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AAJA Seattle in 2009

Chapter President’s Report

Dear members,

This has been a year of great accomplishments for our Seattle chapter in the face of the worst recession in our lifetime. It’s because of you that we continue to take a stand for diversity in journalism, nurture students and support media entrepreneurship.

As we all know, 2009 was the year of convulsions for our industry as advertisers retrenched and everyone was affected either directly or indirectly by newsroom layoffs. Hearst Corp.’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the city’s oldest newspaper, published its last print edition on March 17 and laid off most of its staffers. Despite layoffs in 2008, The Seattle Times itself was on the brink of bankruptcy, and the staff agreed to painful concessions. Local television stations imposed wage freezes and eliminated jobs as well. Freelancers had a tougher time getting paid their usual rates and finding outlets for their work.

Yes, there were challenges and setbacks, but they didn’t extinguish our spirit.

Here are some of the highlights of 2009:

  • In February, AAJA Seattle held one of its most successful Lunar New Year fundraisers ever. Karen Johnson, managing editor of Seattlemag.com, coordinated a team of volunteers who pulled off the classy event, which was emceed by Q13’s Lara Yamada. Our National Board representatives generously covered our biggest costs: Athima Chansanchai donated the cost of renting the Wing Luke Museum’s gorgeous space, while Chris Nishiwaki donated the cost of wine.
  • Our “Choppy Waters” conference in January at the University of Washington’s Haggett Hall and “Reboot Your Career” workshop in March at Microsoft were a hit with attendees. A big shout-out to the UW’s Department of Communications for making Choppy Waters possible and to freelance writer James Tabafunda for working with me on organizing the entrepreneurship-focused program. Doug Kim, managing editor for Microsoft Office Online, took the initiative to offer a resume workshop for members hunting for jobs.
  • For the first time, AAJA Seattle partnered with the Seattle Association of Black Journalists (SABJ) to develop a video to inspire the next generation of journalists of color. Amy Phan, an editor for NorthWest Cable News, and Jessica Boyd, a former Northwest Journalists of Color recipient, produced the video. Lisa Youngblood-Hall, SABJ’s president, supervised the young producers.
  • We screened the video in June at the Northwest Journalists of Color scholarship reception at KING TV. The NJC scholarship program, run this year by Caroline Li, who publishes earthwalkersmag.com, awarded grants to Peter Sessum, Martha Flores Perez, Kassiopia Rodgers and Ilona Idlis.
  • At the AAJA National Convention in Boston, our Seattle chapter had a stellar turnout with 16 attendees, including Whitworth University student Yong Kyle Kim, this year’s recipient of the Founders scholarship. President Sharon Chan delivered an inspiring speech, and Marian Liu led the Voices Student Project with aplomb.
  • In another first, the Seattle chapter went to Vancouver, B.C., in September to support journalists of color there and establish ties with major media. Jennifer Chen, associate producer for CBC’s Early Edition, and Alden Habacon, manager of diversity initiatives for CBC Television, worked hard to put together a packed two-day itinerary that included newsroom tours, a panel discussion at the University of British Columbia’s Graduate Journalism School and a Lunar New Year-style dinner that brought out 60 local journalists.
  • And in November, AAJA launched the Asian American Small Market Broadcast Journalists group. Chapter member Shawn Chitnis, a reporter for KNDO TV in Yakima, is co-coordinator of the group.

These and other members of our Seattle chapter are the reason why AAJA Seattle is one of the best chapters in the country. Our members are also lucky to have an extremely dedicated board, and I want to thank this year’s officers for their service. If you’re interested in serving on our board in the future, please drop me a note.

We have reorganized and expanded our board, dropping the co-presidency and establishing two new positions – vice president for events and vice president for member programs. Many thanks to Venice Buhain, board secretary, for managing the restructure and chapter elections. Here are the chapter’s officers in 2010:

  • President: Sanjay Bhatt, reporter, The Seattle Times
  • Vice president for member programs: vacant
  • Vice president for events: Caroline Li, founder, Earthwalkers Magazine
  • Treasurer: Nicole Tsong, reporter, The Seattle Times
  • Secretary: Venice Buhain, reporter, The Olympian
  • National Advisory Board representative: Athima Chansanchai, founder/president, Tima Media

The board held a retreat recently at the home of Lori Matsukawa and Larry Blackstock and developed a roadmap for the chapter in 2010 and beyond.

