Janet Cho for AAJA National President

Why AAJA is a personal passion for Janet

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My Presidential Candidate Speech

In case you missed my presidential candidate’s speech yesterday at AAJA at UNITY…

Thank you, each and every one of you, for coming to this year’s UNITY convention, and for investing your precious time and money in the success of UNITY and AAJA.

For those of you I haven’t spoken to one-on-one, my name is Janet Cho. In addition to being your former AAJA National Vice President for Print and your current representative to the UNITY Board, I’m also a business reporter for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.

Here are three key reasons why you should #VoteCho for your next AAJA National President:

No. 1: AAJA needs a leader whose experience is both extensive and significant. 

My experience – five years as your AAJA National Vice President for Print, four years as your National Secretary, and 15 years on the AAJA National Board – not only demonstrates my deep commitment to AAJA, but gives me a deep and meaningful understanding of AAJA’s vision and history.

Together we’ve celebrated our 30th anniversary, awarded more than $1.25 million in scholarships, and held media companies accountable for their offensive and unacceptable coverage of Asian Americans.

But we’ve also seen AAJA struggle with budget deficits, watched our membership numbers decline, and seen our streams of revenue from longtime sponsors dry up. I’ve seen AAJA in good times and bad, and know what kind of leadership AAJA needs now.

No. 2: AAJA needs a leader who will answer to our members. Here’s how I would be accountable to you:

First, I would listen to all AAJA members and would always put AAJA’s best interests above my own.

When other UNITY Board members voted to change our name from “UNITY Journalists of Color” to “UNITY Journalists,” I argued that we shouldn’t – and couldn’t – make such a significant decision without hearing from our members and letting you have a voice in that vote. As an AAJA representative to the UNITY Board, I wanted you to have a choice – just as you have a choice in this year’s AAJA Presidential race.

Second, I would be financially accountable.

Like many of you, I have invested thousands of dollars of my own money in AAJA. I know firsthand the kinds of sacrifices many of our members make to attend our conventions – and I vow to help this organization be worthy of that sacrifice.

As a veteran business reporter, I want to help AAJA become stronger financially and help us operate more like a publicly traded company. One that brings in revenue throughout the year, issues quarterly financial reports and answers to its shareholders.

No. 3: Finally, AAJA needs a leader with the vision to make us more nationally prominent, more influential in industry conversations about the future of media, and more top-of-mind as THE place to find smart, savvy, multitalented, multimedia journalists.

The goals I’ve outlined in my “31 Ideas for AAJA” aren’t going to be easy or superficial.

As your AAJA president, I’m going to be asking – and expecting – more of you as members, as chapters and as leaders of this great organization.

I’m going to be asking you:

- To step up your involvement in AAJA and your local community.

- To contribute and raise money collectively and individually through programs like Power of One.

- And to take a more active role as AAJA ambassadors in your newsrooms, your media companies and in the media landscape as a whole.

That’s asking a lot. And in return, I promise that you’ll be able to ask – and expect – more of me as well.

Thank you for your consideration. I’m Janet Cho, and I approved this message.

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An Endorsement from Tali Smith

It’s hard to write something that hasn’t already been expressed here so articulately by fellow AAJAers who’ve also known Janet over many many years…Janet Cho is AAJA’s truest of true believers. She says what she means, she does what she says, and, quite literally, consistently puts her own money where her mouth is. (She’d never tout this herself, but Janet [a Midwestern newspaper reporter!] has donated many thousands of personal dollars to AAJA, not to mention countless hours of her superwoman life.) 

There are multiple terrific, energetic, fascinating candidates in this exciting race, but to me what puts Janet in a league all her own is her quiet but relentless dedication to AAJA over the course of multiple decades. She has a very long and truly invaluable institutional memory, but is always wide-open to new ideas and gracefully adapts to fast-changing environments. 

It’s a strange time for the media industry, and a stressful time for journalism organizations like AAJA. This is why someone like Janet — who invariably puts the organization’s needs well ahead of her own, who was an integral part of AAJA’s history but still has great visions for a new and different future, and is, well, that rarest of people who perfectly blends aggressive resourcefulness with the purity of integrity that most mere humans can only admire — this is why Janet Cho is *the* candidate to be AAJA’s next national president. #VoteCHO

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Vote for the Best Qualified Candidate

A look at 1-3:

This #AAJA election isn’t a popularity contest or face-off between fan pages. This is about the future of AAJA - and a call to cast your ballot for the person who’s had the longest tenure on the AAJA National Board, who’s most committed to restoring integrity and accountability to this office, and who’s most likely to keep her promises when she’s elected. My campaign is about keeping AAJA financially strong, collaborating with key partners in the media industry, and making the AAJA presidency about serving *YOU*. Read more

I believe that there will always be a need - and an audience - for print journalism. A recent Pew study on the origins of what people share on social media traced most of the stories back to traditional newspapers. After The New York Times instituted its pay wall (what Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. calls a “tiered subscription model”), subscriptions to its paper edition actually grew.

