Tag Archives: AAJA

Emil Guillermo: Winner of the 2015 Dr. Suzanne Ahn Award for Civil Rights and Social Justice

Humbled and honored at this year’s 15th Asian American Journalists Association national convention.


Twenty years of column writing and reporting on Asian American issues, the last five at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s site, http://www.aaldef.org/blog

Emil Guillermo: Why I do what I do as an Asian American journalist

young picture

I was young when I knew I would be a writer, or somehow be in the media. At five, I was already practicing my standups.

So is it a surprise I’m still a member of AAJA?

At the 15th Asian American Journalists Association convention being held in San Francisco:

I saw a woman I met at a previous AAJA who told me she was taking a leave to have a baby. With her female partner.

I saw a person with his wife and two young kids, making it a family vacation. Last I heard, he was not regularly employed.

I saw old friends who  were recently laid off or forcibly retired.

I saw a guy who could have been my boss had he taken a job ten years ago, but who is now happy as a stay-at-home-dad.

I saw an old agent, who is now a “producer.”

I saw a former colleague still trying to make the transition to digital.

And then there was a guy who showed me his gold watch after 25 years in one place. And another guy who told me his company didn’t give out gold watches. Not even after close to 40 years.  The paycheck was enough.

Lots of stories at AAJA about the evolution of the media and the media worker.

And as tough as some tales were, there were signs of hope too.

Young guys still climbing the market ladder getting air-time coming up to me saying they saw an old tape of mine, thanking me for showing the way. Another guy getting a national shot as a fill-in on a big time show.

We’re all still there because  AAJA always felt like a safe place to gather once a year and reassess why we still do what we do.

It’s a smaller gathering these days. Many have left the business, burned out, bitter, bummed. Or becoming lawyers. Involved in some other way with life.

But many of us,  after all these years are still here. Because the paycheck alone never defined us.

This is what we do.

See my piece on “Why I Write…” on the blog of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.


Emil Guillermo: Update with NTSB’s Sumwalt statement on how train accident could have been prevented; 8 now dead, 200 + injured in Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia; AAJA president Paul Cheung was on the train, and goes from passenger to eyewitness; And some thoughts on infrastructure as the investigation begins.


Update on the NTSB investigation on the train accident 5/13/15:

Robert Sumwalt, Board Member of the NTSB just summed up at a press conference Amtrak’s inadequacy by pointing out how an Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement device has not been installed completely on the Washington-New York line.

“It is not installed for this area where the accident occurred,” Sumwalt said. “That type of system, we call a positive train control system, is designed to enforce the civil speed to keep the train below its maximum speed.  We have called for positive train control for many years. It’s on our most wanted list. Congress has mandated it be installed by the end of this year. ”

“We are very keen on positive train control  based on what we know, we feel that had such a system been installed  this accident would not have occurred.”

Sumwalt confirmed train had reached speeds of 106 mph, on track suited for 50 mph speeds. Said engineer induced braking to 102 mph around time of derailment.

See more later in this post about the high-tech fix that Amtrak and Congress are slow to complete.

From earlier:

Paul Cheung was a passenger on the train. He  had attended the big White House AAPI Summit and was heading back to New York.

He says he was watching Netflix when his Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia.

Cheung was one of the lucky ones, as he tweeted his status last night.

Cheung’s AP colleague Jim Gaines,  49 of Princeton, New Jersey was identified this morning  as one of the 7 dead.

Reports have the number of hurt at more than 200.  As of Wednesday afternoon, eight passengers were still in critical condition, said Dr. Herbert Cushing, Chief Medical Officer at Temple University.

Cushing said there was a high number of rib injuries but just one head injury from the crash.

“Things could have been worse, ” Cushing said at a media conference.

Reports now say we have a 100 mph train going around a 50 mph curve.

NTSB is investigating.

Human error may play a significant role here.

At the same time, the tragedy is giving the nation a real  lesson in what the term “infrastructure” means, and the importance of  making sure our country’s public systems are safe.

Compared to the rest of the world, America has been remarkably behind the times when it comes to trains.

Modern bullet trains can go near 300 miles per hour. But not in America, where the average speeds for high speed rail  are closer to 150 miles per hour.  As Philadelphia shows, you can only go as fast as it’s safe, and while the train had no problem reaching speeds of 100 mph, the track was only rated for 50 mph.

Modern train systems already exist to regulate speeds of trains going too fast.

As an exclusive Reuters report points out, the Positive Train Control (PTC) system is partially installed  on Amtrak, but is awaiting Congressional funding to be fully operational in the U.S.—by 2020.

The Philadelphia tragedy is almost certain to change the politics on that issue, and maybe even the implementation speed of real safety solutions.


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Asian American Journalists Association conference #aaja2014 — CSPAN panel, some observations.

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.

This is the panel I was in, moderated by Phil Yu, Angry Asian Man, that discussed the Asian American community and the Media.