The Asian American Journalists Association is saddened to hear of the deaths of Randy Hagihara, a veteran journalist, retired editor at The Los Angeles Times and longtime member of AAJA; and Gregory Yee, breaking news reporter at the Times and AAPI journalist.
Randy Hagihara passed away at his home Jan. 7, 2023, after a battle with esophageal cancer. He was 72 years old.
Randy was born and raised in Los Angeles. Following four years in the Air Force, he started his journalism career in 1979 reporting and photographing for Koreatown Weekly, known as the first English-language newspaper for Korean Americans. He worked at a series of other small papers before joining The Los Angeles Times in 1990, where he would spend more than two decades. When he retired in 2011, he was senior editor for recruitment and ran Metpro, the Times’ minority-recruitment program.
Randy was a staunch supporter of AAJA, assisting in countless programs, especially those involving recruiting, hiring and career advancement. Fellow members remember Randy as one in a group of pioneering AAPI journalists that broke many barriers and were among the first through the doors.
“Without leaders like Randy paving the way for younger generations of AAPI journalists, AAJA and so many of its members would not be where we are today,” AAJA Board President Nicole Dungca said. “While he will be dearly missed for his empathy, eagle-eyed edits, and quick wit, his legacy lives on in the journalists who have learned from Randy himself to pay it forward.”
Friends and colleagues remember his strong, no-nonsense work ethic, as well as a sharp sense of humor. He had a passion for mentoring the younger generation and recruited hundreds of journalists to the Times and other publications. One of his mentees remembers him for inspiring her and her colleagues “to be not just good journalists, but also good people.” Another remembers, ‘‘He pushed me to get better, to dig deeper, to write more simply, to tell stories and not just assemble facts.”
“We extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Randy Hagihara, a longtime member of AAJA who championed its causes, as well as countless young journalists, during a remarkable, decades-long career,” AAJA-Los Angeles Chapter said. “At the Times, he stewarded the organization’s internship and Metpro programs for years, recruiting, hiring, mentoring and guiding hundreds of reporters, many of whom were journalists of color. Today, news organizations across the world are filled with talented journalists in whom Randy saw potential and gave their start.”
AAJA-LA plans to honor Randy and his legacy of mentorship and will announce details soon.
Gregory Yee was only 33, and passed away from complications from a respiratory issue on Jan. 4, according to the Times.
Greg, a Los Angeles native who graduated from UC Irvine in 2012, served as the university paper’s editor-in-chief, according to The Los Angeles Times.
He worked in several newsrooms, including the Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C., where he was known for his warmth, humor and dedication to breaking news. In 2021, he returned to his hometown to take a job at The Los Angeles Times.
“Greg was a friend to many at the Times and beyond,” AAJA-Los Angeles Chapter said. “He was taken much too soon and his young age betrays the impact he had in his newsrooms.”
“Knowing Greg was a gift that now feels a little like a curse because a world without Greg’s tenderness and genuine zest for life feels unbearable right now,” said his friend and former colleague Deanna Pan.
AAJA-LA and The Los Angeles Times will start a scholarship to honor Greg. It will focus on skills development and training opportunities for early career journalists “to develop the next generation of Greg Yees,” according to LA Times Executive Editor Kevin Merida.
– AAJA Board of Directors and AAJA-Los Angeles