Sun. Mar. 30: Meet Drew Lazor and Neal Santos

Join AAJA-Philly for intimate conversation and snacks with local journalists (and men-about-town) Drew Lazor and Neal Santos.

Lazor and Santos will tell AAJA members about their experiences in the Philly journalism world, including how they got their start and how they landed their latest gigs.

What: “Brain Pickings” with Drew Lazor and Neal Santos

When: 5-7pm on Sunday, Mar. 30

Where: Board member Yowei Shaw’s house in West Philadelphia, when you RSVP we’ll send the address

RSVP: By Wed., Mar. 26, to

About Lazor and Santos:

Drew LazorDrew Lazor is a Philly-based freelance journalist covering food, drink, movies and music locally and nationally. A food columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, he has also contributed to Bon Appétit, Saveur, Serious Eats, Zagat and more. His writing has earned first-place honors in the 2011 AltWeekly Awards and the 2013 Association of Food Journalists Awards. He is the co-author of Jeremy and Jessica Nolen’s German Cooking Now, out fall 2014 on Chronicle Books.

Neal SantosNeal Santos is a photographer living and working in Philadelphia. Currently, he serves as the chief photographer at the Philadelphia City Paper. Additionally he runs a small-scale urban farm called Farm 51 with his partner. He considers himself lucky to call himself a Philadelphian as he types a bio with a cat stepping on his keyboard in his home in Southwest Philadelphia.

“Stand up and share”: Koliyan cofounder responds to Phoodie’s “Pol Pot Stickers” blog post


Anna Hitchens, cofounder of Koliyan. Video still from Cory Popp.

When Anna Hitchens read an article about her Cambodian dessert company that featured an offensive headline, she decided to take that opportunity to share more about her family’s history.

In March, Philadelphia food blog Phoodie,info published a post about Koliyan, Hitchens’ dessert company, headlined “Lunch Break: Pol Pot Stickers Edition.” In response, Hitchens posted on Facebook:

I’m a 31 year old first generation Cambodian American who was born in Philadelphia just a few months after my family arrived in the country. Both of my parents were born and raised in Cambodia, and they left in the late 70s due to the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot was head of the Khmer Rouge, the Communist Party who violently overthrew the Cambodian government. During this time about 2 million Cambodians died via execution and starvation. My mom’s entire family including her father, mother, sisters and brother were among those killed.

I was moved to start Koliyan after returning from my honeymoon to Cambodia. It was a way for me to connect and share my culture with other Philadelphians in the best way I know how—food. Seeing Pol Pot’s name in a title of a blog post associated with my efforts to preserve the long standing beauty of my culture has inspired me to share more about my family’s history, which I’ll be doing in the weeks to come.

Within days, removed the post and editor Adam Brodsky wrote on

I just quickly dashed off a pun I’ve had in my pocket since 7th grade and published without thinking. It wasn’t the right thing to do and as soon as somebody said, “Hey fucko, that’s not the right thing to do.” I realized and took down the post. On my good days I’m better than that. So I offer an apology to Koliyan and all Cambodians with the exception of Pot himself, and y’know his henchmen and lackeys and minions and such, but to everyone else, I’m sorry.

Read the rest of the apology here.

We asked Hitchens for her thoughts on the incident, and this is what she emailed to us:

I wrote my response to Adam’s post to express how the dark period in Cambodia’s history is still affecting Cambodians today. I didn’t expect an apology or a response. The hardest part was telling my mom about it. She gracefully said in Khmer, “We’ve been living with this for over 30 years; they don’t know what we went through, you have to forgive.” Through this, I hope more people in my situation will stand up and share rather than react.

It’s part of our mission to make sure that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are covered fairly and accurately in the local media. If you read, hear or see something that you find unfair or inaccurate, email us at aajaphiladelphia AT and we’ll review it and respond as necessary. For more resources, check out “AAJA’s “Handbook to Covering Asian-America.”

