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I still love you, Tiger mom, dad

I’ve been struggling to write this since Amy Chua’s book reading Friday night, which brought back a lot memories for me.


The Yale professor’s latest work, “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” has been getting a lot of ink lately (both digital and print). The memoir, her third book, is about her experience as a strict parent raising two daughters – and her views on parenting as they relate to being Chinese. Since it was published in January, it has been controversial — garnering positive and negative attention from readers.

I even tossed my hat into the ring, writing a lighter twist on MSNBC.com on what I knew about the brouhaha and the memes it generated.


On Friday, Chua read to a group of us at the Elliott Bay Book Co. in Seattle, and as she did, it triggered memories of disappointing my dad.


He isn’t Chinese, but as a Thai father with high-expectations and the kind of restrictive parenting style Chua describes in her book – no grade less than an A, no sleepovers with American friends, nothing less than No. 1 is acceptable – it touched a nerve. As a rebellious eldest child caught between two cultures, it reminded me of the epic clashes we had. His rules and overbearing personality made me feel helpless and enraged me. I could relate so well to Chua’s younger daughter, who brought her mother to the brink.


But, the book reading also gave me a chance to reflect on that, too, and to try to understand my father from another perspective, of a parent trying to do his best.


After years of getting my buttons pushed by not living up to his expectations of me, I’ve made peace with my father — and who I am.


And that night, I saw Chua in a similar way: human, fallible – a parent struggling to do right by her kids, and who’s still learning. I realized that as much as she pushed her daughters to be better, she realized that she could be better, too. And although she came across as somewhat defensive to the criticism and the attacks on her parenting style and book, I saw her offer humility, too.

“This is a story of how I was humbled by a 13-year-old,” she said.


Some of the harshest criticism of Chua came after the Wall Street Journal published a book excerpt, which she said ran counter to the lessons of being a real parent with a real child who does not always conform to the rigid rules she wrote about at the beginning of the book. But, she said, the excerpt, independent of the end of the book, was a caricature of what she had been.


She told those of us in this packed, standing-room only basement that she wrote her book in a “moment of crisis,” and it turned out to be a coming of age memoir — for her. She acknowledged she was raised by “extremely strict, but extremely loving immigrant parents who had very high expectations, coupled with a deep foundation of unconditional love,” and she hoped to pass on the same model to her own children.


But, she said, she realized, almost too late, that her methods would not work on her younger daughter, who like her, “was a firebrand from the very beginning.”


This daughter, she said, was her comeuppance who locked horns with her from day one until they had a showdown.


As I previously mentioned, I get that dynamic. My father and I started arguing when I was in the second grade — over long division tables — and I think we both realized right then that I would not be the obedient, quiet daughter he wanted. The tension built up for years, reaching a crescendo on a family vacation to California when I was a teenager, with us almost coming to blows over having to replace a ripped contact lens for me.

Those were some dark days. But light eventually broke through. I went away to college — at least a plane ride away.


What I got from Friday night’s reading:


Chua wants, more than anything, for her kids to be confident, happy, social, independent and close to her. And she thinks she’s succeeded, but not without a considerable amount of challenges. “The message is not, I don’t love you,” she said. “It’s not about grades, but to help your child be the best you can be. And it’s almost always better than what they think they can be.”


The message, she said, was: “I’m not going to let you give up.”


And maybe in his own way, that’s exactly what my father was trying to tell me.

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AAJA Seattle in 2010

Chapter President’s Report

Dear friends,

Happy holidays! As 2010 draws to a close, our chapter has many accomplishments to celebrate this year. It’s also that time of year to renew your membership and make a tax-deductible donation.

The chapter is blessed with a dedicated core of active members who see the value of this community. Our mission is to inspire the next generation of journalists, promote diversity and support media entrepreneurship. We focused our resources in 2010 on outreach, training and mentoring – and you responded.

Our membership increased from about 80 members in 2009 to more than 100 members in 2010. More students are joining our chapter, as are non-traditional journalists, such as Alex Stonehill, co-founder of the Common Language Project and our keynote speaker at our Lunar New Year Banquet & Silent Auction.

Last year’s Lunar New Year fund-raiser at Tea Palace set a new attendance record, with more than 70 attendees. The chapter board was so pleased with the turnout, we’ve decided to hold our 2011 event there on Jan. 29. Save the date!

One of our key strategies in 2010 was partnering with other organizations to broaden our reach and expand local benefits to members.

The boards of SPJ Western Washington and AAJA Seattle agreed to offer each group’s members reciprocal rates on events to increase attendance and diversity. That gave our AAJA Seattle members access to SPJ’s fall training series and freelancer’s workshop at SPJ member rates.

AAJA Seattle also signed a partnership agreement with 911 Media, a non-profit provider of multimedia training, which provided our members with discounted rates and fellowships for students and professionals. Our first recipient of the fellowship was Carina del Rosario, a freelance photographer, who applied the fellowship toward a class in audio recording.

