Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | UNITY Conference: Journalists of color are going primetime
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UNITY Conference: Journalists of color are going primetime

As members of the Asian American Journalists Association, Erin and I will be attending the quadrennial UNITY conference in Chicago in July. I attended the last UNITY conference, which was held in 2004, and it was inspirational. It’s a combined convention of four national organizations that represent journalists of color: AAJA, the National Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Native American Journalists Association.

Because it’s held every four years, and it happens to be an election year, UNITY attendees will be treated to a forum with Barack Obama and John McCain. It’s a powerful, electrifying sight: The candidates for the most powerful position on Earth coming to speak to a roomful of 10,000+ journalists who look like me, as well as other minorities — who are definitely the majority during UNITY.

The conference planners just announced that the Presidential Forum will be held during primetime and broadcast live on CNN.

The conference runs from July 23-27, and we’re looking forward to all the events, including lots of workshops (I’m glad to see a lot more online media panels on the schedule than during the last UNITY). I’m on one panel about online media that probably won’t get a lot of attendees, since it’s supposed to be early on Saturday morning.

At the last UNITY, there were events planned until late into the evening, and then spontaneous groups partied and hit the nightlife until the wee hours. In fact, I had an early morning flight out of Dulles last time, so I just hung out with journos and flitted from party to party and never went to bed before taking the shuttle to the airport at 4 am.

This year, Erin and I will also be on a mission, along with other AAJA members from the Denver area, to establish a formal AAJA chapter in Colorado. All of us here are “At-Large” members, because there isn’t an official chapter. 25 years ago when I first began my media career, there were only a handful of Asian American journalists in the area. Now there are more than 30, counting TV anchors and reporters, print reporters and editors, Internet media folks and behind-the-scenes staff at media companies. So the time is right. As an official chapter, we can react to issues in the area that affect Asian Americans, like the “War on Asians” column controversy at the University of Colorado’s journalism department.

We’ve met with local APA journos, and submitted a required petition to the AAJA national office. During UNITY, we’ll make a face-to-face pitch for the chapter during an AAJA national board meeting.

So UNITY isn’t just a weeklong party — it should be an inspirational confab, and the start of a new identity for APA media in Colorado.

Oh, and I should also mention… Erin and I are drooling at the thought of all the great food in Chicago!