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The Asian American Journalists Association Launches "OurChinatown" -- a Hyperlocal News and Culture Blog Covering Manhattan's Dynamic Chinatown Community

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwire - 05/27/11) - In 1858, Ah Ken, a Cantonese businessman, became the first Chinese person to permanently immigrate to the area now known as Manhattan Chinatown. Since then, Chinatown -- an area currently approximated as being bounded by Broadway on the West, Rutgers/Essex Street on the East, Madison Street/Worth Street on the South, and Broome Street, Grand Street and Canal on the North -- has become home to over 100,000 residents, 2/3 of whom are Chinese. The neighborhood has emerged as one of the city's most vibrant commercial areas and critical cultural magnets -- yet to most New Yorkers, it remains an enigma, with little representation in mainstream news and lifestyle media beyond police blotters, disaster reports and restaurant reviews.Thanks to the generous support of the McCormick and Ford Foundations, the Asian American Journalists Association is proud to announce a new project designed to help address the lack of coverage of Chinatown: A hyperlocal news and culture blog called OurChinatown (http://www.ourchinatown.org)."'Hyperlocal' has been the buzzword in the journalism industry for the last couple of years, but most of the well-known hyperlocal projects out there have focused on affluent neighborhoods that are well served by existing media," says Cindy del Rosario-Tapan, editorial director of the project. "We see this as an opportunity to give a voice to a community that traditionally hasn't had one, and to talk about news and issues from a point of view that's relevant to and resonant with members of this community."Part of what makes that possible is the formation of an active advisory board composed of representatives from many of the Chinatown community's most important stakeholder organizations, from the Chinatown Partnership, to the Chinese-American Planning Council, the Renaissance New York organization, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Organization of Chinese in America, the Asian American Arts Alliance and the Museum of Chinese in America."The goal of this project is to figuratively turn around the lens, to make it possible for people who are from Chinatown -- people who have a stake and a background in this neighborhood -- to bring their unique perspective to covering it," says Jeff Yang, the project's marketing and community outreach director, who lived on the Lower East Side and worked in Chinatown for several years.One of the things that makes the project unique is its emphasis on mobile journalism: OurChinatown reporters, assigned to cover Chinatown beats ranging from politics to business to shopping, will use camera-equipped smartphones as a primary newsgathering tool, filing stories, video and images from the streets of the neighborhood in real time. Eventually, says interactive director Paul Cheung, the project intends to make mobile delivery of news a priority as well, noting that cellphones and smartphones are ubiquitous even among recent immigrants to the neighborhood."To serve primarily Chinese-speaking residents -- about half of the Chinatown community -- we're going to initially provide a 'best-of' feed of stories translated into Chinese, which will be available in mobile-optimized format," says Cheung, who grew up in Chinatown and attended the neighborhood's P.S. 24 elementary school. "We're also looking at producing Chinese-language podcasts that can be downloaded or streamed to phones."Experimenting with alternative ways of reporting and sharing news is a critical aspect to the project, which is the third of three Journalism Innovation demonstration pilots launched in celebration of the 15th Anniversary of AAJA's Executive Leadership Program, a professional development program that trains and challenges Asian American journalists to both advance their careers and expand the boundaries of the journalism industry."OurChinatown is a unique undertaking in local news coverage," says Mae Cheng, executive editor of amNewYork, and the coordinator of the Journalism Innovation pilots for AAJA. "The project shows how it's possible to actively cover a community using readily available technology, while establishing a partnership with that community to ensure there's constant first-hand feedback on what issues its residents find important. We hope its success will lead to it being a model for other local news websites to emulate."In the meantime, the OurChinatown team is eager to see how active daily coverage of the neighborhood changes the way New Yorkers see Chinatown, and how Chinatown sees itself."I grew up here, and this project has a deeply personal meaning to me," says OurChinatown staff reporter Pearly Huang. "It's a chance to give back to the community that brought me up, and to tell stories that are not normally told in mainstream media -- stories that you wouldn't hear about if you were a tourist."Fellow OurChinatown reporter Michelle Jiang agrees. "My great-grandparents first moved to Chinatown decades ago, and my family lived there for a very long time," she says. "I still have a lot of memories of being there, and I think with all the changes that Chinatown is undergoing, this is something the community really needs right now."That's because -- beginning with the tragic events of 9/11, and continuing with the outbreaks of SARS and avian flu in Asia and the recent global recession -- Chinatown has faced a series of ongoing disasters that have had a dramatic impact on the economic health of its businesses and the morale of its inhabitants."I've covered Chinatown since 1980, and I remember how good a place this was then," says Alex Peng, a veteran reporter for New York's Chinese language media who serves as one of OurChinatown's bilingual editors. "Since then, it has been fading away, and it's in danger of disappearing. For the Chinese American community, this is not just a place -- it's a source of life, inspiration and dreams. And Chinatown isn't just important for Chinese Americans. It's not just our Chinatown. It's everybody's Chinatown."For further information or to speak with the OurChinatown team, email Jeff Yang at jeff@ourchinatown.org or Marcia Santillan at marcias@aaja.org, or call Marcia at 415.346.2051 x107.OurChinatown: The TeamDirectors
