Tag Archives: Asian American Journalists

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.


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

Emil Guillermo, the first Asian American male to anchor a national evening news broadcast in 1989 when he hosted NPR’s “All Things Considered,” with Connie Chung, the first Asian American to anchor the evening news program of a major network. Photo taken at the 2010 convention, Hollywood,CA

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.