I gave these remarks at the New America Media Northern California and Central Valley awards ceremony (July 19, 2012). I was named the winner in the Outstanding Commentary/Editorial Essay (English language publications) for three pieces I did for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog.
Among the judges were Joan Walsh of Salon.com, author Richard Rodriguez, and NAM editor/author Andrew Lam. You can view the three essays on the nomination fight of Goodwin Liu, a defense of Rutgers student Dharun Ravi, and a reflection of the 10th Anniversary of 9-11 on the archives at aaldef.org
Here are links to the individual pieces:
(See all the winners here).
The gala ceremony was held at KQED-TV in San Francisco, and since it was being taped for some future broadcast, we were all limited to a 1-minute thank you speech. Due to that limitation, I promised to post my full, idealized remarks here at www.amok.com. Sort of like the House of Representatives on those one-minute speeches on C-SPAN, where they reserve the right to extend their remarks for the record. So it’s not really a transcript of what I said. It’s what I said or meant to say:
Since we are limited to one minute, I want to say that since I know another winner Ben Pimentel won’t be here, that before tonight, he agreed to give me a few seconds of his minute. Just like they do in Congress. But he said he’d do it only if I would sing my thank you. I said, “Ben, what do you think this is karaoke night?”
I’m taking the extra seconds.
Of course, if they cut me off, you can always read my remarks at www.amok.com …
Yes, I am still amok after all these years. But as the politicians like to say, I have “evolved.” I’m less amok and slightly more “nuanced.” I still report. But I also opine. And I appreciate the judges’ recognition of my work, my truth-telling, an insistence on a fearlessly honest expression of my views.
Ironically, my first media job was 40 years ago this year. The job was at KQED…when it was on 4th street….. “Newsroom.”
Not HBO’s “THE Newsroom,” we know that kind of newsroom doesn’t really exist, but “Newsroom,” a show where striking chronicle reporters told their stories on tv.
I was a junior at Lowell High School. I got a buck-sixty to be a gopher…
40 years later, here we are, and adjusted for inflation, I’m probably still making as much money.
I discovered my commentary chops while at NPR, then at Asian Week. Now you can read me at aaldef.org. That’s not “all deaf” as in the hearing disabled. That’s AALDEF as in the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Civil rights, Voting rights, Worker’s rights, and more. AALDEF fights for Asian Americans.
I thank AALDEF for keeping my voice alive. The executive director Margaret Fung has been a great supporter, and I thank her.
Thanks also to my real editor, my wife Kathy, a senior VP at PETA and inspires me with all the work she does for the animals.
And thanks to Sandy and this organization. It’s a long way from NCM.
Most of all, I want to thank all the ethnic journalists here for doing what you continue to do at a very high level.
Congratulations to all of you. I have had some mainstream success, but I didn’t discover my voice, journalism didn’t make sense until the truth was part of who I was. Only in the ethnic media are the stakes allowed to be that personal.
Make no mistake there’s nothing minor league about ethnic journalism.
We do vital work for an underserved audience.
So thank you again. This recognition means a whole lot more. Especially when you do it for love.
Chauncey Bailey, our dear late and lamented friend and colleague, put it in perspective.
He once said after receiving an award from this organization, “These are our Pulitzers.”
He was right then.
He’d be right today.
Thank you very much.