Jeannie Park is a former executive editor of People magazine and a leader in diversity efforts in the field of journalism. She spent 22-plus years at Time Inc., working at Time, In Style, Entertainment Weekly and People. In 1987, she became founding president of AAJA’s New York chapter. She has been honored for her diversity achievements by numerous organizations, including the Magazine Publishers of America, the National Association of Minority Media Executives and AAJA.
What’s your motto?
As my mother told me every morning, “Be nice.” In journalism and in life, there’s only upside to treating people well. And you never know when someone is going to pop into your world again. So I try — not always successfully — but I try.
Tell us about your work with AAJA over the years.
AAJA, and individuals in the group, have given me critical advice and help every step of the way, which I can never fully repay. I went to my first AAJA meeting in L.A. back in 1984 — I was completely clueless, and yet AAJA members were so supportive of my bumbling efforts to break into journalism. I got my first job through an AAJA-co-sponsored job fair. Founding National President Bill Sing twisted my arm into launching the N.Y. chapter in 1987. I served on the National Board for a number of years and as National Secretary. I have served as a facilitator of ELP since the late ’90s.
What brought you into journalism?
I love telling stories. I love learning something new with every story. I love writing. I revere the people who say smart, meaningful and influential things in print every day, and I wish I were one of them!
Why is diversity important in our business?
The news media is a phenomenally powerful institution. But without true diversity of thought and input, it is susceptible to unbalanced viewpoints and warped priorities. And that scares me.
What advice would you give to aspiring journalists?
More than any job, volunteering for AAJA taught me about leadership and making a difference. So I encourage everyone to volunteer — you couldn’t find a better training ground.
Learn more about other AAJA members profiled for AAPI Month.