But gets kudos for humanizing immig debate

The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) said it does not condone the actions that Jose Antonio Vargas and his family took regarding his immigration status, but it does appreciate Vargas’ “unblinking, illuminating piece” that humanized the debate on immigration across the United States.

Several members of AAJA, of which Vargas is also a member, have mixed feelings about the whole issue, says the organization.

“We at AAJA read with amazement reporter Jose Antonio Vargas’ first-person account as an undocumented immigrant living in the United States,” AAJA says in a statement released on June 27.

“Long before Vargas’ revelation, AAJA charted and celebrated his accomplishments in journalism, including the 2008 Pulitzer Prize he and his Washington Post colleagues won for coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting.

“To be clear, AAJA does not condone the actions that Vargas and his family took regarding his immigration status. The mission of journalism is the pursuit of truth, and the fact that Vargas was not fully honest with his employers, sources and readers troubles all of us at AAJA, as it should trouble all journalists.

“AAJA encourages and supports journalists who pursue career advancement in a fair and honest manner. That said, AAJA appreciates Vargas’ unblinking, illuminating piece — because the mission of journalism is also about making sure that all voices across our communities are heard. In telling his story, Vargas raises difficult questions and offers a perspective rarely represented in America’s divisive immigration debate. And he has done so in a way that humanizes the debate and adds nuance to it — rather than simply trying to shout down others who might disagree.”

The statement was signed by Kathy Chow, AAJA national office executive director, and included this caveat:

“While the majority of the board agreed with this statement, AAJA National President Doris Truong voluntarily recused herself from this discussion because she is an employee of The Washington Post.”

Founded in 1981, AAJA is a nonprofit professional and educational organization with more than 1,400 members today.

It serves Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders by encouraging young people to consider journalism as a career, developing managers in the media industry, and promoting fair and accurate news coverage.

AAJA uses the term “Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders” to embrace all Americans — both citizens and residents — who self-identify with one or more of the three dozen nationalities and ethnic groups in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific Islands.

AAJA is an alliance partner in UNITY Journalists of Color, along with the Native American Journalists Association, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and National Association of Black Journalists.

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