Fil Ams Make Waves at AAJA Convention


(© 2011 Journal Group Link International)

DETROIT, Michigan (jGLi)– Some Filipino Americans are getting some attention during the ongoing three-day 22nd annual convention of the Asian American Journalists Association that ends on Saturday, Aug. 13, in Detroit, Michigan.

Three of them are panelists in different workshops in the organization that is also marking its 30th anniversary this year. They are Rene Astudillo, executive director, Lupus Foundation of Northern California, who is in the panel of “Fighting To Protect Immigrant Rights”; Maria Hechanova, morning reporter, WLNS-TV, Yuma, Arizona, panelist in “Surviving Small Markets”; and Emil Guillermo, award-winning journalist and TV/radio host/commentator, panelist in “Authors’ Showcase: In Conversation with Grace Lee Boggs.”

Among Filipino American journalists attending this event are Curtis Lee Jay, news anchor “Action News” of NBC in Kansas City, Missouri; Justin Mendoza, TV news reporter/video journalist/producer; and Joseph G. Lariosa, correspondent Journal Group Link International and AAJA Chicago Chapter member. While those covering the event are former Manila Bulletin Provincial Editor Tony Antonio, editor of Fil Star Michigan, and Bobby Reyes of Mabuhay Radio of Los Angeles, California. Another Fil Am attending is Michigan active community leader, Willie Dichavez.

Mr. Curtiz Lee Jay met at the convention with Messrs. Reyes and Joesan Gabarda of Troy, Michigan. Gabarda is a friend of Jay’s grandfather, Felino Lee of Magallanes, Sorsogon in the Philippines.

Astudillo is AAJA’s National Treasurer and was AAJA’s executive director from 1999 to 2008. Hechanova worked her way up from producer/reporter and has worn many hats in her two-year tenure, including administrative assistant! She’s also the co-chair of AASMBJ (Asian American Small Market Broadcast Journalists), a group dedicated to supporting AAJA members who are just starting their careers. For nearly 15 years, Guillermo wrote the most widely read opinion column on Asian America in the U.S. An award-winning veteran broadcast and print journalist, talk host and commentator, Guillermo was the first Asian American to regularly host a national news radio program on NPR’s “All Things Considered” from 1989-1991.

During the panel discussion, Maria Hechanova, said working in a small market station is tough as she felt alienated from her relatives when her job application was accepted and she left her friendly confines in Phoenix, Arizona.

“You have to face two-step battle as you transition to your new job,” Ms. Hechanova, whose parents are from Iloilo in the Philippines, said. “First, losing people and finding that second job.”

It took her two years to prepare her taped resume, taking live shots. While she put things together, she was and is always having an open mind to criticisms of her job and demeanor by listening intently to her missteps.

While her contract expires in three years, she developed some anxiety two years into her job as she starts to make plans to jump into a “bigger” market. Her anxiety becomes acute as she gained the “the people’s trust and you create from them their respect.”

Ms. Hechanova turned emotional when she said her Mom called her a week after she got a new job, telling her that her Dad was very sick. Her father died last July 22nd.

She thanked the Asian American Journalists Association, which helped her cope up with her problems.

But what cheers her up in Yuma is a group Filipino Americans, who always invite her to their event, serving her up with her favorite Filipino delicacies.

She always feels that career is a marathon, where you develop your skills as you linger on your job. But she is still keeping her options open if she wants to pick up the anchor job of her dream. (


Fil Am Maria Hechanova (extreme right), morning reporter, WLNS-TV, of Yuma, Arizona, joins members of the panel after they presented “Surviving Small Markets” workshop Thursday, Aug. 11, at the St. Louis Convention Center in Detroit (COBO), Michigan. Others in photo to her right are Jam Sardar, TV News Director WLNS-TV, and Priscilla Luong, a reporter for Fox25 and CW34 of Oklahoma City. Back row at right is George Kiriyama, news reporter, NBC Bay Area News and an unidentified AAJA member or guest. (jGLiPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)


Former Manila Bulletin Provincial Editor Tony Antonio (extreme right), editor of Fil Am Star News in Michigan, is reunited with former Manila Bulletin police reporter Joseph G. Lariosa (extreme left), correspondent of Journal Group Link International, at the 22nd annual convention of the Asian American Journalists Association Thursday, Aug. 11, at the St. Louis Convention Center (COBO) in Detroit, Michigan while Bobby Reyes of Mabuhay Radio looks on. At the background is the Detroit River overlooking Canada on the other side of the river. (jGLiPhoto)


Curtis Lee Jay (third from left), news anchor “Action News” of NBC in Kansas City, Missouri, introduced himself as a grandson of Felino Lee of Magallanes, Sorsogon, while Sorsoganons Joseph G. Lariosa (extreme left), Bobby M. Reyes and Joesan Gabarda (extreme right) were conversing in Bikol. Lookin on is Jay’s friend, Brooke Camp, CNN recruiter, at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center in Michigan Wednesday, Aug. 10. (jGLiPhoto)


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