Time to rally

Colleagues,
Last night, as I watched the nerve-wracking game between the Tigers and Twins, I was reminded of a baseball tradition that started here in Detroit: The rally cap.

This tradition began in the 1940s when Tigers fans wore their caps inside-out to generate come-from-behind wins.

The thinking was that fans could sacrifice a small amount of dignity for determination.

Let’s will our team, AAJA, to win.
The rally cap worked for Tigers fans in the World Series in 1945 — and it can work for us now.

AAJA is facing challenges: Our membership is down, while our budget deficit is up. Our professional staff has shrunk, while the number of lost journalism jobs is growing. By Unity’s account, the news industry has shed positions each month at almost three times the rate of jobs lost in the economy, 22% compared with 8%. Since January 2008, more than 200 media outlets have closed.

And the ASNE newsroom census for 2008 showed newsroom employment of Asian-American journalists declined 13.4%, compared to a 11.3% drop in employment overall.
Here’s what we can do to turn things around:

  • Step up to the plate. As one chapter founder and former executive editor recently told me, AAJA needs to project leadership. Teams need leaders on the field and in the locker room to do hard work and to bring players together. Be that leader.
  • Recruit others to join the team. Call colleagues whose memberships have lapsed, or will lapse. Urge them to get more involved. Times are too difficult to do anything alone. Convince them to be a part of a winning franchise. And don’t forget about those who have led the way for us in the past. They offer valuable insights, experience.
  • Remember that AAJA isn’t just about jobs. As we heard from one national award winner during the Boston convention, j stands for journalism and justice. As the industry changes, we need to continue changing the world. Journalism is about giving voice to those who aren’t heard. It’s about having high standards and strong values. Its about friendships and helping each other.
  • Be visionary. As we look into the future, we need to have ideas and have hope. Digital tools give us the power to do more than ever. Let’s use that power to do good things for others. Let’s visualize what we can be and, like a Nike commercial, just do it.

Let’s be champions of diversity; champions of great journalism. Let’s put our hearts into what we love and get in the game.

Frank Witsil, Detroit Free Press

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