By Joyce Chen
GLENDALE, Calif. — When lawyers and journalists are put in the same room, there is usually cause for large amounts of tension and heated debate.
At the Asian American Journalists Association’s 14th annual Trivia Bowl held on Friday, Oct. 17, 25 teams battled it out over five rounds of trivia questions, ranging in topic from current events to sports and California lifestyle to arts and entertainment.
“The lawyers always show up and ruin our fun,” quipped David Ono, anchorman for ABC- Channel 7 Eyewitness News and host for the night.
His comment was met with uproarious laughter, journalists chuckling at the friendly rivalry.
The Immigration Law Offices of Fong & Chun and Stuart Folinsky took home first prize last year, and would later sweep the competition away at this year’s event with a repeat performance.
Wahoo’s Fish Tacos was the official food sponsors for the night and Dot’s cupcakes provided much-needed sugar fuel.
After a few opening remarks from AAJA-LA President, KNBC and NBC correspondent Jinah Kim, the trivia bowl began, and the room simmered down from its initial joking banter into a muted hush as everyone racked their brains for answers.
At the end of each round, a panel of judges, composed of editors and real judges, tallied scores and adjusted the ranking for each of the 25 teams.
Whoops of delight echoed throughout the room whenever a team fared well, and even when teams didn’t do as well as they hoped, the vibe of friendly competition stayed on through the course of the night.
At the Wahoo’s Fish Taco Team II, made up of AAJA scholars and friends, the mood quickly turned from confidence to uncertainty as a large number of unanswered questions began to emerge in the midst of other, more obvious trivia questions.
“Governor Sarah Palin said famously that the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is what?”
“ER is in its final season this year. What are the names of the two main character love interests on the show?”
“Who played shortstop in Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts?”
By combining knowledge and using each member’s area of expertise, however, the team was able to make a momentary gain before falling to last place at the end of the final round.
Their consolation prize? Pouches of ramen, fitting for a team composed entirely of college students.
“It’s okay, we meant to play the bowl this way,” said Alvand Abdolsalehi, a junior broadcast journalism major at the University of Southern California and a recipient of an AAJA Los Angeles Chapter scholarship. “The economy’s horrible right now, so we knew we’d need food – our best bet was to lose. And we did it!”
Likewise, the winners from the Immigrant Law Offices of Fong & Chun and Stuart Folinsky celebrated their first place win.
“The Trivia Bowl is always a fun night, and we’re so glad we can support the association in some way,” said J. Fong, a partner in the firm. “I still remember back in the day up in San Francisco when Wendy Takata was the only big Asian American name out there in the journalism world. Now, there’s definitely a shift in the scene, and I think organizations like this one have helped to make that huge difference.”
For other participants of the Trivia Bowl, the impact of the event hit home in a different way.
“We really get a sense of camaraderie here,” said John Dalsass, a second-year coach for the El Camino High School team. “We like to come to this competition year after year because it really does help to structure some form of bonding, both within our team and with the professional journalists.”
Michelle Woo, an incoming AAJA board member and managing editor for KoreAm Journal and judge at the Trivia Bowl, similarly praised AAJA for its continued work to bring together the journalism community.
“If you look around the room, there’s not just journalists and there’s not just APAs here. I really think the Trivia Bowl brings together so many people from the community, and it’s always cool to see the different sides of journalists that you might not get to see otherwise,” Woo said. “Asian Americans in the media are extremely important because they bring about a new perspective, and can possibly tell stories that might go untold otherwise. It’s great to see so much support for an organization that wants to bring about that kind of change.”