2023 Journalism Excellence Awards Highlight Impact and Value of AAJA Journalists

The Asian American Journalists Association concluded today the month-long rollout of the 2023 AAJA Journalism Excellence Awards, which celebrated outstanding work published by AAJA members during the 2022 calendar year. The awards highlight both the impact of AAJA members’ journalism and the value of the cultural competency AAJA members bring to their work, telling stories that might otherwise have gone untold.

The full list of AAJA Journalism Excellence Award winners, runners-up, and their work is available on our awards website.

Examples of Impact + Cultural Competency

NPR’s “Therapy Ghostbusters” podcast won an AAJA Excellence in Audio Storytelling Award for reporter Stephanie Foo and team. It represented both impact and cultural competency, by lifting the veil on generational trauma experienced by immigrant families from Cambodia and elsewhere. NPR Senior Producer Neena Pathak said, “We’ve heard from immigrants on social media deeply moved by this story, therapists who have added this story to their training syllabi, and professors who have added this to their Asian American studies syllabi.”

Benjamin Goggin’s NBC News report on how “Wickr, Amazon’s encrypted chat, has a child sex abuse problem” had an immediate impact: Amazon announced they were phasing out the app, and Goggin earned the Excellence in Business/Consumer/Tech Reporting Award. 

The AAJA Excellence in Online Journalism Awards also recognized impact. At Axios, a team including Jaden Amos, Paulina Jeng, and Priyanka Vora created “Everything You Need to Know to Vote in the 2022 Midterm Election,” the company’s most significant audience engagement initiative to date. At Buzzfeed News, data reporter Scott Pham exposed a secretive registry used by child-protective agencies to blacklist parents they suspected of child abuse – which disproportionately targeted families of color. It led to a lawsuit in Pennsylvania and inquiries from California state legislators.

AAJA Excellence in Sports Reporting Award Winner Allison Torres Burtka published “This team of adaptive athletes finished the Hood to Coast Relay—and is fighting for kids with disabilities” in Outside. Nicole Ver Kuilen, the woman at the center of the article, said that sharing the article in the orthotics and prosthetics community has resulted in at least six states introducing legislation to make sports and outdoor activities more accessible.  

Stories That May Have Gone Untold
AAJA Award-winners brought to life stories that would likely have gone untold. Corina Knoll’s powerful portrait of the man left behind when his wife was shockingly killed in an anti-Asian attack deeply humanized the disturbing trend. The piece earned Excellence in Written Reporting – News Award for the New York Times journalist. It also stood in contrast to decades of American journalism, when first-generation immigrants were largely ignored by the press. 
Ruth Chizuko Murai wrote “My Family Lost Our Farm During Japanese Incarceration. I Went Searching for What Remains” for Mother Jones. The personal narrative brought the Incarceration story to a new generation, and earned an AAJA Excellence in Written Reporting – Features Award. Rachel Ishikawa of Michigan Radio introduced us to 94-year-old Kinuko Yada DeVee, and in the process told the story of the many “war brides” who came to the U.S. with servicemen husbands after WWII.
Double Winners 
There were two double winners. Sara Khan and her teams at Insider owned the AAJA Video Excellence Awards with one piece about the health costs of manufacturing bangles in India, and another about how the officially outlawed caste system in India still confines Dalits to jobs cleaning sewers and storm drains. Kylie Cooper won an AAJA Student Photojournalism Excellence Award for her “Spring Fling” picture at the University of Pennsylvania, then used an internship at the Seattle Times to land another Photojournalism Award for “Hmong Flower Farm.”