- Yowei Shaw and Juliana Reyes for AAJA-Philly

Scholarship Lead: John Curley Scholarships

The AAJA National Convention in Washington, D.C., from August 13 to 16 this year will be a wonderful opportunity to network with other journalists from around the country, to participate in panel discussions with seasoned journalists, and to attend a career fair and résumé critique sessions.

For the fifth year in a row, AAJA-Philadelphia will be offering the John Curley Scholarship. This year, we will offer two scholarships, each up to $500, to help pay the expenses for two members to go to the annual convention.

Our ability to do so comes from the kind generosity of our donor, John Curley, the former president, chairman and CEO of the Gannett company, who has been a strong supporter of the Philadelphia chapter of AAJA.

WHAT: The chapter will reimburse the selected members up to $500 in expenses to attend the convention. These expenses include the registration fee for the convention, transportation, and hotel costs. (You may be asked to share your hotel room with another AAJA-Philly member.)


  • You must be a current dues-paying AAJA-Philly chapter member to apply.
  • We will consider current students or professionals who are trying to establish themselves in the journalism field or who are in financial need.
  • Send a one-page essay telling the AAJA-Philly board why you want to go to the convention, how you think you will benefit from it, and why you need help with the expenses. E-mail your essay

DEADLINE: Apply by the end of the day, Monday, March 31, 2014.
AAJA-Philly board members will review all applications and announce the scholarship winners by Tuesday, April 8. Expenses will be reimbursed in the form of a check after the convention. You must give us copies of your receipts.
(If a board member wants to apply, he/she will not be part of the judging process.)

The winning applicants will also be required to:

  • Register for the convention by the early-bird registration date of Tuesday, April 15. (The early-bird student registration fee is $100; for professionals, it is $250.)
  • Write a blog post about something you learned at the convention for our chapter website either at the convention or soon afterward. This could be a summary of things you learned, a Q+A with a speaker at the convention, or a summary of a panel discussion, for instance.
  • Take a few pictures at the convention to be posted on our chapter website.
  • Assist in the planning, promotion or day-of duties for an AAJA-Philly panel event currently scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014.

MORE INFORMATION: For more info about the convention, visit:

We encourage everyone who wants to go and who needs help with expenses to apply for this! Questions? Feel free to e-mail

Sat. Feb. 22: Chapter Meeting w/ Guest Speaker!

Come to our first chapter meeting of the year. We are delighted to have a guest speaker: Helen Gym, board member of Asian Americans United, who will speak to us about a new report, A Community of Contrasts: Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the Northeast, which includes statistics about Asian Americans in Philadelphia.

What: AAJA-Philadelphia chapter meeting

When: 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 22

Where: Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News building, 801 Market Street, 3rd floor conference room

– Discussion led by Helen Gym, board member of Asian Americans United, regarding a new report about the state of Asian Americans in Philadelphia. Learn how different Asian ethnic groups are faring in terms of poverty, educational attainment, English language proficiency, and more. The report can be found at:

– Find out what the chapter plans are for the year.

RSVP: By Thursday, Feb. 20, to

Member Monday: Stephen Jiwanmall

StephenJiwanmallStephen Jiwanmall is an anchor/video reporter for three suburban Philadelphia newspapers: Bucks County Courier Times, The Intelligencer, and Burlington County Times. He will soon be the anchor of the “Burlington County Times Update,” a hyperlocal daily newscast online for Burlington County. This past summer, he participated in the Voices program at the AAJA National Convention, where he co-anchored one of the newscasts. Stephen has been able to report on and share his Asian-American culture through his work, with videos on Ramadan, Diwali, and bhangra dancing.

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: Rocky Road

Signature Saying: Is my hair sticking up?

 Are you a AAJA member who would like to be featured on Member Monday? Contact Michelle Shinseki at

Here’s how to pitch me a story: 5 Philadelphia editors explain

aaja philly pitch event

Editors listen at AAJA-Philly’s First Pitch event.

