November 2017: Dream Big

My first time at JAWS camp transformed me.

It was 1993, and I had recently arrived at the San Francisco Chronicle from the Associated Press, where I was lucky enough to learn from Linda Deutsch and other great journalists in Los Angeles.

Though I had been at the AP since graduating from USC in 1990, I was now in a newsroom where one veteran reporter told me: “Be careful. The Chronicle eats their young.”

Veteran reporter Lisa Chung quickly took me under her wings at the Chronicle and insisted that I attend JAWS camp.

I had no idea what to expect, but I assumed that JAWS camp would be like every other journalism conference I had attended – and I had gone to quite a few of them. At the time, I was a member of NABJ and AAJA, and I think I actually got my job at the Chronicle by attending the CCNMA conference.

So, of course, I packed my curling iron, my favorite heels, and a power suit (yes, shoulder pads and all) and headed to Grouse Mountain Lodge, Whitefish, Montana, one of the most majestic settings I have ever seen. Upon arriving, I realized that everyone was wearing outdoor and casual clothing, and I was out of place in any sort of suit, much less high heels.

CAMP, now officially known as Conference and Mentoring Project (CAMP), had nothing to do with how good you looked or the content of your resume. CAMP goes beyond networking and getting your next great gig; it is a place where women journalists can make lifelong friends, support, inspiration, and acceptance.

Women from top newsrooms, universities and businesses of their own invited me to hike, drink, eat and laugh with them. No one asked for a business card, my credentials or a resume. Instead, the women with whom I chatted between powerful panel sessions and indulgent lunches and dinners wanted to talk about me—Why I entered the field of journalism; what I liked about reporting; and what could be done to make things better for women in the newsroom.

JAWS CAMP substantially elevated my career. I was inspired to plan for mid-career fellowships and, eventually, I earned the Knight-Wallace Fellowship. This Fellowship gave me the opportunity to break away from the newsroom and take a step back from my life and career. I had planned to learn more about campaign finance reform. I ended up delving into my own history as a bi-racial child of the 1960s.

I began writing a memoir and started applying for grants to Japan. I ended up earning a Fulbright grant, and in the fall of 2001, just months after my time in Michigan ended, I traveled to Japan. Just a few years later, I became a professor. To stay connected as a journalist and to stay ahead of the many changes in journalism, I also worked at Yahoo!, KALW Radio, SF Chronicle City Brights blog and LinkedIn.

Along the way, I have returned to JAWS CAMP when time and resources allowed me to do so. I have never forgotten the women who spent time with me over the years, providing much-appreciated advice, and inspiring me to advise my students: Dream Big.

I now get to share that same bit of advice with our 700 members of JAWS. In this coming year and beyond, let’s Dream Big. Let’s confront the challenges that face us at the highest levels, and let’s also continue to support women in the newsroom so that no one or no entity may “eat their young.”

We shall stand up and be strong and responsible, and restore faith in our profession.

– Yumi Wilson, JAWS President

I am excited to work with our board: Lindsey Anderson, Jane Isay, Mira Lowe, Megan Kamerick, Andrea Stone, Emily DeRuy, Sarah Gassen, Lisa Gillespie, Lottie Joiner, Marina Villeneuve, Nikki Raz, Rachel Sams, and our staff, Andrea Crowley-Hughes and Roxann Elliott.

We will dearly miss Roxanne Foster, who will be taking her next big step in 2018. I will also miss Sandra Fish, who has been invaluable in helping me prepare for this job. (Fish, I hope you won’t mind if I reach out to you for advice!)