MEN OF THE YEAR: AAJA Calendar Highlights Broadcasters

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George Kiriyama appears on the cover of the "Men of Broadcast" calendar.

By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer

The votes are in and the calendar is out — the Asian American Journalists Association’s “Men of Broadcast” calendar, that is.

Over the past year, people across the country voted online for their favorite Asian American male TV and radio journalists. There were about 50 candidates. Unlike government elections, multiple voting was not only permitted but encouraged, at a cost of $1 per vote.

George Kiriyama of NBC Bay Area in San Jose was on the calendar committee and is also featured in the calendar. He explained that the project was a fun way to “showcase Asian American male broadcasters and raise money at the same time.”

Although progress has been made in recent years, Asian American men continue to be underrepresented in the industry, he said, estimating that the ratio of Asian American women to men among on-air talent is between 2 to 1 and 3 to 1.

The calendars cost $15 and area available at http://aaja.myshopify.com/.

Kiriyama and Dinah Eng, founder and former director of AAJA’s Executive Leadership Program, came up with the idea. Eng worked on AAjA’s first “Men of Broadcast” calendar in 1998-99.

Kiriyama may be better known in the L.A. area as the son of Iku Kiriyama and the late George Kiriyama, co-founders of the Japanese American Historical Society of Southern California, and the brother of artist/writer Traci Kato-Kiriyama. He worked as a reporter for more than nine years at stations in Midland/Odessa, Texas; Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo, Mich.; and Kansas City, Mo., before coming back to California.

He received an Emmy nomination in 2008 for the documentary “Dreams to Dust: Americans Interned,” in which he and NBC Bay Area colleagues Mike Inouye and Rob Mayeda discussed their families’ experiences during World War II. He was nominated again in 2010 for his live coverage of a riot in downtown Oakland in response to the death of Oscar Grant, a young African American who was fatally shot in the back by a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police officer.

Kiriyama is active in AAJA, serving his second term as national vice president for broadcast. He was one of eight members of the calendar committee; two others, Howard Chen and Owen Lei, also appear in the calendar. AAJA Executive Director Kathy Chow also served on the committee.

“The top 12 vote-getters got their own months,” said Kiriyama, who received the most votes, followed by Chen. “The next four shared one month, January 2013.”

The lone Southern California representative, KTLA’s Frank Buckley, was among the honorable mentions.

Chen, sports director for Fox Toledo, wrote in his blog, “I had the lead in the final few hours until the FINAL TEN MINUTES … (then) George’s friends put him over me, 842-826. A few minutes later, one of my cousins let me know he had given me the 846-842 lead. But in the FINAL MINUTE or so, George’s mother came in and snatched victory for her son! …

“If I was going to get second to anybody, it would be George … There’s a reason George finished first. It’s because everybody loves him, including myself … And he truly deserves that No. 1 spot.”

Kiriyama thanked his mom for casting the decisive 75 votes, and noted that AAJA raised more than $10,000 from all the votes. Those funds and proceeds from calendar sales will go to programs designed to improve Asian American representation in mainstream journalism, from entry level to managerial ranks, and to promote fair and accurate coverage of Asian American issues.

Unlike other recent Asian male calendars, AAJA’s effort did not involve Speedos or beefcake poses. On the cover, Kiriyama stands fully clothed in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The “Big 12” have already appeared at AAJA events, signing autographs and posing for photos.

Following are the top 16 candidates:

1. George Kiriyama, NBC Bay Area (San Jose) reporter, 917

2. Howard Chen, Fox Toledo sports director, 846

3. Shawn Chitnis, KREM 2 (Spokane) reporter, 662

4. Christopher Nguyen, KREM 2 morning anchor, 573

5. Chris Jose, KDVR Fox 1/KWGN Channel 2 (Denver) reporter, 565

6. Brian Tong, CNET (San Francisco) editor and on-air personality, 564

7. Randall Yip, ABC 7/KGO-TV (San Francisco) senior producer, 546

8. Toan Lam, Go Inspire Go (San Francisco) chief inspiration officer, 543

9. Lloyd LaCuesta, KTVU-TV (Oakland) South Bay bureau chief, 535

10. Archith Seshadri, WJBF Channel 6 (Augusta, Ga.) reporter, 505

11. Owen Lei, KING 5 (Seattle) reporter, 482

12. Stanton Tang, WXXM 13 (Grand Rapids, Mich.) news and information director, 475

13. Kenny Choi, KITV 4 (Honolulu) morning news anchor, 427

14. Sean Dobie, ABC 7/KGO-TV writer/producer, 352

15. Frank Buckley, KTLA (Los Angeles) morning news anchor, 298

16. Anish Shroff, ESPN anchor/host/play-by-play announcer, 253

On the Web: www.aaja.org

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