post-Racial” Unity)
I’m not sure if there is a point to Unity if two of the biggest groups have decided to abandon whatever sense of unity might exist among minority journalists.
When the black journalists left the group and weren’t at the convention last year I was dismayed. But I thought maybe Unity could still survive, especially if there was even a remote possibility of NABJ returning.
Now that the Hispanic journalists of NAHJ have pulled out, I think it’s really over.
Here was NAHJ President Hugo Balta’s message on its website this week:
“As I’ve repeatedly stated NAHJ is open to working with UNITY and look forward to discussing proposals that meet our mutual [associations'] mission.
“We wish UNITY good luck in their future endeavors.”
Sound like the kiss-off speech you get when you’re fired or laid off?
(Haven’t experienced that ever? Then you’re really a protected minority).
If two of the biggest groups aren’t represented, we have a different kind of “Unity” that is no longer unified, diverse, nor even necessary.
A group that includes AAJA, the Asian American journalists group, and the two smallest minority journalism groups from the LGBT and Native American communities, represents an organization with diminished numbers, resources, and power.
We should have figured something like this would happen when the tag line was changed last year from “Journalists of Color” to “Journalists for Diversity.” Diversity? Or some reasonable facsimile?
Diversity without the two biggest minority groups in the organization is just a joke.
It’s also disheartening, though not surprising, to see business and financial reasons come up as the wedge that divides the different groups over the common goal of diversity.
Of course, joining a bigger group makes perfect sense to the minority of minority journalism groups representing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals, and Native Americans.
But how can Unity make sense for everyone else?
What kind of formula would lure back NABJ, NAHJ?
What kind of arrangement is needed to keep even AAJA members interested?
The current president Paul Cheung has just sent an e-mail to AAJA members, saying that since July the remaining alliance members are working to restructure Unity to make it “more nimble, flexible, and financially sound.” Furthermore, it says AAJA has taken a leadership role in coming up with solutions.
I’ll be open to whatever the remaining Unity reps come up with. But if it doesn’t compel NABJ or NAHJ to re-join, then it may not be good enough.
The group certainly shouldn’t be called Unity.
I’ve been to every Unity convention and believe in the mission of bringing the power of all the organizations together to make our case for diversity together.
But what good is a new and nimble Unity without the blacks and Hispanics?
Do we really need Unity Lite?
(Clarification: NAHJ as of August had 1,279 members and was the second largest Unity partner. AAJA was the largest with 1,597 members in August. NABJ withdrew from Unity in 2011. It has nearly 3,000 members, according to Richard Prince’s Journalisms/Maynard Institute website).
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ADDENDUM: (10/24/13, 11:24 am PDT)
Without the blacks and Hispanics, you essentially have a GAAJANA (Gay Asian American Journalists Association/Native Americans). It would be a different organization, just not “Unity.” And probably not worth it to organizations to take time from their own specific concerns. Too bad the formal idea has already been built and established, but there’s no will to do what’s right for all. No one uses the good of the people argument here.
A “Unity” without all the groups is really like a Congress without 50 states. But Congress has its problems with gridlock and “doing the right thing.” Why did we expect anything different with our journalism organizations?
UPDATE (10/24/13 11:43 am PDT )
Disappointment but willingness to let go from a significant early member of Unity, who compared the situation to marriage, essentially saying sometimes it doesn’t work out and you move on. That’s a sign that the old Unity is really gone forever. Anything from here on will be brand new and be very different.
Initially, I called it Unity Lite. But it’s really a kind of “Post-Racial” Unity.
So here’s an idea:Why don’t we just try to diversify existing mainstream groups like SPJ, RTNDA, and the like instead of creating a brand new Unity?
I’m attending the Asian American Journalists Association convention in New York…but it’s actually more likely I will be stopped and frisked than bump into Connie Chung
I wasn’t stopped nor frisked in NYC. Nor did I see Connie. I did see a lot of young Asian American journalists, which is good, but it seemed much of the meeting was driven by new media, tech, and gadgetry. Journalism? Well, there was some discussion of that, but for the most part it was secondary, because journalism is being transformed by the digital world. The conference almost presumes the 5w’s part. The digital stuff was much bigger at this conference than I ever expected. Which is great, because most of the attendees weren’t around when newsrooms used typewriters.
One other thing. Much has been made about the media criticism discussion at the conference. I skipped it because as much as AAJA wants to be a media watchdog, at best the group is ineffective because there are limits to what journalism associations can do. It can advocate diversity in hiring and coverage. And that’s it. It can criticize, but it doesn’t want to be seen as an advocate nor as a hard “civil rights” organization. That makes AAJA more of a “soft” civil rights org because it does preach diversity. But it truly leaves its fangs at the door. How can you be tough on big corporate news organizations when you depend on those same news organization for support? The convention was in New York, and it just seemed to lack the kind of spark you’d expect from a convention in the media capital. Media companies were pretty minimal in their involvement. Sign of the times, I’m afraid.
So roll it all up, and you have a nice careerist organization that H.R. departments love because it helps show media organizations are interested in the public good. But when the industry is shrinking and careers are curtailed or shorten, a careerist organization isn’t left with much to crow about these days. And when it crows about racist coverage, what’s it’s solution? It’s not a union. It’s a journalism organization. Aside checking for grammar and proper use of AP style, what’s left? Advocating for minority jobs? What jobs?
In the end, it was a nice gathering for some of us who still believe there’s a reason for AAJA.
Would have been nice to see one plenary session where everyone could come together and discuss the broad themes that should be concerning minority journalists and communities they cover. That would have been a place to discuss and reinforce the values of the organization.
Right now, the organization seems like it’s just trying to survive. Just like many newsrooms in the country.
I visited Detroit recently when I attended the Asian American Journalists Association Convention.
But the highlight of the trip was meeting Hall of Fame activist Grace Lee Boggs.
If you are an unabashed capitalist, maybe even a free-market Tea Party-type, you might not give Boggs the benefit of an open mind.
She’s a radical, maybe the most radical Asian American I know.
And we all know what happens when “socialism” enters into any discussion in America. Witness the debate over universal health care. In the U.S., there is a low tolerance for Marx, unless you’re talking Groucho.
But Grace Lee Boggs is different. When capitalism fails us (as it is currently), Boggs has answers.
Read my profile of her: