Launched in 1995, the Asian American Journalists Association’s Executive leadership Program (ELP) has helped shape several generations of diverse news media leaders. Journalists who graduated from the program in Asia and the US often refer to it as a life changing experience that taught them to champion themselves, become better leaders and make decisive progresses in their careers.
In this mini documentary series, AAJA-Asia has approached ELP’s Alumni and faculty and asked them to explain in their own words what makes this training program truly unique and how it has impacted their journalistic career.
ELP: Why do we Need Diversity in News Leadership?
Our first question to ELP fellows was about diversity in news leadership, which is at the core of AAJA’s Executive Leadership Program. Their answers bring unique perspectives on diversity seen through an Asia lens.
Angie Lau: “A 100% Transformative Experience”
Angie Lau is the founder and CEO of Forkast.News, an online news platform that covers blockchain and emerging technologies operating within the business, economy, and finance industries. Prior to launching Forkast in 2018, Angie was a Bloomberg TV anchor. She was a 2005 ELP fellow.
Hear it in Their Own Words
AAJA conducts regular assessments of the ELP program’s impact on its alumni’s careers over the years. We monitor skills improvements, job promotions, fellowships, grants, salary raises… While this information is strictly confidential, former ELP Asia fellows generously accepted to share some feedback about their experience as an ELP fellow.
“ELP helped me develop professional connections that I would have struggled to make otherwise”
Gavin Huang, Digital Publishing Journalist, Financial Times, Hong Kong
“ELP is probably the best training program you never knew you needed. It can be life-changing, transformative, eye-opening and revelatory – not only of yourself but of those around you – your immediate classmates as well as even co-workers down the line, who will (indirectly) benefit from the impact this program will have on you.”
Joon-Nie Lau, Deputy CEO, Singapore International Mediation Centre, Singapore
“Through ELP, I learned how to advocate for myself and to seek more opportunities to further my career. For example, I was able to join Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Women in Media. I owe my successful application to this program to my mentors in ELP who encouraged me to be more confident in my capabilities.”
Bernice Sibucao, Head of Digital Video Lab, GMA Network, Philippines
“ELP gave me the tools I needed to be more active in steering the direction of my career and introduced me to newsroom leaders who I likely would have never met. They gave us a look into how they got to where they are today and provided insight into how news organizations in the region operate.”
Brolley Genster, Staff Editor, The New York Times, South Korea
“As I was building my non-profit newsroom, the ELP helped me better understand newsroom leadership, challenges and how to sort out these challenges. I was better equipped to tackle these challenges with confidence.”
Rajneesh Bhandari, Founder, NIMJN, Nepal
“At any stage of your career, ELP is an opportunity to assess where you are and where you want to be. ELP is a chance to be “selfish” about admitting what you want and figure out strategies that can get you there.”
Hatty Liu, Managing Editor, The World of Chinese, China
“ELP Program removes stereotypes thinking and conservative thoughts, and gives us wider perceptions, allowing us to become ready to give equal opportunities to diversified people…”
Jan Muhammad, Producer News and Current Affairs, Pakistan Television News, Pakistan
“The program helped me to gain more confidence and courage to face the career bottleneck which I had been stuck with for years. It’s not just the knowledge, but the empathy extended, in the presence of fellow cohorts across the region, which made the idea of a career change or fighting for better pay/position less intimidating.”
Mimi Lau, Assistant Lecturer/Managing Editor, University of Hong Kong
“Attending AAJA ELP 2022 made me able to know myself better, and I also to improve myself, thanks to the experienced mentors. AAJA ELP2022 has been a milestone in my career.”
Linda Novi Trianita, Journalist (Editor), Tempo magazine, Indonesia
“ELP is like a good cup of coffee, gets your gears working and also a source of comfort. A program to learn valuable leadership skills from knowledgeable trainers and with a diverse group of participants from the same field.”
Siti Afifah Kamarudin, Deputy chief sub editor, Malaysiakini, Malaysia
Regina Hing: “Develop Good Networks”
Regina Hing hasn’t been dragging her feet during more than a decade in business news, but despite well-rounded experience in broadcast news anchoring and production, she had reached a turning point.
“After taking time out for motherhood, I felt stuck in a rut upon my return to the workforce,” she says. Looking for a program that would jump-start her career, she turned to AAJA’s Executive Leadership Program (ELP).
