The Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California chapter, honored Jon Funabiki on Feb. 3 with the Distinguished Service to Journalism Award for his dedication to collaboration, diversity, inclusion and equity in the media.

Jon Funabiki

Funabiki’s career spans journalism, philanthropy and academia. He recently retired from Renaissance Journalism ( at San Francisco State University, which he founded and served as executive director. He joined the university in 2006 to teach and to develop projects that explore promising new forms of journalism and storytelling that serve, strengthen and empower communities. Recent initiatives include the Equity Reporting Project, Michigan Reporting Project, Imperial Valley Youth Storytelling Project, and Vietnam Reporting Project.

In a post on Facebook, Funabiki said he was “absolutely stunned and humbled” to receive the award. He expressed gratitude to the Society of Professional Journalists board of directors, and all the journalists he has worked with over the years.

Funabiki also serves as founding executive director of the Dilena Takeyama Center for the Study of Japan and Japanese Culture (, which sponsors programs to promote improved relations between the U.S. and Japan.

Speaking to The Rafu, Funabiki affirmed his belief in the importance of Japanese American newspapers. He is featured in the upcoming documentary on the history of the Japanese American press, produced by the Zentoku Foundation and sponsored by UCLA Asian American Studies and Aratani CARE Award.

“I’ve spent most of my career trying to produce good journalism or to promote better journalism. I have always emphasized equity and diversity, which is why I believe in the importance of ethnic and community media. The existence of Japanese American newspapers has always been important to me. At this point in U.S. history, I am hoping that the Black Lives Matter movement will cause more journalists to dedicate their work to promoting social justice. If that happens, journalism will become more relevant and stronger,” Funabiki said.

Funabiki joined the university after an 11-year career with the Ford Foundation, one of the world’s leading philanthropic institutions, where he was deputy director of the Media, Arts & Culture (MAC) Unit. Responsible for the foundation’s multimillion-dollar grant strategies on news media issues, he worked closely with journalists, filmmakers, other media professionals and leaders from research, education, nonprofit and business institutions. As MAC’s deputy director, he worked with foundation staff and media leaders throughout Asia, Latin America, Africa and Russia.

Prior to Ford, Funabiki was the founding director of SFSU’s Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism, the nation’s first university-based center focused on news media coverage of ethnic minority communities and issues.

Funabiki is a former reporter and editor with The San Diego Union, where he specialized in U.S.-Asia political and economic affairs and reported from East and Southeast Asia. His writings also have appeared in The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, National Civic League Journal and other publications.

A graduate of SFSU, Funabiki was awarded the John S. Knight Professional Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University, where he studied East Asian politics and economics; the Jefferson Fellowship at the East-West Center of Honolulu, where he studied East and Southeast Asian economics; and a National Endowment for the Humanities Professional Summer Fellowship at UC Santa Barbara, where he studied the cultural dimensions of U.S. history.

He has been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism Workshop on Journalism, Race and Ethnicity; the Ethnic Media Champion Award from New America Media; a Special Recognition Award from the Asian American Journalists Association; the Gerbode Foundation Fellowship; and a variety of awards for reporting and writing.

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