Recap: Asian American Journalists Association National Convention

— by Cecile Oreste, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/DC

Business Wire Media Relations Specialists Luis Guillen (LA) and Cecile Oreste (DC) attended the Asian American Journalists Association’s 21st Annual National Convention August 4-7 in Los Angeles.  More than 800 journalists and media professionals gathered at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel to network and learn from leaders in the industry.

The four day convention, titled “Back to the Future” started off Wednesday, August 4th with an opening reception sponsored by Yahoo! at The Highlands Hollywood.  The event celebrated the founders of AAJA and other pioneers who paved the way for Asian American journalists.  One of the highlights of the night included an appearance by network television anchor Connie Chung.

According to Washington Post summer intern Machiko Yasuda, the opening reception was her favorite part of the convention.  “With the crazed atmosphere in most newsrooms right now dealing with budget cuts and layoffs, it can be hard to boost morale – but hearing about and talking to the Asian American reporters, photographers and editors around the country after WWII and beyond gave me a renewed sense of mission and community,” she said.

Thursday, August 5th and Friday, August 6th were filled with educational workshops covering various topics including the state of journalism, diversifying your coverage and digital know-how.  A career fair also offered attendees the opportunity to meet with editors and human resource executives from Gannett, the New York Times, CBS News and Google, among other media outlets.

Thomas Huang

Thomas Huang moderates a workshop at the AAJA convention

Melisa Goh, Weekend Online Producer for NPR and presenter for Friday’s session “Broadcast Meets Web,” found the workshops and convention in general extremely valuable as it gave her the opportunity to discuss the latest innovations and developments in journalism.  Sometimes you get lost in whatever today’s story is, but the convention gives you a chance to uproot from the daily grind, look at the big picture and come away with new ideas, she said.

Also on Friday, the Los Angeles Times, along with Union Bank, sponsored an off-site Media Access Workshop at the newspaper’s headquarters to discuss how to pitch stories.  The workshop presented a panel of journalists from around the country with Thomas Huang, Sunday and Enterprise Editor of The Dallas Morning News and Ethics and Diversity Fellow at The Poynter Institute, as moderator.

Many of the panelists, including San Diego 6 anchor Jenny Hamel, broadcast journalist Linda Takahashi and Los Angeles Times reporter My-Thuan Tran, talked about the importance of pitching a story that appeals to the consumer’s emotions.  They suggested creating a pitch that has a broader appeal, but can be told through the eyes of one person.

Victor Hernandez, Director of Domestic News Gathering for CNN, added that social media tools have provided a sense of empowerment for viewers and public relations professionals alike.  He gave the example of shooting video of an event and posting it on  “We take notice of things that generate buzz,” he said.  “And we’ll jump on the bandwagon too.”


Panelists at the AAJA media access workshop

The convention concluded Saturday, August 7th with a gala scholarship and awards banquet with Laura Ling and Euna Lee as keynote speakers.  The two journalists made news last year when they were detained at the China-North Korea border while reporting on the trafficking of North Korean women.

Overall, the convention was both an inspiring and educational experience.  It not only provided an opportunity to network with fellow journalists, but also created a forum to discuss issues affecting Asian Americans in the industry.  According to Goh, it’s easy to forget that we belong to a smaller community with a voice that needs to be heard, but AAJA reminds us of this.  It helps establish a community outside of the workplace and explain our heritage to others, she said.

Next year’s annual convention is scheduled to take place in Detroit, Michigan.  For more information about the Asian American Journalists Association, please visit

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