Mae Cheng (Project Coordinator) is executive editor of amNewYork. Before joining amNewYork in 2007, she was a reporter and writer for New York Newsday. She is a former AAJA national president and UNITY: Journalists of Color president, and serves as committee chair of the AAJA National Endowment. She participated In AAJA's Gannett Management Development Mentor Program in 2005 and was AAJA National convention chair in New York in 2000. Cheng is a graduate of the AAJA Executive Leadership Program New York Class of 1998 class and a former AAJA New York chapter president.Paul Cheung (Interactive Director) is the Associated Press's Global Interactive Editor for its New York City headquarters. The interactive editor manages a global team of visual journalists who produce multimedia and information graphics for all formats, including print, online and mobile. Cheung is also an adjunct faculty member at Columbia Journalism School teaching visual journalism. Prior to joining the AP, Cheung was The Miami Herald's Deputy Multimedia Presentation Editor. He managed MiamiHerald.com site redesign in 2009 and before joining the Miami Herald, Cheung was a Senior Graphics Editor at The Wall Street Journal. Cheung served on the board of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). He was the National AAJA convention co-chair in Miami 2007 and programming chair for the past three years. Cheung, a 2007 Newspaper Association of America Breakthrough fellow, graduated from New York University where he studied journalism, sociology, science and photography.Cindy del Rosario Tapan (Editorial Director) is a freelance writer and editor. Previously, she was editorial manager at RecycleBank, an incentives program that encourages people to take positive green actions. Cindy has served as the managing editor for National Geographic's Green Guide online, Parenting.com and the eco-conscious website Blue Egg. She began career at In Style and Oprah magazines, before being named program director for the launch of Martha Stewart Living Radio. She is the former president of the NY chapter of AAJA, and a 2005 graduate of the Executive Leadership Program.Jeff Yang (Marketing and Outreach Director) was founder and publisher of aMagazine, Asian America's most influential English-language media institution, and aOnline, one of the first Asian-American communities on the web. He now serves as Global VP of Iconoculture, where he oversees operations in Greater China, Japan and Korea. He is a former Vice President of the New York chapter of AAJA.Stakeholder Advisory Board
Wendy Chan, founder and principal, Definity Marketing
Beatrice Chen, education and programs director, Museum of Chinese in America
David Chen, executive director, Chinese-American Planning Council
Wellington Chen, executive director, Chinatown Partnership
Margaret Fung, executive director, AALDEF
Kevin Kong, associate managing director, Renaissance New York
Ed Litvak, founder and editor, The Lo-Down NY (http://thelodownny.com)
June Jee, board member, OCA-NY
Andrea Louie, executive director, Asian American Arts Alliance
Telly Wong, IW Group; founder, The Five Points Variety HourEditorial Staff
Angela Chen (Reporter) is originally from southern California but loves NYC like it's her own. She is currently a freelance reporter for NY1. Before that, she studied at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, where her beat was Chinatown and the Lower East Side. Her previous experiences include working as a news writer and associate producer of the morning news program "Good Morning San Diego" at KUSI News. Angela was also an NBC News fellow at Dateline and Channel One News. She has written for the San Diego Union-Tribune and worked for The Charlie Rose Show. Angela did her undergraduate work at the University of California, San Diego, where she earned degrees in Literature/Writing and Psychology. She is a member of AAJA, SPJ and Pi Beta Phi.Katherine Fung (Reporter) is a writer and editor based in New York, and Regional Listings Coordinator for Patch.com. Prior to working with Patch, she was Special Projects Intern for Time Out New York, an intern for the Huffington Post, and worked as a special events intern for Chinatown's Chinese-American Planning Council. She grew up in Brooklyn and graduated from Bryn Mawr College with a degree in Urban Studies.Michelle Jiang (Reporter) is currently an editorial intern at WomansDay.com. As a recent graduate from CUNY College of Staten Island, she is an internet-savvy aspiring journalist, covering multiple areas of interests from music and arts to cultural and local events in Greater New York. After studying for a semester abroad in Rome, Italy, and months spent exploring the European continent, Michelle was bitten by the travel bug and has since been fevered with a passion for delving into diverse cultures around the world. Having lived in New York her whole life, she is the product of a rich melting pot environment.Roque Ruiz-González (Web Producer) graduated in late 2007 as a Graphic Designer from Miami International University of Art & Design, he quickly became one of the main designer for Miami Herald's website redesign. Since then he has worked on many interactive online packages and infographics for South Florida's leading newspaper blending successfully graphics, sound and video.Pearly Huang (Reporter) is a freelance writer and editor based in New York. She was born and raised in New York's Chinatown so this project holds a special and deeply personal interest to her. Pearly recently came from working with another hyper local community startup, Patch.com. Before Patch, Pearly was an editorial intern at Time Out New York, where she contributed to TONY's online blog, "Last Minute Plan." She also interned for the interactive department at SIRIUS XM Radio. Pearly also has on-air radio experience from ComRadio, Penn State's student-run radio station.Alex Peng (Editor) has spent over 20 years reporting for both Chinese-language newspapers such as the World Journal and radio stations like the Chinese American Voice. His many pioneering accomplishments in news and culture journalism for the Chinese community include serving as the first Mandarin Chinese play-by-play broadcaster for the New York Islanders hockey team. He has been honored with recognition from New York State Assemblywoman Ellen Young for his efforts to reach out to the Asian communities throughout the world, using sports and culture as his tool.About AAJA
The Asian American Journalists Association is a nonprofit professional and educational organization with about 1400 members in 21 chapters across the United States and 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 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 of Color, along with the Native American Journalists Association, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and National Association of Black Journalists. For more info, visit http://www.aaja.org/About AAJA's ELP
Founded by Dinah Eng, columnist for Scripps Howard News Service, freelance writer and former AAJA National President, AAJA's Executive Leadership Program is a program to help Asian American and Pacific Islander journalists become outstanding newsroom leaders and executives. ELP looks at how Asian American and Pacific Islander values relate to high-level decision-making processes and leadership development and explores the responsibilities and challenges of the newsroom and enterprise, helping participants develop individual career paths to leadership positions. There have been 381 graduates of the Executive Leadership Program since the program began in 1995.