Meet the Heartland Project's Advisory Council

AAJA has partnered with the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) to increase media coverage of racial minorities and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities in Nebraska. The project is called “Diverse and Inclusive: News of the Heartland” and is made possible by a generous grant from the Ford Foundation.


AAJA has partnered with the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) to increase media coverage of racial minorities and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities in Nebraska. The project is called “Diverse and Inclusive: News of the Heartland” and is made possible by a generous grant from the Ford Foundation.

As part of the program, AAJA and NLGJA will form collaborations with Nebraska news outlets and journalism programs for professional and student journalists to produce original local, regional and national content on key issues faced by these communities. In addition, community members will receive training and needed tools to learn how to draft opinion pieces, including a sourcebook for Nebraska journalists that will help guide production of lasting and inclusive coverage. AAJA and NLGJA have identified the following media industry leaders to serve on the Heartland Project Advisory Council:


Karen Bailis, Senior News Editor, Newsday

Karen Bailis has been a professional journalist for more than 20 years, most of the time at Newsday where she’s served as a news copy editor, assistant sports news editor, news editor and senior news editor. She takes pains to point out that her life as a copy editor and news editor has been more than fixing grammar and punctuation. Her guidance helps shape the paper into a lively presentation of each day’s news. When news breaks, she fixes it.  In her time on the sports desk, she successfully lobbied for greater coverage of women’s sports – and continues to do so.

She has written about women’s basketball and other sports for Newsday and its web site. Karen served on the board of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association for several years, including as Vice President for Print/New Media.


Bettina Boxall, Staff Writer, The Los Angeles Times

Bettina Boxall is a staff writer for The Los Angeles Times, where she reports on environmental issues. She and colleague Julie Cart won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for “Big Burn,” a five-part series on wildfire in the West. Before joining The Times in 1987, she worked for newspapers in New Jersey, Vermont and Texas. She is a native of Washington, D.C. and a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Maine, where she majored in journalism.


Abe Kwok, Online News Editor, The Arizona Republic/

Abe Kwok cut his teeth in journalism at a high school newspaper in Tucson, where he learned to write on deadline on Royal manual typewriters, line-edit with a No. 2 pencil and punctuate each story with a “-30-” … He couldn’t get the newspaper ink out of his blood. These days, he manages the homepage team at – the digital edition of The Arizona Republic – and still gets a rush from daily journalism. Kwok is known to teach here and there at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. He is a founding member of the Arizona chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association and serves on AAJA’s national board.


Rhonda LeValdo, Haskell Indian Nations University Faculty

Rhonda LeValdo, Acoma Pueblo, is currently Faculty in Media Communications at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. She is the past president of the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA), where she sat on the board of directors for six years. LeValdo received both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas.

She hosts a Native American radio show in downtown Kansas City, MO called “Native Spirit” for 90.1-KKFI-FM.  LeValdo helped, a website for Native Americans to blog about their journey to a healthier life.  This website is the start of another health website set to launch in January 2014 called Native Health News Alliance, which will provide health stories available to any media source to use. LeValdo is also freelance journalist currently producing audio pieces for National Native News and writes for the online sites and


Mi-Ai Parrish, President and Publisher, The Kansas City Star

Mi-Ai Parrish has been the president and publisher of The Kansas City Star since June 2011. She came to The Star from its sister newspaper, The Idaho Statesman, where she was president and publisher of Idaho’s largest newspaper for five years. Prior to becoming a publisher, Parrish spent the majority of her career in newsroom roles ranging from reporting and copy editing, to travel editor and projects editor. Parrish served at the Minneapolis Star TribuneSan Francisco ChronicleArizona RepublicChicago Sun-Times and The Virginian-Pilot.

The Star’s first female publisher, she currently serves on the boards of the Kansas City Metro Chamber, Kansas City Area Development Council and The Civic Council. Previously, she was on the boards of the Chamber of Commerce, The Idaho Business Coalition for Education Excellence, United Way, the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, as well as leading the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association and the Idaho Business Council. She is a two-time Pulitzer Prize Juror, longtime member of the Asian American Journalists Association, and was named one of the 100 Most Important Minority Journalists of the last Century. She is being named to the University of Maryland Alumni Hall of Fame this fall. She is married to Pulitzer-Prize winner Dave Parrish and lives in Kansas.


Rick Rodriguez, Professor at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Rick Rodriguez is the Carnegie and Southwest Borderlands Initiative professor at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Rodriguez joined the Cronkite School in March 2008 after a long and distinguished career with The Sacramento Bee, including the last nine years as executive editor and senior vice president.

During his tenure as The Bee’s top editor, his staff won many of the country’s most prestigious journalism awards including the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography, the George Polk award for local investigative reporting; and the Robert F. Kennedy Award for social justice coverage as well many others. At ASU, Rodriguez has directed projects in which his students have won two Kennedy awards, multiple Hearst awards and regional Emmy awards, considered among the top collegiate journalism prizes. Rodriguez teaches a seminar on borderlands issues, depth reporting and ethics at ASU. He was the first Latino to serve as president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

This project is funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation. To learn more about the Ford Foundation, visit Find out more about the Heartland Project here.