The program, which prepares mid- to senior-level journalists to tackle key leadership and change management questions, is designed for media professionals such as Hing interested in advancing their careers and developing the skills to achieve their goals.
Examining workplace responsibilities and challenges, Hing found that the training opened participant’s eyes wide to the lack of representation that’s still plaguing many mainstream newsrooms today, she says.
“ELP . . . peels off your masks and armor, and gets you right at the core,” she says.
In a career that has spanned major organizations in the Philippines and Singapore, Hing has come to understand the hard work involved in ensuring diversity to incorporate a wider range of views into coverage, she says. “(It involves) understanding and checking your privilege; and building a newsroom that serves the whole of your communities.”
The importance of training leaders was not lost on her. “The answer to ‘what is news’ or ‘what should we carry tonight?’ gets decided on a high level, by a very, very small group of people.” Editors, she says, see the world through their own lens.
The lessons of the program – to develop good networks and advocate for themselves — were particularly pertinent to an Asian woman like herself.
“As an Asian woman, these aren’t skills we are taught growing . . . we’re taught to be humble, to stay in your lane, to wait to get promoted.”
In her current position as a news editor and correspondent, she works at building coverage that incorporates a wider range of community voices.
And for the future, she no longer stands stultified at a fork in the road, she says, ELP has nudged her along the right fork.
Caroline Ceniza-Levine: “Work on Your Career”
Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career expert, media personality and founder of the Dream Career Club. A Senior Contributor to Forbes.com, Caroline formerly wrote career columns for Money.com, Time.com, CNBC, and Portfolio. She has been a repeat guest expert on CBS, CNN, CNBC, Fox Business and a regular coach for AAJA’s ELP program.
Hannah Bae: “Think About Long Term Goals”
Hannah Bae is a writer, freelance journalist, artist and longtime AAJA-er who began her storied career in journalism (she formerly was a viral news editor at CNN and a social media coordinator at Newsday) and has since shifted towards creative and narrative nonfiction. Hannah was a 2014 ELP fellow.
Multi-media Nepali journalist profits from leadership training
Investigative reporters such as Nepal’s Rajneesh Bhandari embody a treasure trove of reporting skills. Last year Bhandari added to those skills as a 2021 fellow in the AAJA Executive Leadership Program (ELP).
“The best take away in ELP for me is that it was very instrumental in putting me in the right direction.” said Bhandari, who found real-life examples from the speakers and case studies especially helpful.
As something of a household name among Nepali journalists, Bhandari will have ample opportunity to put that training into effect. Having set aside a career in broadcast journalism and becoming a valued contributor to media worldwide he has been placing his freelance pieces in media worldwide.
Data and multimedia editor for Journalists for Transparency’s investigative reporting website J4T.org, he also led a multimedia team of the European Journalism Center supported news website. He also teaches journalism at a variety of colleges in Nepal.
In 2019, he helped found and worked as the investigations editor for the Strengthening the Capacity of Nepali Journalists in Investigative Reporting program, in which he trained 60 reporters on investigative multimedia reporting and edited their work.
A year after completing the ELP, he is urging other journalists to follow in his footsteps.
“It was great connecting with journalists and communicators from all around the world,” he said.
Moreover, improving diversity, inclusion and equity are more important than ever in news organizations, he said.
“ELP helped me to understand my challenges better,” Bhandari said. “I started looking for solutions and for support from mentors.”
The need for balanced and inclusive journalism in Nepal is great given the lack of representation of Nepalese journalism on the world stage, Bhandari said. Representation of Nepal in international media is very stereotypical.
“I want Nepal’s culture, stories, values and journalism to be represented in the global landscape,” he said. “With the leadership program I hope to change some of these issues.”
Bernice Sibucao: “A Life Changing Program”
Bernice Marie Sibucao manages the Digital Video Section for GMA News and Public Affairs, a team that serves as a laboratory for the Philippines’ top news organization. In this position, Bernice is at the center of production and storytelling innovation for her company, a role in which she has thrived both as a journalist and as a media manager. She was a 2021 ELP fellow.
The ELP Asia Alumni Series has been produced with the support of:
The Google News Initiative also sponsors the ELP program’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Fellowships in Asia.
- Video Production: Bernice Sibucao and Cheen Rivera
- Editor: Frances Fernandes
- Project Management: K. Oanh Ha and Gilles Demptos
- Technical Support: Zela Chin