And our chapter collaborated with other local journalism organizations to broaden our reach and relevance: We provided financial or in-kind support to three regional conferences – Journalism That Matters, SPJ Regional Conference, and the Northwest Video Workshop.

We also provided financial and in-kind support to the newly launched Sea Beez ethnic media consortium, and the William O. Douglas SPJ chapter in co-hosting a “Choppy Waters” workshop for students at Central Washington University.

Finally, we collaborated with the Seattle chapter of the National Association of Asian-American Professionals (NAAAP) on two of their events and promoted the kickoff event of the local chapter of Hacks/Hackers, a journalism innovation group.

Speaking of innovation, our AAJA Seattle chapter held our inaugural Innovation Salon at the Seattle Art Museum in May. The classy event at SAM’s TASTE restaurant offered attendees appetizers, wine and tips on Twitter. We plan to hold another Innovation Salon in 2011. Stay tuned.

Acting on another strategic priority, the chapter this year stepped up its efforts to support the next generation of journalists: We held two student pizza nights (including a multimedia journalism night at the UW), judged student work at the Washington Journalism Education Association state conference and awarded four Northwest Journalists of Color scholarships and two Founders scholarships.

Three of our scholarship winners attended the AAJA National Convention and blogged about their experiences. Read what Peter Sessum, Mary Pauline Diaz and Katelin Chow wrote.

And after returning from a fantastic AAJA National Convention in Los Angeles,  we held an end-of-summer potluck in West Seattle’s Lincoln Park.

We also elected new officers for 2011. Here are your officers for next year:

President: Sanjay Bhatt, reporter, The Seattle Times
VP, Events: Caroline Li, editor, EarthWalkers.com
VP, Programs: Owen Lei, reporter, KING 5
Treasurer: Mai Hoang, reporter, The Yakima Herald-Republic
Secretary: Venice Buhain, editor, Bellevue Patch

As you know, our National Board Representative Athima Chansanchai was elected to AAJA National Secretary to fill the remaining term of Doris Truong, who was elected AAJA National President. The chapter board is discussing its next step to fill Tima’s seat for the remainder of her term.

Speaking of national AAJA affairs, it’s been a challenging year. Fiscal crises threatened AAJA’s future, and all chapters, including ours, gave funds to stabilize the organization.

We can all be proud of our AAJA National President Sharon Chan and AAJA National Treasurer Candace Heckman for steering the national organization through the crisis and making tough decisions. Today AAJA has a strong executive director and is on steadier fiscal ground.

And in what could become an annual tradition, Sharon, Candace and Seattle Times Executive Editor David Boardman, who is also an AAJA Seattle member, organized an all-media Holiday Scoop party at Nectar that benefitted the Northwest Journalists of Color scholarship endowment.

I’d like to thank everyone who helped support the chapter in accomplishing its goals this year. Our event chairs deserve huge kudos: Caroline Li (Lunar New Year Banquet), Nicole Tsong and Mai Hoang (student workshops), Mai Hoang and Venice Buhain (scholarship application and judging), Karen Johnson (innovation salon), and Naomi Ishisaka (scholarships reception).

Our AAJA Seattle community is strong. We can meet any challenge by working together. Our continued success rests on your support, so please renew your membership, bring a colleague to our events and tell us how you’d like to get involved!

If you’re not already, I encourage you to follow us @aajaseattle on Twitter, join our Facebook group and check us out at aajaseattle.org.

I wish you and yours a memorable holiday season and prosperity in the New Year!

In unity,

Sanjay Bhatt
President, AAJA Seattle chapter
Reporter, The Seattle Times

Sanjay Bhatt

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AAJA Seattle student member: AAJA Convention gave feeling of “renewed hope” in journalism

NJC Scholars with Bill Dinh

[Mary Pauline Diaz, far left, with fellow Northwest Journalists of Color Scholarship winners Katelin Chow and Peter Sessum and AAJA co-founder Bill Sing during the 2010 AAJA National Convention in Los Angeles.]

Mary Pauline Diaz, a 2010 Northwest Journalists of Color Scholarship winner, spent her summer writing for the Seattle Weekly. As a recipient of AAJA Seattle’s Founders Scholarship, Diaz she also was able to attend the 2010 AAJA National Convention in Los Angeles in August. As AAJA Seattle’s student members return to school, Diaz, a junior at Seattle University, shares why she returns with a renewed confidence in her career path.

It’s easy to feel daunted and overwhelmed by the changing state of the journalism, especially at this point in time. But at the AAJA National Convention, the language and the feeling definitely exuded a renewed hope. As a nervous convention first-timer and forward-minded student, it was refreshing to be around so many journalists who were  excited about the future of journalism, who had enough passion to propel themselves past hurdles or who were gearing up for the hurdles they were facing: unemployment for seasoned vets, first forays into a fickle field for students and recent grads and the utter volatility of the industry for everyone.

