Frank Blethen, publisher and CEO of The Seattle Times, was presented with the Leadership in Diversity Award during the AAJA National Convention Scholarship & Awards Gala Banquet Saturday night.
The award honors an individual or corporation that has made strides in promoting and demonstrating diversity in the news media industry. A group of AAJA Seattle members who nominated Blethen for the award recognized Frank as a tireless advocate for diversity though his work at The Seattle Times and in his sustaining support of AAJA Seattle.
When told of his award, Frank said he thought he was just doing what everyone else should be doing.
Frank was not able to attend the gala, but Sharon Prill, publisher of the Yakima Herald-Republic accepted the award on his behalf. The Seattle Times Company owns the Yakima newspaper. In accepting the award at the gala, Prill referenced Frank’s track record of promoting Asian Americans in his company:
We are the product of Frank Blethen.
Lori Matsukawa, KING5 anchor and AAJA Seattle co-founder, said in her nominating letter:
As a publisher, Frank Blethen made diversity coverage a cornerstone for the Times. For years, the Times conscientiously engaged in “Community Reporting” and today, CR has become its standard for daily coverage and photography. There are stories of diverse communities, photographs of diverse people written by reporters of color. Frank personally interacts with communities of color and if he can’t (because really, there are so many communities here in Seattle!) he sends out trusted representatives like Carole Carmichael and Thanh Tan, who have strong friendships in the community.
Sharon Chan, Associate Opinions Editor/Digital for The Seattle Times and former AAJA National President, highlighted Blethen’s commitment to diversity in positions at the Times and its affiliate publications including those in management:
Frank has been a national leader in developing and diversifying news leadership. He hired Asian American Sharon Prill as publisher at another newspaper the Blethen family owns, the Yakima Herald Republic. Mei-Mei Chan, now publisher of the News-Press in Ft. Myers, was previously vice president of ad sales at The Seattle Times. Last fall, Frank named Kathy Best editor of The Seattle Times. She is the first woman to lead our newsroom. The Seattle Times president and editorial page editor are also women.
Mai Hoang, AAJA Seattle chapter president talked about his continued support for AAJA at the local and national level:
Frank has also shown his support through thousands of dollars in personal donations for local and national AAJA programs. Last summer, Frank challenged members to donate to AAJA’s Power of One campaign though a dollar-to-dollar match of up $2,000. When members stepped up and donated more than $3,400, Frank upped his donation to $2,400. More recently, Frank and his wife, Charlene, served as the “Santa” sponsor for The Holiday Scoop, a holiday fundraiser organized by AAJA Seattle and the Western Washington SPJ Pro Chapter. The $2,000 sponsorship helped the two organizations raise net revenues of more than $7,000 for scholarship programs, including the Northwest Journalists of Color scholarship.
Description of the award from the AAJA 2014 Convention gala program
Sharon Prill and Sharon Chan with the award.
A photo of The Seattle Times-sponsored table at the AAJA gala.
As many of you know, the board of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists recently voted to leave UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, which has been the umbrella of several minority journalism organizations, including AAJA.
In a statement on its website, NAHJ President Hugo Balta explains the organization’s decision:
It’s a bitter sweet decision.The board believes in the concept of UNITY, but feels the organization needs to reform to meet the new challenges minority journalists are facing in an industry that is continuously changing.
AAJA National President Paul Cheung has issued the following response to NAHJ’s decision:
While many of us are understandably reflecting on the future of UNITY, it’s important AAJA leaders and members be patient.
UNITY formed as the news media flourished in the 1990s, amid rising revenues and growing newsrooms. But those days are gone, forever changed by rapidly evolving technology and beset by a catastrophic financial meltdown. Over recent years, newsrooms have struggled. As a result, many lost jobs and some newspapers folded. It’s no surprise UNITY has also struggled. AAJA, fortunately, has weathered those headwinds by fundraising, cutting expenses and making structural changes.
The UNITY we knew in 1994 is gone. The newsroom you knew in 1994 is also gone. That’s a fact. But the same battles remain, as long as the issue of diversity remains a problem in our industry.
I personally don’t believe retreating to silos will advance our cause for greater diversity. Since July, the alliance presidents have been working on several proposals to fundamentally restructure UNITY — so we can be more nimble, flexible and financially sound. AAJA has taken a key leadership role in coming up with solutions. In the coming weeks, we hope to address these critical issues — including revisiting UNITY’s mission, finances and governance.
Our next UNITY board meeting is in December, and I will update our membership with details so that AAJA can examine what our roles should be in the future.
Your feedback will inform our work at the UNITY board meeting. Feel free to email me, your chapter presidents, board representative and AAJA-UNITY board representatives regarding your concerns and thoughts on UNITY.
Change is never easy or painless. And yes, this is very emotional for many of us who have attended UNITY conventions and value UNITY’s mission. These are especially challenging times for the cause of diversity, and we must continue to address those challenges — not only for us, but for the next generation of journalists.
Paul has also encouraged members to give their feedback this form.
In addition, I would like to extend an offer for AAJA Seattle members to contact me, as well as our national board representative Sanjay Bhatt. It is important to me that the concerns of our chapter members are heard.
You can reach me at email@example.com and Sanjay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Come hear tips and hard-won wisdom from award-winning journalists.
Learn about Chinese-American Vincent Chin, whose 1982 murder in Detroit lit the match of the Asian-American movement.
Build your network of industry contacts and meet recruiters.
AAJA holds its National Convention Aug. 10-13 in Detroit. If you haven’t registered yet, you’re lucky: National is allowing people to get the LOWEST rates for three more weeks. The deadline has been extended to July 8.
Looking for a roommate at convention? E-mail me at email@example.com and I can let you know who else is seeking a roommate.
Here is a list of the chapter members who I know have registered or are attending on a scholarship. If you’d like me to add your name to this list, just send me an e-mail. If you see our scholarship winners, please congratulate them!
Kyle Kim (VOICES scholarship)
Caroline Li (Ford Foundation scholarship)
Peter Sessum (Founders scholarship)
Sarah Wallace (Ford Foundation scholarship)
Sunny Wu (Ford Foundation scholarship)
If you want to share the promo video link with your friends and colleagues, here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKvJ5dx7P-Y
The reception,Â which marksÂ the 25th anniversary of AAJA Seattle’s flagship program, brings Thanh Tan from Austin, Texas, to share her experiences with this year’s scholarship winners.
Tan, a three-time NJC scholarship winner, is a multimedia reporter/producer for The Texas Tribune.
She previously worked at Idaho Public Television, a PBS station that serves a statewide audience.
While there, she was an Emmy award-winning producer/reporter/host for the longest-running legislative public affairs program in the West, Idaho Reports, moderator of The Idaho Debates, and a writer/producer for the flagship series Outdoor Idaho.
Prior to joining IdahoPTV, she was a general assignment reporter at the ABC affiliate in Portland, OR and a political reporter for KBCI-TV in Boise, ID. Her work has also appeared on the PBS NewsHour and This American Life.
She graduated with honors from the University of Southern California with degrees in International Relations and Broadcast Journalism.
On June 7, KING will host AAJA Seattle’s Northwest Journalists of Color scholarship reception. Mark your calendars now.
Each year the scholarship recognizes talented young incoming and existing college students from Washington state who have their sights set on a career in journalism. AAJA Seattle has awarded scholarships to more than 120 students, who have gone on to work for The Seattle Times, The Los Angeles Times, CBS News and Sony Pictures, among other places.