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Covid-19 Claims Lives of Three Asian American Journalists

By March 5, 2021May 20th, 2021No Comments

David Ibata, Corky Lee and Jimmy Lee succumb to the virus that has ravaged on for more than a year.

By P.C. Staff

In yet another intersection of death and the coronavirus, three Asian American journalists have died from complications related to Covid-19.

Chicago-based journalist David Ibata, 66, died Jan. 26, New York-based photojournalist Corky Lee, 73, died Jan. 27 and Los Angeles-based journalist Jimmy Lee, 48, died Feb. 7.

David Ibata, Corky Lee, Jimmy Lee (Photos from left: AAJA, Peer Johnson, Shirley Ng)

The Asian American Journalists Assn. reported that Ibata co-founded the Chicago AAJA Chapter in 1989 with broadcast journalist Linda Yu. Ibata’s career included stints as an editor at the Chicago Tribune and Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“AAJA is devastated by the loss of our longtime member, David Ibata, a pioneer whose career and legacy has inspired so many of us,” said Michelle Ye Hee Lee, president of AAJA. “He will be remembered for his generosity and service to our AAJA family, and his dedication to helping so many AAPI journalists enter and thrive in the industry. We will miss him.”

The Queens, N.Y.-born Lee documented Asian American lives for five decades. In 2009, Lee won the AAJA’s Dr. Suzanne Ahn Award for Civil Rights and Social Justice for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. (Related: See Nikkei View, P.C., Feb. 5-18, 2021.)

One of Lee’s most-famous photos was a re-creation of an iconic 1869 photo taken at Promontory Summit, Utah, where the eastern and western lines of the transcontinental railroad were joined, a photo in which none of the 12,000 Chinese laborers were included. In 2002, Lee re-created the photograph but with Chinese Americans in the same spot, and in 2014, he did it yet again but with descendants of those Chinese laborers on the 145th anniversary of the original photo.

In a statement, Lee’s family said, “He did what he loved, and we loved him for it. His passion was to rediscover, document and champion through his images the plight of all Americans but most especially that of Asian and Pacific Islanders.”

Jimmy Lee (no relation) was an editor at KoreAm, a Los Angeles-based slick, English-language magazine aimed at younger Korean Americans. It was founded in 1990 by Jung Shig Ryu and James Ryu and folded in 2015. Lee was managing editor from 1999-2007. In 2004, an article he wrote was a runner-up for a New California Media Award.

Lee was recorded in a YouTube video of a roundtable of former KoreAm editors and spoke of the issue of KoreAm that came out on the 10th anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.

“Putting that one together was pretty daunting,” Lee said. “I think we tried to tackle more than we probably should have. I think for the most part we succeeded, but we really tried to take a look at the riots in a historically comprehensive sort of way. I think that the end result turned out to be very satisfying.

“The riots were a very sort of defining moment for KoreAm, especially for the community, but specifically for KoreAm. It was right there at its infancy, we sort of kind of grew up with it.”