By BENÉT J. WILSON
The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) has been given $230,000 by the Knight Foundation to revamp and broaden its 20-year-old Executive Leadership Program (ELP). In its 20-year history, ELP focused on developing leadership skills and helping Asian American move up in their newsrooms, said Paul Cheung, president of AAJA and director of interactive and digital news production for The Associated Press.
“It was originally all about management, but the media landscape has changed,” Cheung said. “It’s still important to focus on management, but the bigger question now is how do you lead in a modern newsroom these days.” ELP has trained nearly 500 AAJA members, he added.
But AAJA felt it was time to change ELP, said Cheung. “In order to change, you must be inclusive. Everyone has a stake in diversity,” he said. “And the Knight grant will help us with that process. We have done this for the past 20 years and we have some knowledge, but not all the knowledge. We’ll use the grant to hire consultants and business leaders to show us how to grow the program and make it sustainable.”
This new program will be at the intersection of leadership, digital and diversity, said Cheung. “We will infuse the topic of diversity in our training without making it a diversity session,” he explained. “We don’t want to use the word diversity alone because that will cause people to pull themselves away from the program. We’re looking at diversity in gender, economics, geography, religion, race and age.”
It’s time to make ELP multicultural, said Cheung. “Look at the [diversity] numbers; they’re not improving,” he said. “We hope that by opening up the program, it will be available to more people. We think this is a good way to get more people to participate so we have a chance to tip the balance.”
The first part of the new effort is AAJA’s upcoming I-Con conference an invitation-only leadership event being held in Miami Nov. 6-8 focusing on media and journalism professionals who are involved in shaping newsroom strategies or are looking to be effective leaders. “This is different. We do workshops and panels on leadership, but we’ve never done an entire event on that single topic for media,” said Cheung. “This conference is dedicated to thinking about leadership.”
I-Con is designed to be an introduction to the second part of the new ELP, a more immersive program, said Cheung. “We will focus on things like how to do story innovation in digital media and a candid conversation on how to get men of color into leadership,” he said. “We’ll also discuss money and salaries, along with how to do proper pitches for ideas and projects.”
AAJA wants to keep the conference small, with between 70 and 100 people, said Cheung. “Each workshop will have between 10 and 20 people, and we’ll repeat them on Friday and Saturday in an intimate setting.”
The conference will cost $1,200, which includes registration, three nights at the event hotel and four meals, said Cheung. “The conference is by invitation, and we’re encouraging people to request an invite,” he said. The link to apply for an invitation is here.
“We look at applications and send a reply letter between 24 and 48 hours,” said Cheung.