It could have been a scene out of a freelancer’s nightmare. Instead of pitching a story via email, freelancers were pitching to an entire panel of editors — and an audience.

That was the setup at the Asian American Journalists Association Philly chapter’s First Pitch, a master class on pitching held last November at Temple University. During the event, five Philadelphia editors critiqued pitches from freelancers. Some stories even made the cut: listen to Mary Schilling‘s story about South Jersey’s annual muskrat dinners on Newsworks.

Ultimately, editors aren’t always the last word, said David Preston, assistant city editor at the Philadelphia Daily News.

“If you have a pitch, don’t let me or anyone else tell you it’s no good,” he said. Maybe it’s not ready yet, he said, but if you’re passionate about it, you should stick with it.

Below, we recap tips from the editors at the event.

  • Be surprising. “Tell me something I don’t know,” said Sandy Clark, deputy managing editor for arts, features and entertainment at the Inquirer. “Give me something we haven’t done before.”
  • Make a case for your story. Clark said she wants to know, “Why would people care?” and “Why now?”
  • Reach out to sources before the pitch. It gives your pitch credibility if you’ve already lined up interviews, said Eugene Sonn, audio news director at WHYY.
  • It isn’t enough to have a good story. You need to be clear to editors about your angle and how you plan to approach it. This was the number one criticism that editors had during the event. After one pitch about an annual muskrat dinner, Sonn said he needed to know: What kind of story is this? Is it a National Geographic-type story? Is it a story about a tradition under siege? Is it a story about a quirky thing that happens every year?
  • Give the editor specifics. Tell the editor when the story could run — don’t make an editor do that work, said Philadelphia Magazine news editor Brian Howard. For example, tell the editor, “This should be a front-of-book item for your April issue for X, Y and Z reasons.”
  • Show that you’re capable. Sonn said he wants to hear past work so he knows that a reporter can handle producing her own pieces.
  • Know the outlet you’re pitching to. Some outlets, like the Daily News, will be tougher because of things like union restrictions and because it has a “tiny” freelance budget, Preston said.
  • Sometimes it helps if your story doesn’t look like all the others. News outlets can’t cover everything, so pitch a story that focuses on an under-covered issue. Said Preston, in a response to a pitch about a Chinatown-focused story: “I would be the first to admit that we do a lousy job of covering Chinatown and other ethnic communities. So I would be interested in stories like that.”
  • Be up front about any personal interest or involvement you have with the story topic. That is not the kind of thing editors want to find out about later, said Brian Hickey, Northwest Philadelphia news editor at Newsworks.
  • Don’t ask for payment until you’ve delivered. The same goes for pitching another story before you’ve finished the one you’re working on. Both are turn-offs, Clark said.
  • Don’t take it personally. Rejection is inevitable, so try to learn from it, said freelance radio producer and event organizer Yowei Shaw. If your pitch is rejected, ask the editor why. Try to have a conversation with her about why it didn’t work.

- Juliana Reyes

2013 AAJA-Philadelphia Executive Summary

The AAJA-Philadelphia chapter had a good year in 2013! We increased our membership, held a successful story-pitching event, gave out three scholarships, played a role as a media watchdog, and visited two places to learn more about our area. Please read below for more details. 

Highlights of 2013

Our Nov. 9 First Pitch event, held at Temple University, was an opportunity for aspiring, freelance and professional reporters to pitch story ideas to a panel of editors and receive feedback in front of an audience. Our editors panel consisted of Sandra Clark, Philadelphia Inquirer; David Lee Preston, Philadelphia Daily News; Brian Howard, Philadelphia Magazine; Brian Hickey, NewsWorks; and Eugene Sonn, WHYY. About 50 people attended. Thanks to AAJA-Philly’s mentorship program director Yowei Shaw for organizing this!