And that’s not the only good news. The good news (and I think this is good news) is that journalism as we know it is being turned on its head. I jotted down a few quotes from some convention workshops that totally threw me for a loop, but they indicate exactly how journalism itself is being redefined and regenerated.

Get excited. The time in front of us is the perfect time to experiment, reexamine our roles and position yourself for the upper hand in the market.

“New media, digital media, perhaps even journalism don’t really apply as terms for what I do.” – John Bracken, Director of New Media at The Knight Foundation
Let go of those traditional conceptions of your job description. Regardless of what Bracken himself does, every journalist has to face the transitioning ambiguity of what journalism is, what media is and what audiences consider their sources of information.

“Audio is really a visual medium.” – Sora Newman, Senior Trainer at NPR
Though every format and every story is unique, the richest part of a converging media market is indeed the convergence. It’s not just about the parts sitting beside each other but the way they meld and speak to each other. Newman and the others on the Audio Storytelling for Print Journalists panel challenged participants to look beyond the verbal portion of audio stories and to capture the ambient sounds and bits that paint that “picture” for the listener.

“Content is king, but collaboration is queen. If you think of a chessboard, the king is the most important, but, let’s be honest, the queen is most powerful.” – David Cohn, Spot.us
The most hopeful thing to hear over and over again at the convention was the call to collaborate, a particular theme of the hyperlocal news panel featuring Cohn. Especially as citizen journalism grows and culture’s demand for transparency and immediacy grows, the spirit of collaboration not only grows in importance but in creativity. Spot.us, for instance, uses a unique model of collaborative funding — freelancers can pitch stories, and community members can pitch in the cash.

“It’s not about what the staff is doing. It’s about what the reader is experiencing.” – Wasim Ahmad, Multimedia Journalist and Assistant Professor at Stonybrook University
So often we get caught up in what all of this change means for our jobs and our futures, but journalists should really be mindful of what the changing media landscape means for the audience — not only in how it will change the way people receive information but also the way people interact with information and what they choose to do with it.

“The business of journalism is the business of relationships.” – Raja Abdulrahim, Staff Writer at Los Angeles Times
“You’re not just a journalist. You’re a human being.” – Eiji Yamashita

I put these two together because they pull at a similar issue. So often do we, in the pressure to remain objective, lose sight of the communities and people who are affected the most. It’s not impossible to be both empathetic and fair, and perhaps empathy is intrinsic to justice. Our work as journalists are strengthened by nurturing relationships and trust with the people around us.

“This is not news in one point in time. I want to tell a story with an arc.” – Christopher Wong, Filmmaker of Whatever It Takes
Especially with tools like Twitter, there’s a lot of hype around up-to-the-minute bites (or bytes) of news, quick snippets of information. And the reality is, there’s definitely a demand for that in this fast-paced world. Yet as we reimagine different ways to make the news, we gain more opportunities to harness the power of a compelling story, something that isn’t just informative in an intellectual and utilitarian sense but something that speaks to the bigger picture.

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More resources from 2010 AAJA Convention

The Online News Association has a link to all the presentations from its daylong Parachute Training session held during the convention.

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Missed the 2010 AAJA National Convention? Here’s a taste.

Couldn’t make it to Los Angeles to attend the AAJA Convention? Or didn’t have a chance to attend all the sessions (or all the ones you wanted to attend were at the same time)?

No problem. Thanks to the wonders of technology, you can get a taste of the convention experience long after it’s over.

#AAJA Tweets — What the Hashtag has a transcript of all the tweets made during the convention.

Web tools and Social media — One of the convention highlights were several presentations from Robert Hernandez, a professor at the University of Southern California (and former senior news producer and director of development at The Seattle Times). Check out his handy site for interesting web tools as well as his Intermediate Social Media presentation (done with Justin Osofsky of the Facebook Development Network) .  And here’s a great takeaway made by Hernandez during his presentations: “You are a lazy journalist if you only use social media. You are a lazy journalist if you don’t use social media.”

Presentation bits and pieces. Sacramento-based multimedia journalist Cody Kitaura has a great post that includes a variety of audio, quotes and links from several convention presentations.

AAJA Voices. The student multi-platform project was a great success thanks to great professional mentors and top notch leadership from AAJA Seattle’s own Marian Liu. The site is chock full of video, photos and stories from the convention and around LA. Don’t know where to start? Check out this video by three-time Northwest Journalists of Color scholarship winner Peter Sessum on the convention experience of AAJA Seattle student member Katelin Chow. (And it’s worth noting that Peter practices what he preaches about social media — he was among the top 10 tweeters during the convention!)

Got photos? Share and check out convention photos on the AAJA Seattle Facebook Group or on AAJA Seattle’s Flickr page. (There is also a link to the Flickr page on the right side of the webpage.)

Finally, it’s never too early to think about next year. The next AAJA National Convention will be in Detroit on Aug. 10-13, 2011. Check out the video below.

2011 AAJA National Convention Heads to Detroit from Annabelle Udo on Vimeo.

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