What does AAJA get out of it? I fully support AAJA’s embrace of new media and digital storytelling as we evolve with the media industry. But I don’t think that doing so means we have to abandon newspapers and other legacy print publications. Read more

I believe that AAJA is not a spectator sport, where you buy your ticket, climb into the stands and wait for the game to begin. Rather, it’s like a massive camping trip, where everybody pitches in for the collective good, and what you get out of it is directly proportional to what you put in. Read more

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Leadership Is Not About Entitlement

I strongly believe #AAJA leadership is about humility and service. We should promote our fellow members’ work, and we need to continue supporting UNITY. I invite you to revisit my Ideas 4-6 for Keeping the Asian American Journalists Association Extraordinary:

I will eschew the trappings of the presidency unless there’s a clear and convincing necessity for AAJA business. How can I justify staying in a palatial suite on the penthouse level of the convention hotel, knowing that several floors below me, students and out-of-work journalists are bunking four to a room to stretch their pennies?

How could I drive around in a luxury car provided by a convention sponsor when I regularly tell my sources that as a business journalist, I don’t accept anything of value? I think this sends exactly the wrong message in an industry where people are scared of losing their jobs. Read more

I’d like to see AAJA use its website and social media platforms to promote the impressive work of our talented members, particularly their stories about the Asian American community. When ABC7’s David Ono lands an exclusive, on-site interview with Kim Phuc, the subject of Nick Ut’s “Napalm Girl” photo, LA Chapter President Jocelyn “Joz” Wang shouldn’t be the only one tweeting and blogging about it. Everyone in #AAJANation should be tuning in and talking about it. Read more

I believe that the goals of AAJA and the UNITY Journalists alliance are not mutually exclusive. When AAJA was invited to join the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists and the Native American Journalists Association for the historic UNITY94 alliancewe did so knowing that together we were more powerful, more influential and harder to ignore. Read more

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Hey, Let’s Ask Them How We’re Doing

Restoring ethics, financial participation by all AAJA leaders and regularly asking members how we’re doing…just three more Ideas to Keep AAJA Extraordinary!

I believe that AAJA’s national and chapter leaders need to be held to the same scrutiny and high expectations we subject public officials and corporate executives to. Members need to be able to trust that their representatives are always acting on their behalf and in their best interests, without seeking personal enrichment. Especially in fundraising, choosing scholarship or fellowship winners, naming winners of national or chapter awards or dispersing AAJA funds.

What does AAJA get out of it? The confidence that their leaders are acting honorably, ethically and with transparency. Read more

I believe that everyone serving on AAJA’s chapter boards and National Boards should contribute to the organization an amount above his or her membership dues. Some nonprofit boards actually stipulate that each board member will donate or raise a certain minimum amount of money every year, sometimes called a “Give, Get or Get Off the Board” policy. Read more

I believe we should regularly invite members to tell us what they think of AAJA. Assuming that current members still find us worthwhile, I’d start with lapsed members who are still working journalists but for some reason have fallen off our rolls.

We could ask them why they left and what we could do to bring them back. Then move on to current members who aren’t all that involved and ask why, then survey members again at the end of the year to ask if they’re going to renew. Read more

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Affinity Groups+Multi-Year Memberships+Media Access Workshops

Here’s 10-12:

Instead of dividing ourselves up by chapter or print/broadcast/digital media, AAJA members should also ally ourselves according to our jobs and our beats. Imagine a listserv, Facebook page or LinkedIn group specifically for sports journalists, state house reporters, copy editors or social media specialists. This already happens to some extent informally, but making it more structured would allow us to share tips, sources, concerns and best practices. Read more

I believe AAJA needs to consider offering multi-year memberships like the Online News Association and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists do. ONA offers professional, academic and associate members a one-year membership for $75 or a three-year membership for $150. (Maybe this is why ONA is one of the fastest-growing journalism professional groups.) And both NAHJ and the National Association of Black Journalists offer lifetime memberships (NABJ’s includes convention registration). Read more

I encourage each of AAJA’s 21 chapters to hold at least one Media Access Workshop a year.

AAJA has a template for those who haven’t held one in a while, but basically it works like this: You invite representatives of Asian American and other underrepresented community groups into your newsroom and offer them guidelines and advice on pitching their ideas and news stories to local television stations, newspapers and online media. Read more

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Brag About AAJA Photographers+

Here’s another look at Ideas 13-15 for Keeping AAJA Extraordinary:

I believe AAJA should strive toward a business model that gradually weans us from the annual convention as our single major source of revenue.

Sure, we’re going to have a successful UNITY Journalists convention and a great New York Convention in 2013, but over the next two years, we need to find more ways to bring in income every quarter. To some degree, this happens organically, as members renew their dues as they register for convention and make last-minute, tax-deductible contributions before the end of the year. But we should be fund-raising during traditionally slow periods as well. Read more

Taking inspiration from GoInspireGo’s “Chief Inspirator” Toan LamI’d like to us to cultivate a culture of gratitude within AAJA. Remember John Kralik, the guy whose life was transformed after he wrote a thank-you note every day for a year?

