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Asian-American Reporters' Conference Focuses on Jobs


Despite this year's theme, "Building Toward Unity," many of those attending the Asian American Journalists Assn.'s convention this week see the four-day event as more than a chance to tackle issues such as Asian gang coverage or environmental racism.

"It's about jobs," Joe Manio, a photographer and recent graduate of San Francisco State's journalism program, said as he worked the room at the convention job fair Thursday.

Opening doors for Asian-Americans in journalism is what the association is all about, said Jennifer Quong, 30, co-chair of this year's convention.

The organization was founded in 1981 to encourage the fair and accurate news coverage of Asian-American issues. Its national convention began Wednesday evening at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City.

Nearly 600 people had registered for the conference by Thursday night. Participants will attend workshops that encompass journalistic as well social and political issues. Keynote speakers include anchorwoman Connie Chung and former Los Angeles City Councilman Michael Woo.

The conference continues through Saturday and includes a job fair, exhibitions and a series of workshops that range from how Hollywood represents Asians on television and film to the coverage of hate crimes by and against Asians.

For Quong, only when newsrooms diversify their staffs will these and other issues of importance to Asian-Americans be accurately addressed by the mainstream media.

"We still have a long way to go because if you look around, a lot of newsrooms are still staffed basically by Caucasian males," Quong said. Formerly a news assistant with KNX radio in Los Angeles--she is currently a publications editor for Toyota Motors sales--Quong believes that the absence of Asians in the newsroom adds to the stereotypical image that many non-Asians have toward Asians.

During the Los Angeles riots, Quong said, the media seemed to only showcase images of Koreans armed with guns--masked vigilantes more concerned with protecting their businesses than with the chaos that surrounded them.

"If they had had an Asian-American reporter there, he or she could have asked, 'Why are you showing just those shots? Why aren't you showing the businesses being burned down?' " Quong said.

Tommy Miller, an assistant managing editor at the Houston Chronicle, said he has seen a lot of progress over the years.

"When I worked for United Press in San Francisco in 1969, 1970, we had 24 reporters and we had no women," he said. "As recently as 20 to 25 years ago not only did they not hire minorities, but you didn't even cover the events of African-Americans."

Less serious fare scheduled for the convention includes a night of performances by Asian comics and a screening of "Joy Luck Club," a feature film being released next month, based on the novel by Amy Tan.

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