Stanford Chen was a California-born city boy who was introduced to journalism by working on his high school newspaper at Oakland Tech. After graduating with a journalism degree from Indiana University, Chen’s professional career began at The Bellingham, Wash., Herald. From there he moved to the Daily Journal of Commerce, a business publication in Portland, OR, as its editor before landing at The Oregonian, Oregon’s largest metropolitan daily. Chen could do anything journalistically, and he frequently was ahead of trends: At The Herald he wrote an environmental column, long before the environment became front-page news; he also was the paper’s sports editor, copy editor and photographer. At The Oregonian, he started as a part-time copy editor and soon was hired full-time, doing night page makeup. It left his days free to pursue photography, which is when he collaborated with a colleague on Rage Against the Dying Light, a book documenting the life and struggle of gillnetters on the lower Columbia River. Chen later then became deputy editor of the Forum editorial section before returning to his real love, reporting. He remained a reporter even after he was stricken with cancer. He died in 1999 at the age of 51.
Chen helped found the Portland AAJA chapter in 1985, and he spent many hours doing AAJA work, both at local and national levels. Thanks to AAJA, he tapped into a part of himself that none of his full-time jobs were able to fulfill. Newsroom diversity was his particular passion.
Chen was a mentor to countless young journalists during his career, on the job and through AAJA. He befriended many an intern or a new hire at The Oregonian, offering a hearty welcome and sincere words of support. To those of color, he was candid with answers to questions about diversity in the newsroom and city. Chen reached out to student journalists at AAJA’s national conventions, always ready to answer questions or share advice. He lived his beliefs about diversity and helping the next generation of journalists.
Chen was awarded AAJA’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1998 Chicago national convention. Here, in part, is how he was introduced:
As a longtime newspaper writer, reporter and editor, he’s been a role model, a journalistic lion. His perseverance, achievements and advocacy have stood tall, underscored by a tireless fight for greater diversity in the newsroom and in journalism education. He’s been a tireless supporter of AAJA, performing virtually every function, from stuffing envelopes to serving as AAJA National Vice President for Print. As an instructor and co-director of the reporting program in the Institute for Journalism Education (based at the University of California, Berkeley), and which later became the Maynard Institute, and AAJA’s own Voices, he has helped others learn to become better at the craft that we all practice. As a voice and conscience in our own industry he’s been an ardent leader in pushing all of us forward. And his book, Counting on Each Other: A History of the Asian American Journalists Association from 1981 to 1996, stands as a testament to his numerous contributions. As a person, he is simply unmatched.”
Accepting the award, Chen said: “AAJA has been like a family to me. The mission of journalism has helped me and, in turn, I feel the need to give back as much as I can to keep the mission going, keeping diversity alive and making sure the industry does, too.”
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