My AAJA experience has come full circle indeed: my very first AAJA convention was the one in Los Angeles in 1993 – and 17 years later, I co-chaired this year’s national convention. I was an AAJA scholarship winner; now – I oversee the very scholarship program that gave me my start in journalism.
I’ll never forget my first meeting as AAJA LA’s president, in January 2007. It happened to fall on one of the most painful days of my life.
I had just left the man I was supposed to marry.
I walked in about an hour late to the board meeting, in tattered, dirty leggings and t-shirt, sweating, hair frazzled, nerves even more frazzled, with a bewildered, lost, grief-stricken look in my eyes. I’ll never forget the look on the board members’ faces as I walked in – staring at me as if to say, “This is our new co-president?? What the heck happened to her?”
Truth is, I had woken up that morning, said goodbye to my fiance, packed up all my belongings in the house we shared, hired some movers, and with my mom there for comfort and support, moved box after box into a storage unit. Then, we stuffed whatever was left in my car, and I drove straight to the meeting, sobbing loudly most of the time.
As I drove there, at times I stopped crying long enough to ask myself, ‘Why are you doing this??’ Most people in my shoes, after all, would have driven anywhere BUT an AAJA board meeting. But I had arranged the meeting at my station, had emailed everyone the agenda we were going to follow, and as it was my very first meeting as president – I felt I just had to be there. As I stepped into that conference room and saw the kind faces of the people who would become my friends, colleagues for life – and passionate life-long supporters of AAJA’s worthy mission – I knew I was with kindred folk. I also realized then that I belong to that specific breed of human beings who can’t shirk responsibility, who lives and dies by her word, and always fears to disappoint anyone to whom she’s promised something – even in the midst of personal crisis.
And that personality trait has, I believe, served me well during my four years as president and co-president of AAJA’s second largest chapter. I began my journalism career in this chapter: I helped found the first-ever national AAJA student group while at UCLA. I also served as Vice President of Broadcast in the LA chapter while I was a junior. My AAJA experience has come full circle indeed: my very first AAJA convention was the one in Los Angeles in 1993 – and 17 years later, I co-chaired this year’s national convention. I was an AAJA scholarship winner; now – I oversee the very scholarship program that gave me my start in journalism.
During my presidency and co-presidency, I oversaw three very successful Trivia Bowls – our chapter’s signature event and biggest fundraiser. Our chapter established itself as one of the most active journalism organizations in Southern California, holding at least a dozen workshops, networking events, panels, student programs, fundraisers and professional development training programs each year. Of course, the biggest of these events was the highly successful 2010 National Convention – which we brought back to Los Angeles with fanfare for the first time in almost two decades. During my tenure, we also forged solid ties with the other journalism groups and community groups throughout our region – pooling our resources and influence to hold events catered to our membership. I met twice with the Los Angeles Times’ leadership as the newspaper was suffering its worst downturn in history, encouraging its editor and publisher to not let diversity be one of the casualties. Despite that, so many veteran voices of color were lost over the past four years. But Asian Americans are still one of the largest minority groups in the Times newsroom.
I know you know this: journalism is changing at lightning speed. Some say for the better, some say for the worse – but either way, it is inevitable. The next President of this chapter has to not only be a strong leader; she must inspire. Because many look to AAJA now more than ever for support, training, job leads, networking and yes – inspiration to keep going, keep thriving in a very challenging time. I hope you give her the support she needs to do this, and I also hope YOU step up to the plate – for the chapter is truly only as strong and good as its members. One or two people a great chapter does not make.
I will always stay involved with AAJA, for it is in my blood and very much in my heart. But for now, I leave you in the new leadership’s very capable hands. I am very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish over the past four years – and know that even better things are ahead. Let’s get there together.