Congratulations to the Winners of 2012 AAJA Member Awards

Bobby Caina Calvan, left; Julie Tam; and Jam Sardar. [Photo by Doris Truong]

During its annual convention, the Asian American Journalists Association salutes outstanding members for excellence in service to the journalism industry and the organization. Each year, the national officers select the Member of the Year, Chapter President of the Year and Chapter of the Year. A committee of broadcast members chooses the Broadcast Mentor of the Year and the Broadcast Mentee of the Year. A group of Executive Leadership Program graduates names the ELP Leadership Award winner.

2012 Members of the Year

Julie Tam of AAJA-Texas: She was the dynamo behind the success of the AAJA 2012 Men of Broadcast calendar. Starting in late 2010, she kept a committee on track through the process of calling for nominees to be featured, and she helped drive online voting for the calendar finalists, raising more than $10,000 for AAJA. She contacted the newsroom and alma mater of men nominated for inclusion. During last year’s AAJA national convention in Detroit, Julie was the consummate saleswoman, always ready with a smile and a calendar. For all her hours of calling attention to AAJA’s male broadcasters and her mighty efforts to put the calendar into as many hands as possible, AAJA recognizes Julie Tam as a 2012 AAJA Member of the Year.

MediaWatch Co-Chairs Bobby Caina Calvan of AAJA-D.C. and Jam Sardar of AAJA-Michigan: One of AAJA’s missions is “to research and point out when news media organizations stray from accuracy and fairness in the coverage of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.” Toward this important effort, two people have kept AAJA on track: MediaWatch Co-Chairs Bobby Caina and Jam Sardar. Under their leadership in 2011, MediaWatch addressed Rush Limbaugh’s mockery of Chinese President Hu Jintao during a state visit, as well as an erroneous report by WCCO-TV about dog meat being sold in New York’s Chinatown. Earlier this year, MediaWatch’s fast responses were key in how to report fairly, accurately and sensitively on the Jeremy Lin phenomenon. Bobby and Jam have moderated lively discussions about the role of MediaWatch and pointed to other AAPI resources for cases outside the scope of MediaWatch. Without the steady guidance of AAJA’s MediaWatch co-chairs, AAJA would not be as effective as a journalism watchdog. For Bobby and Jam’s tireless MediaWatch work and willingness to be a resource to our fellow journalists, AAJA congratulates them on being 2012 AAJA Members of the Year.

2012 President of the Year
Julie Shaw of AAJA-Philadelphia: Her focus upon joining the chapter in 2010 was to increase membership. Julie focused on one-on-one outreach to share the value of AAJA, steadily building a strong base of new energy and encouraging member renewals. Throughout her presidency, she has been in contact with her chapter, highlighting the work the organization as well as news from community partners. One of her initiatives — one not seen regularly from other chapter presidents — has been the sharing of story ideas on issues of relevance to Asian Americans. She has worked with the local board to reach out to Philadelphians through Media Access workshops and chapter fundraisers. Julie has also expanded the chapter’s collaborations with our fellow journalism organizations. At the heart of a strong chapter is a capable leader, and AAJA congratulates Julie on being the 2012 AAJA Chapter President of the Year.

2012 Chapter of the Year

AAJA-Asia: The Asia chapter has had exponential growth throughout 2011 and continuing this year. But the chapter has not only grown in size, it has expanded its ambitions. AAJA-Asia President Ken Moritsugu has been an innovator in repositioning the chapter’s vice presidents to have regional footholds in Hong Kong, Seoul and Beijing. And the chapter has been nimble at meeting member needs. When members said they wanted more professional training opportunities, the chapter delivered a regional conference in Hong Kong. Asia has also made its mark in reporting breaking news. Numerous members in Japan provided firsthand accounts of last year’s triple disaster, and members in Seoul were on top of covering Kim Jong-il’s death and its worldwide ramifications. The chapter isn’t all business, though: Regular meet-ups are scheduled in a variety of cities to increase camaraderie and facilitate networking (journalists in Beijing recently had an exclusive reception with Ambassador Gary Locke). AAJA-Asia is raising the bar for our other 20 chapters. AAJA’s national officers commend Ken and all our Asia-based members for being our 2012 AAJA Chapter of the Year. [In photo: AAJA-Asia Advisory Board representative Chi-Chi Zhang of CNN and Chapter President Ken Moritsugu of the Associated Press in Bangkok.]

2012 Broadcast Mentor of the Year

The judges were unanimous in their decision to vote Ti-Hua Chang as Broadcast Mentor of the Year. One of the other nominees for this award, CeFaan Kim, was the nominator. CeFaan wrote that not only did Ti-Hua help with his writing, reporting and his voice, Ti-Hua has also been a journalistic moral compass for him. CeFaan also said he wouldn’t be in a position to mentor somebody else had he not learned from Ti-Hua. That lasting legacy and the knowledge of Ti-Hua’s longtime dedication to AAJA made him the clear choice for the award.

2012 Broadcast Mentee of the Year

The judges proudly select Rowena Li as Broadcast Mentee of the Year. Even through e-mail, Rowena has developed a sincere and rewarding relationship with her mentor. She displayed great maturity over a 10-month period — so much that her mentor now refers to her as a colleague and friend. Most of all, Rowena showed tremendous growth in the AAJA mentoring program. Her mentor, E. Samantha Cheng, wrote, “Through her writings, she demonstrated her passion for reporting and an innate ability to identify a potential story.”

ELP Leadership Award

The honor goes to Jam Sardar, news director at WLNS-TV in Lansing, Mich., and a 2007 Executive Leadership Program graduate.

Not only has Jam given back to AAJA consistently, first by being in the high-profile role of National Vice President of Broadcast and now as chair of MediaWatch, but he has been in a position to hire and promote diversity in his newsroom as one of a handful of Asian American news directors in the nation. Jam is also a regional director for the Radio Television Digital News Association, bringing his AAJA experiences to the table for a group whose decision-makers have traditionally been white middle-aged men. And as the most visible face of MediaWatch, Jam has been cool under pressure. He is consistent about what types of issues MediaWatch will address, yet is open to rethinking his perspective as the situation merits. He has been an excellent spokesman of AAJA’s position, including smoothly bantering with a less-than-informed radio host earlier this year about the Jeremy Lin advisory. His work on Lin coverage has been one of AAJA’s highlights of the past year, and the judges applaud him for his leadership on it.