AAJA mourns loss of AAJA Chicago pioneer, David Ibata

The Asian American Journalists Association is saddened to hear about the death of longtime journalist David Ibata, a founding member of the Chicago chapter.

David died on Tuesday from Covid-19 and pneumonia, according to family. He was 66.

The longtime Chicago Tribune and Atlanta Journal-Constitution editor was a pioneer within AAJA. In 1989, David and broadcast journalist Linda Yu started the organization’s Chicago chapter after the two met in a conference room at O’Hare International Airport, marveling over how they had found one of the few other Asian-American journalists in the area.

“He cared so much and worked so hard,” Linda said. “Supporting fellow working journalists and providing knowledge and tools to upcoming journalists was very important to him. There are so many working reporters, writers and editors today who can thank David for his efforts and inspiration.”

The Chicago chapter later honored David and Linda by establishing two college internships in their names, creating opportunities for AAJA students and recent graduates at newspapers and television stations in the Chicago area. The scholarships still exist to this day.

David, a Southern Illinois University, Carbondale graduate, spent most of his career at the Chicago Tribune, where he helped expand the Tribune’s suburban coverage as a reporter and editor. One former colleague said “no finer wrangler of suburban stringers existed.” He later joined the newsroom’s pioneering website team, editing breaking news and posting stories to the home page. He was remembered in the newsroom as gracious, good-natured and meticulous about his craft. Ameet Sachdev, a former colleague at the Tribune and AAJA Chicago leader, described him as calm under pressure — “exactly the qualities you want in a web editor.” 

“It’s incredible to see David’s impact on AAJA Chicago and our city’s journalistic institutions all these years after he founded the chapter,” said Nader Issa, president of AAJA Chicago. “A long, running list of members around the country launched their careers with the David Ibata internship, and many have reached out this week, thankful for David’s leadership and generosity. We’ll miss him dearly and will ensure David’s legacy of paving a path for AAPI journalists in this city lives on.”

David also worked as an editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where fellow journalists remembered him as an old-school newsman who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind when necessary, yet unfailingly polite and modest. Most recently, he had freelanced and worked as the editorial coordinator for The Southern Spirit, the bimonthly newspaper of The Salvation Army’s Southern Territory.

“AAJA Atlanta will remember David Ibata as a respected editor and writer, a valuable contributor to our chapter and friend to many journalists in our industry,” the Atlanta chapter said in a statement. “He will be missed by so many. We extend our deepest condolences to his family.”

“AAJA is devastated by the loss of our longtime member, David Ibata, a pioneer whose career and legacy has inspired so many of us,” said Michelle Ye Hee Lee, the president of AAJA. “He will be remembered for his generosity and service to our AAJA family, and his dedication to helping so many AAPI journalists enter and thrive in the industry. We will miss him.”

“We send our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of David Ibata, whose leadership in AAJA went above and beyond,” said Naomi Tacuyan Underwood, the executive director of AAJA. “From Atlanta to Chicago, and across our chapters, many in AAJA are proud to have called him a friend, colleague, and mentor.”

David’s family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the YoungLife Organization or AAJA’s Chicago chapter via PayPal or Chase Quick Pay at chicagoaaja@gmail.com) in David’s honor.

The memorial service for David Ibata will be on this Saturday, February 6th at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. The service will be available for streaming at https://www.youtube.com/livinghopega starting at 10:40 a.m. Eastern.

AAJA Atlanta and AAJA Chicago are helping to collect memories of David. To submit, please email kellyyamanouchi@gmail.com.

–– AAJA Board of Directors, AAJA Chicago, and AAJA Atlanta

Photo by Vino Wong

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