Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Asian American Journalists Association receives $230,000 Knight Foundation Grant to revamp Executive Leadership Program; ICON: Imagine, Inspire and Influence Conference in Miami, Nov. 6-8

Knight Foundation_AAJAAs a proud graduate of the Asian American Journalists Association’s signature Executive Leadership Program, I’m delighted to hear that AAJA will redesign ELP to further develop leaders in digital journalism and improve diversity in newsrooms thanks to a $230,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Knight funding will allow the Asian American Journalists Association to begin a two-year restructuring of the program using human-centered design, an approach that incorporates feedback from users when developing new ideas, so participants’ needs are built into the innovation process. For the first time, the Asian American Journalists Association will open the program to journalists outside of its membership to create an inclusive environment for journalists of all backgrounds.

For 20 years, the Asian American Journalists Association has cultivated and coached nearly 500 industry professionals through the Executive Leadership Program. Recognizing that today’s media environment has changed dramatically, the program will undergo its first major revamp.

“The program’s continued success requires a new curriculum that addresses adapting to a mobile and digital landscape,” said Paul Cheung, president of the Asian American Journalists Association and director of interactive and digital news production for The Associated Press.

“In order to foster talent in digital journalism and address wide community information needs, we need to make sure that newsrooms include more minority leaders and decision-makers with knowledge of diversity issues,” said Shazna Nessa, Knight Foundation director for journalism. “Redesigning the Executive Leadership Program will help provide the next generation of leaders with the skills they need to succeed and create journalism that is representative of our diverse communities.”

Previously, the Executive Leadership Program’s core curriculum was focused on cultural barriers for Asian Americans and navigating the executive leadership ladder within a traditional media company. Though these skills are still valuable, there are new challenges within the industry that require stronger leadership skills in change management, innovation, cross-cultural communication and business development.

The redesigned program will be divided into two components:

●       A two-day leadership conference for media and journalism professionals who are involved in shaping newsroom strategies or are looking to be effective leaders.

●       An immersion program for a smaller group focused on entrepreneurial and business skills, in addition to strategies to advance their careers.

The first event, ICON: Imagine, Inspire and Influence will be held in Miami from Nov. 6-8, 2015.  ICON will connect leaders in the industry through candid conversations with newsmakers about racial and gender diversity and work-life balance. The event will focus on creative ways to solve problems; participants will also learn the art of negotiation and personal career development techniques.

Support for the Asian American Journalists Association is part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to expand digital journalism training opportunities, support emerging leaders and strengthen the network of people working to advance the practice of journalism. Knight has made many investments in this area, including a recent $1.8 million to the Online News Association ONA Local program, which brings together people who are passionate about journalism and technology to share best practices in digital journalism.

To learn more about the Asian American Journalists Association visit:

To learn more about the ICON: Imagine, Inspire and Influence and request an invite

About the Asian American Journalists Association

The Asian American Journalists Association is a nonprofit professional and educational organization with more than 1,700 members across the United States and in Asia. Founded in 1981, AAJA has been at the forefront of change in the journalism industry. AAJA’s mission is to encourage Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) to enter the ranks of journalism, to work for fair and accurate coverage of AAPIs, and to increase the number of AAPI journalists and news managers in the industry. AAJA is an alliance partner in UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, along with the Native American Journalists Association and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association. For more, visit

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit

Lia Chang

Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Blog, Jade Magazine and

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