Career Chats: Catching Up With Our Dinah Eng Fellows Jill Mie Kunishima, Analisa Puod and Bernice Marie Sibucao
On continual learning, professional development and entering the ranks of newsroom leadership
By Daniella Ignacio, Programs and Communications Coordinator
This month on AAJA Defined, we’re highlighting recent Dinah Eng Leadership Fellowship Grant recipients! This grant honors Dinah Eng, founding director of AAJA’s Executive Leadership Program. Through the grant, we support AAPI journalists pursuing professional development opportunities, both within and outside AAJA.
Jill Mie Kunishima (owner and principal of JMK Consulting and 2022 ELP participant) used the funds toward ELP U.S. costs; Analisa Puod of Global Daily Mirror in the Philippines participated in AAJA-Asia’s ELP Asia in Singapore; and Bernice Marie Sibucao of GMA Network in the Philippines put the grant towards expenses for Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Women in Media. We caught up with all three of them to learn more about their experiences seeking out further journalism training and their takeaways on newsroom leadership.
How have AAJA and the Dinah Eng Leadership Fellowship helped you in your continued professional development?
JILL MIE KUNISHIMA (Owner and Principal of JMK Consulting, 2022 ELP U.S. participant): I wish I had had an experience like this earlier on in my professional journey! AAJA’s ELP, more than anything, was a safe space in a time that felt unsafe. Being able to grow, question, and explore — with people who were willing to meet me where I was and hold space for me — was truly transformative. I basically launched what I am doing today (nonprofit fundraising consulting, with quite a few nonprofit journalism clients) during it!
I happened to leave my previous workplace the day before ELP started. It was a little odd to start my ELP journey without an organizational anchor, but it forced me, from day one, to stand on my own. It also allowed me to dive into the ELP space in a different way; where others may have attached learnings to their newsrooms, I was delving inwards. At some point in those months, I remember being forced to reflect on what I really wanted. I made a list of all the facets of an ideal job and supervisor, and someone reflected back to me that I described myself. That was a real turning point in my journey towards consulting.
ANALISA PUOD (Global Daily Mirror, 2022 ELP Asia participant): AAJA and the Dinah Eng Leadership Fellowship have tremendously helped me enrich my career and personal development. The financial support and the training I received were life-changing. It made me not only a better journalist but also a better leader and follower. I met like-minded fellows who are in pursuit of journalistic excellence and personal growth. We are not only sharing industry insights, but are introducing to everyone the opportunities we know, like training or job hiring. We also cheer on each other’s successes. Although we are no longer in classes, we continue to learn together by constantly communicating.
BERNICE MARIE SIBUCAO (GMA Network, 2021 ELP Asia participant): AAJA, through the 2021 Executive Leadership Program, broadened my perspective in terms of my career trajectory. I learned how to advocate for myself and seek new opportunities beyond my newsroom. The Dinah Eng Leadership Fellowship further accelerated this growth by allowing me, through the generous stipend, to fully immerse myself in the Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Media and deeply connect with my cohorts through after-sessions activities. With the bond forged in the academy, I now have a big network of brilliant female journalists whom I can tap for help and mentorship and whom I can genuinely call friends and Poynter sisters.
Being able to grow, question, and explore — with people who were willing to meet me where I was and hold space for me — was truly transformative.
What are your most important takeaways from your training program and how will you apply those lessons in your work?
JILL: Being able to be a part of ELP at a time when I was questioning whether or not I should stay in the field of journalism was instrumental in me staying in the field of journalism. As an APIA woman on the revenue side, I wasn’t sure if I was cut out for this space, but ELP reminded me of the inherent strengths I bring to the table, especially for BIPOC-led/BIPOC-focused journalism spaces.
Through many people in many ways, I heard that the sector needed me more than I needed them; not just because journalism is still figuring out how to sustain itself, business model/revenue-wise, not just because we, as the fastest-growing population in the country (APIAs), are quite literally the future of the country, but also because of who I am at the intersection of all of this.
ANALISA: My most important learning from the program is that excellence is what you do repeatedly and consistently. Before joining AAJA and receiving the Dinah Eng Leadership Fellowship, I thought achievements were luck and hard work, but after attending the classes, I realized that success is a habit of excellence.
In addition, there is science and professional training that you can incorporate with your drive to attain your optimum potential. In particular, networking, leadership, negotiations and branding classes benefited me.
You can be the best journalist, but your success will only mean something if you have the values, leadership skills and desire to be impactful to your community. I am now sharing and teaching these values and life lessons to my young news team.
BERNICE: The future of management leans towards female leadership, which has empathy and kindness at its core. As such, those in management positions, like myself, should be intentional in uplifting and providing space for young women journalists who would be the future newsroom managers. It’s important to have and advocate for this new style of leadership so we don’t keep losing young people in our ranks who quit because of mental fatigue, toxicity and burnout.
That learning came from Stephanie Mehta, CEO and Chief Content Officer of Mansueto Ventures. She discussed how the Gen Z and millennial workforce value mental health and work-life balance, which are things often neglected in journalism because of our fast-paced turnarounds.
The future of management leans towards female leadership, which has empathy and kindness at its core.
Why is it important to encourage more diverse leadership in the top ranks of journalism and media?
JILL: Because the future looks like us!
ANALISA: Diversity in leadership promotes a broader and richer engagement because of the various perspectives of leaders. It also means more representation, and having choices of ideas and solutions can encourage more efficient results. As there is no monopoly on good ideas and empathic leadership, we should encourage more participation from a spectrum of movers and shakers in the industry. Especially because journalism is constantly challenged by fake news, misinformation and sensationalism, those leading the pack, the gatekeepers, must be trained and mentored to become not just company managers but advocates of truth and justice.
BERNICE: Diversity is important in the top ranks of journalism and media so we can have a plurality of voices and perspectives. This is so we can recognize situations where we should be empowering minorities. I speak from experience as someone who is part of the minority (a queer Asian woman from a developing country). It’s hard for people like me to get big breaks, especially international opportunities, because of the lack of accessibility and finances. This is why I advocate for diverse leadership, because with diversity comes empathy that will enable a newsroom leader to understand and recognize the needs of his/her direct reports who belong to the minority.
Those leading the pack, the gatekeepers, must be trained and mentored to become not just company managers but advocates of truth and justice.
To find our fellows on social media and read their full bios, please view our 2022 scholarships announcement. Learn more about the Dinah Eng Leadership Fellowship Grant here, and keep an eye out for more information on our 2023 scholarships coming soon.
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Daniella Ignacio is the programs and communications coordinator at AAJA. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.