Valerie is a longtime advocate for media diversity and journalism as a catalyst for social change. Since Renaissance Journalism’s inception in 2009, she has led many of the organization’s transformative initiatives in journalism, community-centered reporting, and racial justice, including the Equity Reporting Project, Bay Area Media Collaborative, and, most recently, LaunchPad, which aims to empower early-career journalists, particularly BIPOC reporters, who are passionate about telling the stories of their communities.
Her journalism career—and her strong belief that journalism can and must serve as a powerful force for democracy, equity and social justice—grew out of her 10-plus years as a community organizer working in the field to end gender-based violence. She is a proud co-founder of San Francisco’s Asian Women’s Shelter, one of the nation’s first programs designed to meet the language and cultural needs of Asian survivors of domestic violence and trafficking. This experience inspired her to pursue a career in journalism and community storytelling. Her first job was as a reporter for East West News, a bilingual Chinese/English-language newspaper based in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
She later worked as an assistant editor at The Village Voice and as a reporter for the Marin Independent Journal, where she primarily covered Marin City, a predominantly Black and historically marginalized and underreported community in the region. She continued to use her organizing and journalism skills as the executive director of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). In addition to organizing two national conventions, she conceived, raised funds for, and managed AAJA’s first bilingual Korean/English journalism conference in the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
As anti-Muslim sentiment and misinformation rose after the 9/11 attack, Valerie conceived and was the executive editor of one of the first online guides for journalists covering Islam and Muslim Americans, published by the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism at San Francisco State University. As editorial director at the Maynard Institute for five years, she developed and edited an annual magazine on diversity and media issues facing BIPOC journalists.
Valerie holds a BA from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She is a former board member of the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter.
Alexis is an award-winning journalist who for nearly 10 years served as the editor-in-chief of El Tecolote, the longest-running bilingual English/Spanish publication in California. During his tenure, Alexis expanded and strengthened El Tecolote’s news coverage, resulting in a bevy of awards. He helped conceive and co-hosted El Tecolote’s first podcast, “Radio Teco.” And he navigated the small nonprofit publication through years of social and political strife, including a global pandemic that had a profound impact on the Latinx immigrant community. Under his leadership and mentorship, El Tecolote continued to be a training ground for emerging BIPOC journalists as he forged partnerships with the journalism departments at San Francisco State University and City College of San Francisco.
Prior to joining El Tecolote, Alexis was an aspiring sports reporter. After he earned a BA in journalism from San Francisco State University, he was a reporting intern and freelancer at the San Francisco Examiner, mostly covering sports, and a reporter and photographer at Patch.com. He credits Jon Funabiki, one of his professors at San Francisco State (and the founder of Renaissance Journalism) for inspiring him to apply his journalism and language skills, his passion for social justice, and his lived experiences in service to the San Francisco Bay Area Latinx community, where he was born and raised.
Alexis is the recipient of several journalism awards, including the “Silver Heart Award” from SPJ’s Northern California Chapter for his courageous reporting on white nationalist groups in El Tecolote, and he was named “Outstanding Alumni of 2019” by San Francisco State University. He has served on the boards of directors of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Northern California Chapter and the San Francisco Press Club.
About Jon Funabiki, Founder
Jon Funabiki, whose career spans journalism, philanthropy and academia, founded Renaissance Journalism in 2009. Over the past 11 years, under his leadership, Renaissance Journalism has pioneered ways to improve news coverage of equity and social justice issues through national fellowships, collaborative reporting projects, grants and training. Hundreds of journalists from a wide range of news outlets have produced innovative and award-winning coverage on such complex issues as the growing crisis in housing insecurity and affordability, systemic inequities in public education, the Covid-19 pandemic and its disproportionate impact on communities of color, the financial crisis in Detroit, and the toxic legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam.
Since 2008, Jon was a professor of journalism at San Francisco State University. He joined the university after an 11-year career with the Ford Foundation, one of the world’s leading philanthropies. As the deputy director of the Media, Arts and Culture Unit in New York, he led grant programs to promote ethics, credibility and diversity in journalism; social justice journalism; and the ethnic and independent news media.
Jon is the former founding director of San Francisco State University’s Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism and of its Dilena Takeyama Center for the Study of Japan and Japanese Culture. A veteran reporter, he was a journalist for 17 years with The San Diego Union, where he specialized in U.S.-Asia political and economic affairs. A graduate of San Francisco State University, Jon was awarded the John S. Knight Professional Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University; the Jefferson Fellowship at the East-West Center of Honolulu; and a National Endowment for the Humanities Professional Summer Fellowship at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He announced his retirement from Renaissance Journalism in December 2020.