As we look ahead, we will inspire the next generation of journalists, promote diversity and support media entrepreneurship. We will focus our resources on outreach, training and mentoring. We will strengthen the relationships we’ve built and develop new ones.

Next year we plan to launch a training series, hold social events with other professional groups, and sponsor pizza nights with journalism students at colleges and universities. We plan to send one, maybe even two, students to the AAJA National Convention, Aug. 4-7, in Los Angeles (and hope to see you there).

Have an idea for a chapter event? Come to a chapter business meeting! We plan to hold them every other month on the second Saturday. Subscribe to updates at www.aajaseattle.org.

There are many ways you can support AAJA: Become a member. Attend an event. Volunteer your time or expertise. Make a tax-deductible donation. This is your community.

Thank you and happy holidays!

Sanjay Bhatt
President, AAJA Seattle

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AAJA Seattle, SABJ issue joint statement on the P-I

Posted on by sbhatt


published Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The boards of the Seattle Association of Black Journalists (SABJ) and the Seattle chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) express great sadness over The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s demise after more than 145 years. We applaud the dedication and contributions of the P-I’s journalists and support staff who have served the community.

With today being the P-I’s last print edition, the community is losing the benefit of two competing, award-winning daily newspapers and the talents of more than 160 news professionals. After years of efforts to increase the diversity of city newsrooms so they come closer to reflecting the communities they serve, we mourn the fact that a dozen journalists of color at the P-I will be laid off and likely unable to find similar work in journalism, a troubling trend being repeated across the country as newsrooms downsize.

The Seattle P-I has been a place where journalists of color have honed their skills, built their careers and won professional honors. It has also been a place where some of the country’s top journalists mentored minority students. And the newspaper has offered members of AAJA and SABJ a chance to develop as industry leaders: Two of AAJA’s National officers are among those who are losing their jobs. We appreciate that the staff of the P-I’s online site will include some journalists of color.

Let us also remember that other newspapers could meet the P-I’s fate if current trends continue unchecked. Nationwide, more than 50 daily and weekly newspapers this year have shut down or announced they will soon, and some 33 newspapers have filed for bankruptcy. Newspapers laid off some 15,000 people last year. Major metro newspapers still field the maximum number of news professionals, and their scoops often influence the reports of radio, television and online news outlets — which tend to be even less diverse than newspaper newsrooms.

As Princeton professor Paul Starr recently wrote in The New Republic, “If we take seriously the notion of newspapers as a fourth estate or a fourth branch of government, the end of the age of newspapers implies a change in our political system itself. Newspapers have helped to control corrupt tendencies in both government and business. If we are to avoid a new era of corruption, we are going to have to summon that power in other ways.”

The same day we learned the P-I would print its final edition, The McClatchy Co., which owns The Tacoma News Tribune and The Olympian, announced across-the-board pay cuts and a total of 45 layoffs. And The Seattle Times is fighting for its life, having recently put up property for sale, laid off news staff and asked employees for cuts in pay and benefits.

Both SABJ and AAJA challenge Hearst, McClatchy, The Seattle Times and all other Pacific Northwest media organizations to ensure that diversity remains a core value in their news staffing and through their coverage. We also welcome the civic-mindedness and creativity of this region’s residents in supporting new, sustainable forms of journalism. We will continue to support our members during this difficult time.

We thank The Seattle Post-Intelligencer for a job well done.



The Seattle Association of Black Journalists (SABJ) is one of the largest and oldest media organizations in the Pacific Northwest. Our members work in print, online media, radio, television, public relations, advertising, and education. SABJ student members benefit from mentoring, networking and scholarship opportunities. We offer the Patricia Fisher Endowed Scholarship in honor of Patricia Fisher, a Puget Sound native, journalist, educator and role model for her support of young people and her contributions to the community. SABJ is an affiliate chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), a group of more than 3,000 African Americans working in the media.