Scholarships: The chapter handed out three scholarships in 2013. Sara Khan, who graduated from Temple University in May, was the recipient of our John Curley Scholarship, which reimbursed her up to $1,000 to attend the AAJA National Conference in New York in August. By attending the conference, Sara made a contact at CNN, and then got a job with CNN in Atlanta!

The chapter also gave out two $500 Vijaya L. Balaji scholarships, which help pay the expenses for a college student who intends to pursue a journalism career and who is of low-to-moderate financial means. Anna Pan, a University of Pennsylvania student, and Camisha Brown, a Penn State student at the Schuylkill campus, were the two winners of this scholarship.

Media Watchdog: After noticing an article in Philadelphia City Paper that described Asian waitresses at an Uzbekistan restaurant as “exotic” and “almond-eyed,” board members Juliana Reyes and Yowei Shaw led the effort to write a letter to City Paper, whose editor then removed the offensive descriptions. AAJA National’s MediaWatch was also alerted about this issue; it posted the chapter’s letter on its website. Read the letter here.

Educational visits: Our chapter took two trips this year. In April, we visited the NBC10 news station in Bala Cynwyd. In addition to getting a tour and seeing a live broadcast, we were able to speak with Anzio Williams, the station’s vice president of news.

In June, we went to West Windsor, N.J., (near Princeton) to meet with the mayor, the head of the school board, and some of the town’s other Asian American leaders. West Windsor has a 37 percent Asian American population. Thanks to board member Rikki Massand for organizing this event!

Member Monday profiles: Michelle Shinseki, our social media director, came up with this idea to highlight the AAJA-Philadelphia membership. The profiles are short and fun, and have appeared on our website,, about once a month.

Other items of note

Membership: AAJA-Philadelphia had 44 official members in 2013, an increase from the 41 members in 2012.

Please remember to renew your membership for 2014 and support our chapter!:

Donors: We’d like to give thanks to the following people  and companies:

  • John Curley, former president, chairman, and CEO of the Gannett Company, for his continued financial support of our chapter, including funding the John Curley Scholarship.
  • 6abc for its financial support.
  • Murali Balaji, board advisor, for funding the Vijaya L. Balaji Scholarship, in honor of his late mother.
  • Porus Cooper, board advisor, for donating money to help a member in financial need renew his/her membership.

In addition to receiving funds, our chapter also donated money in 2013. The board voted to give $1,000 to AAJA National’s JCamp program, which trains high school students in journalism skills.

National Convention in NYOur chapter had 14 members who attended the AAJA National convention in NY, the most of all the small chapters. For this, we were awarded two free Southwest Airlines tickets. Member Sara Khan won the tickets in a drawing at the convention.

Mentorship Program: Our mentorship program continued in 2013 with seven mentor-mentee pairs. Thanks to Yowei Shaw and Murali Balaji who oversaw this program.

Fall Elections: Most of our board members agreed to stay on the board for the 2014-15 year. We added a new board member, Stephen Jiwanmall, who is our student outreach coordinator. The other board members are: Julie Shaw, president; Michelle Lee, treasurer; Juliana Reyes, national advisory board representative; Yowei Shaw, mentorship program director, and Rikki Massand, secretary.

Board Advisors: We’d like to welcome David Boardman, the new dean of Temple University’s School of Media and Communication, as one of our new board advisors. Michelle Shinseki, who has stepped down from our board at the end of 2013, has agreed to stay on as a board advisor.


  • We had a brunch get-together at Michelle Shinseki’s place in February to kick off the year.
  • We held our annual mixer in June with the National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP) and the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania at SangKee Noodle House in University City.
  • We had two chapter meetings this year: in April at Yowei Shaw’s house and in September at Han Dynasty in University City.
  • We celebrated the end of the year at a holiday dinner get-together at Xi’an Sizzling Woks in Chinatown.

All the best,

Julie Shaw

AAJA-Philly president