Confronting The Internet p. 12

By: MARK FITZGERALD THE ASIAN AMERICAN Journalists Association celebrated its 15th birthday at its annual convention by going back to school.
The mid-August meeting in St. Paul, Minn., was notable for two firsts: the first convention held in the Midwest, and the first one entirely devoted to sharpening print and broadcast journalism skills.
"There will be no . . . panel discussions with talking heads at this gathering," departing AAJA president Dinah Eng, special sections editor and columnist at Gannett News Service, promised before the meeting.
Instead, the approximately 500 attending journalists packed sessions that ran as long as 12 hours over two days. Especially popular were workshops on new media.
Indeed, the three-day convention began with a panel discussion ? the only one on the schedule ? devoted to the Internet.
"I think the reason to care about the Internet, quite frankly, is jobs. I am more aware of [Internet job opportunities] than I am of jobs in print," said Nancy Malitz, director of the Detroit News' new media efforts.
Similarly, the directors of Internet projects for the competing Twin Cities papers ? the Pioneer Press, with headquarters in St. Paul, and the Star Tribune, with its main office across the Mississippi in Minneapolis ? told the journalists that one way or the other the Internet is not going away.
"Newspapers are going to be the crushed-tree-smeared-with-ink thing. They are going to continue to retreat into the background," the Star Tribune's Steve Yelvington said. "It's the [readers'] relationship with the electronic [newspaper product] that will be more important."
"There's a lot of opportunity for people to get jobs on the Internet," said Lem Lloyd of the Pioneer Press. "The question is, will newspapers continue to fund these pages? Will they continue to have 12 content providers? Will the jobs continue to be there? I don't know . . . but it's an interesting time in journalism."
Bruce Koon, managing editor of the San Jose Mercury News' Mercury Center, offered AAJA members another, if perhaps politically incorrect, reason to be enthused about the Internet: "For us as Asian Americans, this may be in our blood. From Silicon Valley to Silicon Alley in New York City, some of the most important companies were founded by Asian Americans."
It wasn't only Koon talking about bloodlines, however: Association leaders and members frequently noted at the St. Paul convention that 15 years after its founding by six Los Angeles journalists, AAJA is growing ever more diverse ethnically.
"We started out with the usual suspects: Chinese and Japanese Americans," said Traci Tong, the group's incoming vice president/broadcasting.
"Now there are many more groups here: Southeast Asians, East Asians, Filipinos. We made outreach to Pacific Islanders at our convention last year in Hawaii."
This diversity struck Shirley Yam, a University of Florida graduate student who was reporting for the convention daily. "It's a mixture of cultures, not just Chinese. And we [students] are working with professionals," she said.
AAJA has even expanded to Asia itself, with a chapter headed by Hong Kong-based magazine writer Allen Cheng, opening within the last year. AAJA has 17 U.S. chapters and a total membership of approximately 1,900.


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