Portrait: New Asian American Journalists Chapter at the J-School

October 27, 2016

Students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism have run an unofficial chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association for years. This year, the group’s leaders hope to make the chapter official.

Co-chairs Manjula Varghese and Paayal Zaveri (’17) said becoming an official chapter will allow the group to connect more closely with the San Francisco Bay Area chapter to facilitate networking and organize events. Varghese and Zaveri have recruited a lecturer from the J-School who will bring her long experience in the industry and with AAJA: Yukari Iwatani Kane.

Kane is a veteran journalist who began her career at US News & World Report and Reuters, before joining The Wall Street Journal, where she became the paper’s Apple beat writer. Kane, who teaches an introductory reporting course at the J-School focused on technology coverage, first joined AAJA as a freelance journalist in 1999 and has served as secretary of AAJA chapters in Chicago and Tokyo.

“It’s very inspirational because she’s obviously someone that we can all look up to,” Zaveri said. “She can provide a lot of guidance to us and help bring in people from the industry.”

Thinking back to her days as a young journalist, Kane recalled the importance of connections. She remembered meeting a recruiter at an AAJA conference who years later brought her on at The Journal.

“I’m really looking forward to working with the students,” Kane said, “and helping make sure that they have the same kinds of opportunities that I had early on, to kind of pay it forward.”

Both Zaveri and another AAJA member, Akira Olivia Kumamoto, credit AAJA with helping them land summer internships in New York with NBC. Zaveri interned at financial network CNBC while Kumamoto interned at the Today Show.

Attending the national AAJA convention is at the top of the list for many of the group’s members. The convention features many top employers “Ó from the Associated Press to Vox Media.

Co-chair Varghese said meeting editors and recruiters in person can give applicants an extra edge.

“We have found that this type of networking really helps us with our future,” she said. “When you’re actually in that space and you have the ability to represent yourself, then the person will remember you and connect you to that resume when you apply.”

Aside from holding bi-monthly meetings on campus and connecting with established professionals in the industry, the UC Berkeley AAJA chapter is also supporting recent graduates.

The chapter is coming together on Nov. 13 to support a 2016 grad whose documentary film is screening at the San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival. Pallavi Somusetty’s “Escaping Agra” chronicles the struggles of Naveen Bhat, a young Indian-American whose parents don’t accept his gender identity and attempt to prevent him from returning to the United States from India.

In order to become official, the UC Berkeley AAJA chapter must have 10 members and ask the SF Bay Area AAJA group to represent them to the national chapter. The group’s leaders have begun the process.

Members of UC Berkeley’s AAJA chapter include:

  • Akira Olivia Kumamoto: Video and narrative journalist who reports on media representation, the arts and multiracial issues.
  • Paayal Zaveri: Reporter whose work has appeared in the SF Public Press, KQED, and CNBC.
  • Manjula Varghese: Documentary filmmaker.
  • Katherine Wei: Reporter formerly with Taiwan’s China Post.
  • Rafael Roy: Multimedia journalist focusing on marginalized communities and social justice issues.
  • Angeline Bernabe: Video reporter covering crime and social justice.
  • Samantha Clark: Radio journalist who also works in design and photography.
  • Atia Musazay: Multimedia journalist.
  • Tian Chenwei: Multimedia reporter who covers social justice in Oakland.
  • Nani Walker: Multimedia storyteller, educator and social entrepreneur.

By Sam-Omar Hall (’17)

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