2023 AAJA Journalism Excellence Awards
Works produced in 2022

Written Awards

      • Excellence in Written Reporting, News: Corina Knoll “A Daring Dream and a Lifelong Love, Dashed in a Moment of Violence,” The New York Times
      • Excellence in Written Reporting, Features: Ruth Chizuko Murai “My Family Lost Our Farm During Japanese Incarceration. I Went Searching for What Remains,” Mother Jones
      • Excellence in Photojournalism, Single Photo: Kylie Cooper “Hmong Flower Farm,” The Seattle Times
      • Excellence in Photojournalism, Photo Story: Arin Yoon “Where the Tall Grass Sways,” Unpublished
      • Excellence in Video Storytelling, Short-form: Sara Khan “Why People Risk Their Lives To Make Millions Of Bangles In India,” Insider
      • Excellence in Video Storytelling, Long-form and Programs: Sara Khan “How Sewer Diving Became One Of The Most Dangerous Jobs In India and Pakistan,” Insider
      • Excellence in Audio Storytelling, News Feature: Rachel Ishikawa “The Story of Kinuko Yada DeVee”, Michigan Radio
      • Excellence in Audio Storytelling, Long-form: Neena Pathak “Therapy Ghostbusters,” Invisibilia / NPR
      • Excellence in Online/Digital Journalism, Engagement: Jaden Amos, Paulina Jeng, Priyanka Vora, Lydia Massey “Everything You Need to Know to Vote in the 2022 Midterm Election” Axios
      • Excellence in Online/Digital Journalism, Data: Scott Pham “The Blacklist: Child Abuse Registries Punish Unsuspecting Parents Of Color,” BuzzFeed News
      • Excellence in Online/Digital Journalism, Immersive Storytelling: Jasen Lo, Juliana Feliciano Reyes “Doug Mastriano was Live,” The Philadelphia Inquirer
      • Excellence in Sports Reporting: Allison Torres Burtka “This team of adaptive athletes finished the Hood to Coast Relay—and is fighting for kids with disabilities,” Outside
      • Excellence in Science/Environment/Health Reporting: Kristen Hwang “Congenital syphilis rates soar across California as public health funding dwindled prior to the pandemic,” CalMatters
      • Excellence in Arts and Culture/Entertainment Reporting: Marc Ramirez “Is the swastika a symbol of hate or peaceful icon? Faith groups try to save reviled emblem,” USA Today
      • Excellence in Business/Consumer/Tech Reporting: Benjamin Goggin “Wickr, Amazon’s encrypted chat app, has a child sex abuse problem — and little is being done to stop it,” NBC News
      • Excellence in Political Reporting: Amy Yee “How to Reach New Asian American Voters? Local Groups and Languages,” Bloomberg CityLab
      • Excellence in International Reporting: Nithin Coca, Nicha Wachpanich, Alexandra Buba, Geela Garcia for articles on the politics of waste-energy technology in Energy Monitor, Mongabay, Unfiltered
      • Excellence in Pacific Islander Reporting: Thomas Heaton “UXO: Lethal Legacy” (1/2/3), Honolulu Civil Beat
      • Excellence in Investigative Reporting: Jaeah J. Lee “This Rap Song Helped Sentence a 17-year-old to Prison for Life”  The New York Times/Type Investigations
      • Excellence in Op-Ed/Commentary/Perspective: Yangyang Cheng “The U.S. Fixation on Chinese Espionage is Bad for Science,” Wired
      • Student Excellence in Written Reporting: Wanqing Chen “How China’s young feminists are embracing and supporting one another,” The China Project
      • Student Excellence in Photojournalism, Single or Photo Story: Kylie Cooper “Spring Fling,” The Daily Pennsylvanian
      • Student Excellence in Video Storytelling, Short or Long-Form: Sanjna Selva “Call Me Anytime, I’m Not Leaving the House,” PBS (POV Shorts) 
      • Student Excellence in Audio Storytelling: Aria Young “Locals Call to Stop Chinatown Mega Jail Plan”, NYU Local
We’d like to acknowledge our awards committee members, judges and HQ staff who made these awards possible. In addition to the Journalism Excellence Awards, we’ll announce AAJA Community Awards at #AAJA23, our annual convention.
Media Contact: Andrew Sherry 

About AAJA Awards: 

The Asian American Journalists Association has honored excellence in journalism since 1987. The AAJA Journalism Excellence Awards are bestowed to members for thoughtful reporting, thorough coverage and strong storytelling. AAJA also honors members and organizations who champion the spirit of community through their chapter and affinity group leadership; their diversity, equity, and inclusion work; and through their life’s work. To learn more about awards, visit our awards website

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