I think even if I wrote a thank-you note a day for my entire two-year term as AAJA National President, I’d still have lots of AAJA people left over. Kralik also speaks about not taking for granted things he’d never before noticed. Read more

I believe AAJA should shine the spotlight on our incredibly talented photographers and photojournalistsNot just at convention but throughout the year. From legendary pioneers like Dith Pran and Nick Ut, to consummate pros like Paul Sakuma and Corky Lee, to perfectionist lensmen like Barry Wong and Hyungwon Kang, we should be featuring their work prominently on our website and our social media pages and in our branding. Read more

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Being Secret Agents for AAJA and More

Keeping AAJA financially strong, re-embracing ethnic media, restructuring the roles for national VPs, being an ongoing hiring resource and being secret agents for AAJA’s MediaWatch program are included in today’s ideas for keeping AAJA extraordinary recap:

I believe that we all should consider ourselves secret agents for AAJA’s MediaWatch program. By “secret agents,” I mean each of us should always have our antennae up for offensive, inappropriate or outrageous media coverage of Asians, Asian Americans, our communities, our issues or AAJA itself. Read more

I believe AAJA needs to be a year-round hiring resource for those actively looking for new jobs. Journalists whose careers are in transition need more than a heads-up about job openings; they also need encouragement, advice on highlighting their qualifications, and the enthusiastic support of the worldwide AAJA family. Read more

I believe that each of us has a responsibility to help keep AAJA financially strong. Fund-raising isn’t solely for the AAJA National Treasurer, Executive Director and National President. We who have benefited from AAJA need to decide that we will help raise money, find a new revenue-generating idea, write a check - or ideally, do all three. Did you know that for most nonprofits, the single biggest source of income is individual contributions? Read more

We need to re-embrace members of the ethnic news media and invite them back into the AAJA family. When I first joined the AAJA National Board in 1996, we had several ethnic media executives on the board who added richly to our cultural diversity and our understanding of the business side of the news industry. As mainstream media companies try different revenue models, we need to renew our ties with ethnic media and invite them to sign on as AAJA corporate members. Read more

In recent years, some people have proposed adding a third vice president to our five officers, a National Vice President for Digital, to recognize members whose work appears primarily or exclusively online. My concern is that when former AAJA President Victor Panichkul proposed the current 11-member Governing Board, he intended that the six Governing Board members elected from among the Chapter Representatives would outnumber (and could outvote) the five national officers. Adding another officer would create a 12-member Governing Board with the potential for tie votes.

Therefore, I’d like to propose that we recast the two vice presidential roles as “National Vice President for Print & Digital” and “National Vice President for Broadcast & Visual.” Read more

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A Look at Ideas 21-25 for Keeping AAJA Extraordinary

As we countdown to the UNITY 2012 Convention, which kicks off this time next week in Las Vegas, here’s a look at ideas 21-25 for keeping AAJA extraordinary for today’s journalists…as well as tomorrow’s:


If we want to raise AAJA’s profile in the media industry, we’ve got to be more proactive in publicizing our wins and telling everyone how awesome we are. Journalists who cover the media shouldn’t be hearing from us only when something unfortunate happens. Rather, we should be telling them positive stories such as: we’ve raised more than $1.25 million for scholarships, or our membership is up 19 percent compared to this time last year (both true). Read more

I believe that you should be hearing regularly from your elected officers, especially on high-priority matters that you might want to chime in on. And if it’s a decision that needs to be made immediately, I believe that you should hear from me about why I voted the way I did. Being a public servant means taking seriously the expectation that I’ll represent the people who put me in office. We might not agree 100 percent of the time, but you should always know where I stand. Read more

I encourage each of you to become a more informed voter and research the candidates before you cast your ballot. This presidential election isn’t a popularity contest or a race to see who can rack up the most facebook “likes.” It’s about the future of AAJA - and every one of you has a stake in the outcomeRead more

I think AAJA needs to applaud and amplify the great work of journalists working overseas, especially those filing stories at great personal danger or in countries that persecute journalists.

Remember when Laura Ling and Euna Lee told us at the 2010 Los Angeles Convention how their North Korean captors had heard about the AAJA members calling for their release? Talk about shining a light in dark places! To think that media coverage of the vigils that AAJA members and others had held in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Washington, D.C., had somehow reached their prison cells on the other side of the world… Read more

We need to agree that every AAJA member is responsible for recruiting new members and tracking down (no stalking) former members. Did you know that under former President Mae Cheng, AAJA membership peaked at 2,320 for UNITY 2004? Well, here’s the bad news: many of those people aren’t members anymore. The most effective way to bring back former members also happens to be the best way to recruit new members: By reminding them of what AAJA stands for, why you joined and what you get out of it. Think about that the next time you’re seated next to a stranger on a long flight. :) Read more