A New Year Message from AAJA President Michelle Lee


Pictured from left to right: incoming Senior Vice President Ramy Inocencio, outgoing National President Yvonne Leow, incoming National President Michelle Lee, Vice President of Communications Nicole Dungca, Vice President of Civic Engagement Pia Sarkar, and incoming Vice President of Finance Ted Han

Dear AAJA Family,


First, a big thank you.


AAJA would not be possible without you. Thank you for your dedication to our mission, and for volunteering your free time to serve as convention planners, chapter leaders, affinity group directors, program directors, governing and advisory board members and national officers. Thank you to our national staff Justin Seiter, Daniel Garcia and Patricia Villon, and Glenn and Karen Sugihara, all of whom are anchors of AAJA and have gracefully adapted to a year of changes in 2018. Thank you to our sponsors and Power of One donors for their financial contributions that fuel our journalism programs. Thank you to The Washington Post for their continued support of my work with AAJA.
2019 will be a transformational year.
We have an exciting year of growth and innovation ahead. We are thrilled to make our formal announcement of AAJA’s new executive director in the coming days. Our journalism programs have ambitious goals to train and lift the next generation of minority journalists. Our chapters and affinity groups are keeping the #AAJAFamily spirit alive, providing new opportunities for networking and training for members in the U.S. and throughout Asia. We are proud to host #AAJA19 in Atlanta, a city that is brimming with diversity with a rich history of civic engagement, and home to the inaugural UNITY convention 25 years ago.
But let’s not lose sight of persistent challenges.
We are facing unprecedented challenges in our industry. Local and digital news organizations are slashing jobs. Press freedom is under siege in the U.S. and around the world. Journalists are targeted and killed for simply doing their jobs — reporting the news and holding governments accountable. The public’s trust in our news institutions is crumbling, while the public’s perception of media bias is soaring. More news organizations are refusing to participate in ASNE’s annual diversity survey, which has consistently found stagnant racial and gender diversity in our industry — particularly in the highest positions. The Asian American/Pacific Islander community has still yet to wield its fullest potential as a formidable electorate.
This is why our work at AAJA is more crucial than ever.
We must achieve greater visibility — in the news industry and around the world. With an eye toward 2020, we will focus on two critical goals for the next two years:
  • Grow our membership from 1,600 to 2,020 members. It’s more than a number. If we want to make sure news organizations are held accountable to diversifying their ranks and news coverage, we need strength in numbers. Reaching this milestone would convey a significant message: AAJA’s membership size would be restored to pre-recession levels, marking a new era of growth and influence.
  • Elevate AAJA members to the highest leadership positions. We need a monumental shift toward diversifying the news industry and more champions of diversity at all levels of leadership to help us achieve it. We want to better serve and support members in managerial ranks, so that AAPIs can rise to executive leadership at news organizations.
We must work together to achieve these goals. Here are ways you can help:
I believe our efforts will elevate the voices of those who are not being heard in the news or in newsrooms.
I believe AAJA’s approach to innovating and adapting to changes will transform how news executives think and behave.
I believe we will train a generation of news leaders who will develop a business model that will ensure our industry is not just sustainable, but profitable.
And I believe in AAJA’s power to make a lasting impact in many more ways that elude our current imagination.
It’s truly an honor to serve as your president and be a small part of our collective journey. Thank you.
In unity,


Michelle Ye Hee Lee
AAJA President


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