Since 1985, the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) Seattle chapter has provided scholarships for students, professional development for journalists and service to the community in the Pacific Northwest. The chapter’s members work throughout Washington state in print, television, radio and online media. AAJA is a non-profit professional organization based in San Francisco.

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AAJA Seattle reaches out to Seattle P-I staff

Posted on by sbhatt

The Seattle chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) is ramping up its outreach to journalists at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which Hearst Corp. plans to stop publishing this month. The chapter’s leadership wants to support all journalists during these hard economic times for our profession.

The chapter welcomes your suggestions. To date, your chapter has undertaken several initiatives:
* Public statement on Hearst’s plan to stop publishing the Seattle P-I.
* Choppy Waters workshop on Web News Entrepreneurship, Jan. 31, at the University of Washington.
* Lunar New Year fundraiser, Feb. 7, at the Wing Luke Asian Museum.
* Reboot Your Career workshop on revamping your resume and positioning yourself for a new job, March 13. The chapter is still accepting applications for this members-only workshop.

Send your ideas for programs and workshops to aajaseattle@gmail.com.


Sanjay Bhatt
AAJA Seattle Co-President
Reporter, The Seattle Times

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Reboot Your Career Workshop – March 13, 2009

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Application deadline is FRIDAY, March 6.

This coaching session is limited to 10 participants and will be led by former seattletimes.com senior producer Doug Kim, who is now managing editor of Microsoft Office Online.

From Doug: During this intensive workshop on repositioning yourself for a new career, we’ll assess goals, talk about how to market your skills to new industries and start working on revamping resumes. When we’re done, you’ll emerge with a new, focused strategy for the next
phase of your career. Bring a current resume and a laptop, and be prepared to share your career goals with your fellow participants. (What happens in the workshop stays in the workshop.) We’ll also have a guest appearance by Microsoft content management executive Jessica Reading.

This kind of intense coaching routinely costs $400. AAJA Seattle will offer this on a deeply discounted basis: $25 to members laid off in the past three months (or at imminent risk, like Seattle P-I members) and $40 to other members. This is a service for AAJA members only. We will make this available on a first-come, first-serve basis and will have coffee and pastries on site.

Preregistration is required. Please check with National if you are unsure about whether your membership is current. The phone number for AAJA National is (415) 346-2051.

To apply for the workshop, send your resume to aajaseattle@gmail.com with “Reboot Your Career” in the subject line and drop off your check made payable to “AAJA” in a sealed envelope at The Seattle Times (attention: Nicole Tsong, AAJA chapter treasurer). The address is 1120 John St, Seattle, WA 98109.

You will be sent confirmation once your payment is received as well as details on the session’s location.

Act today! These 10 slots are filling up fast!

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AAJA Seattle issues statement on Hearst announcement

The board of the Seattle chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) expresses its shock and sadness over last week’s announcement that Hearst Corp. has put the Seattle Post-Intelligencer up for sale and plans to shut it down if no deal is struck. This is a loss for the Pacific Northwest and diversity in journalism.

The presence of two competing, award-winning daily newspapers has given this region more intense reportage of local issues, diverse communities and government actions than it would have had otherwise.

The P-I also has been a key supporter of AAJA’s mission by offering talented journalists of color a place to hone their craft and become leaders in the profession – as well as leaders in AAJA. Hearst and P-I staff have donated resources over the years to support AAJA Seattle’s Northwest Journalists of Color (NJC) scholarship, Lunar New Year banquet, and professional development programs.

We recognize that Hearst, a for-profit business, could not turn a blind eye to its financial losses. Several of the nation’s newspaper owners have put their properties up for sale or declared bankruptcy. The business challenges are real, and fresh ideas are urgently needed.

We encourage Hearst to seek a buyer who is committed to quality journalism and newsroom diversity. And we encourage the community to engage in a broader dialogue about the future of diversity in local journalism.


Since 1985, AAJA’s Seattle chapter has provided scholarships for students, professional development for journalists and service to the community in the Pacific Northwest. The chapter’s members work throughout Washington state in print, television, radio and online media. AAJA is a non-profit professional organization based in San Francisco. Learn more about the Seattle chapter by going to aajaseattle.org.

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