A Boycott Threat Over "Journalists of Color"
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Updated October 9
Newly approved minutes from the Unity Journalists coalition show that leaders of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association raised the possibility that their members would boycott the August Unity convention if the words "Journalists of Color" were not dropped from the coalition's name, and rebuffed efforts by others to allow their associations' members to vote on the name change.
The Unity board decided over the weekend to keep NLGJA as a member, according to minutes posted Tuesday on the Unity site.
"After a year of NLGJA partnering with UNITY, the board reaffirmed its commitment to having NLGJA join the UNITY alliance by not exercising its 'opt-out' right [PDF]. NLGJA's board had also elected not to exercise its opt-out right."
According to the April minutes, Michael R. Triplett, who was later elected NLGJA president, said at that April 15-16 meeting that "if association members vote at the convention, it will become a distraction. If we're trying to attract the presidential candidates, he asked whether we really want to distract and create turmoil?
". . . TRIPLETT said he thought a name-change vote was going to be a public relations disaster and that it was possible that NLGJA members would boycott the convention. He said gay and lesbian people are the only ones who constantly have their rights put to a vote. . . ."
Michael Tune, executive director of NLGJA, "said that he once lived in Nebraska where his marriage wasn't recognized. He said a marriage license is just a piece of paper, but not reflecting us in the name is still a 'slap in our face.' "
On the other side of the issue, the minutes say that Tom Arviso Jr. of the Native American Journalists Association, now the Unity president-elect, "said that this is a really important name change. He said the name has a legacy and it's about respecting the work that has been done. He advised the board not to rush the vote. He recommended that board members go back to their associations, discuss it, and ask them if they want to change the name."
Arviso said by email Monday that the task force that was announced over the weekend to revisit the name change would also seek views from members of the National Association of Black Journalists, which left the coalition last year over financial and governance issues.
The minutes show that the ill-fated, little-known decision to close the board meetings to the public and to members of the associations, made public only on Friday, was championed by Michele Salcedo, then the president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
Salcedo would rule during the Aug. 1-4 Unity convention in Las Vegas that a student journalist could not tweet from NAHJ board meetings. Her NAHJ board asked a reporter for the student convention news operation to stop reporting its board meeting and leave the room.
The minutes from the April Unity board meeting, also held in Las Vegas, say "SALCEDO said she favored a more restrictive policy" on allowing non-board members at meetings, "which she thought reflected better business practice."
Salcedo told NAHJ members that the board was justified in banning reporters from tweeting from its meeting because "we're not a government entity" and "we're not required to be open to the public."
The motion to close the Unity board meetings was made by David A. Steinberg, then president of NLGJA, and seconded by Salcedo. Steinberg told Journal-isms he made the motion in his capacity as chair of the Unity Governance Committee and presented the board with options to close and to open the meetings.
". . . the Governance Committee offered two options to the board if it was the wish of the board to close meetings," Steinberg told Journal-isms by email. "The board discussed the idea and had a clear preference, so in response I moved — as Governance chair — to adopt the option that board members preferred, and the motion was unanimously adopted."
Other board members have said they don't remember the vote or the discussion, as it came at the end of a two-day session highlighted by a draining back-and-forth on changing the Unity name.
The two actions, changing the Unity name and closing the board meetings, generated blowback after they became known.
The motion to change "Unity: Journalists of Color" to "Unity Journalists," made by Sharon Chan, immediate past national president of the Asian American Journalists Association, and seconded by Salcedo, passed, 11 to 4 with one abstention.
As a result, opposition to rejoining Unity hardened within NABJ, which in turn won support for its view even from some members of the groups that remained in Unity. The two men credited with the idea for Unity, Will Sutton of NABJ and Juan Gonzalez of NAHJ, said separately that they disapproved of the name change. "UNITY has lost its way," Gonzalez wrote.
DeWayne Wickham of NABJ, who convened the 1988 meeting of the four journalist of color groups that led to the first Unity convention, also opposed the name change. "I think it amounts to a final divorce decree. . . ." he said after the Unity board's action.
NLGJA brought 115 people to the convention, Unity board members said, compared with the 2,386 registrants that NABJ attracted to its own, separate conference in New Orleans. Unity registered 2,385 people, compared with 7,550 attendees at the 2008 Unity convention in Chicago on its final Sunday, though that figure includes sponsors and others who were not registered. No presidential candidates appeared at the Las Vegas gathering. Then-candidate Barack Obama had been in Chicago.
At Unity's board meeting this past weekend at Gannett headquarters in McLean, Va., leaders announced a reexamination of the name change and voted to reverse the decision to close the meetings.
Salcedo's NAHJ term ended in August and Hugo Balta, her successor at both NAHJ and Unity, said he favored open board meetings in both organizations. During the Unity convention, the new NAHJ board repealed the previous board's no-tweeting policy, 6-5.
Asked about the Unity name change, Arviso said by email, "I made the motion to establish a task force made up of board members to evaluate the name 'UNITY Journalists' and determine whether that is a name that truly reflects the diverse membership of UNITY, and in line with our Mission Statement.
"I feel it is absolutely important that we as board members, hear what our [memberships] have to say about the current name. Is it truly reflective of who we are as an alliance, or is there another name that could be used? If so, then what other names . . .
"The task force will be charged with coming up with a strategy to gather information from our alliance members to determine the status of the current name, and/or if another name change is needed. The current four alliance partners of UNITY will need to work together in order to disseminate the information to all of its members so that we hear their voice.
"It is also important and vital that the task force seek and receive input and comments from the membership of NABJ on this subject. We are all part of UNITY — past, present and future — and we need to hear each others' voices and make a decision on our UNITY name. Again, I view this as a fair and positive action by the current UNITY Board to include our members on such an important issue."
Arviso, publisher of the Navajo Times in Window Rock, Ariz., said of the decision to reopen Unity board meetings, "As a journalist, I know how frustrating it can be to be kept out of meetings that should be open, especially if you are part of the constituency and the meeting is of importance and value.
"I feel that the UNITY Board needs to be more transparent and open to our membership about information and policies that concern and affect them. . . . We also plan to share more information about the board meetings in a more timely manner on the UNITY website and through our own individual association websites. I view this as fair, positive change."
To many in the United States, Monday was the official observance of Columbus Day, but to others it was "Indigenous Peoples Day" or "Native American Day."
"Democracy Now!" the progressive radio and television show that airs on Pacifica Radio and elsewhere, interviewed Dennis Banks, an activist from the Ojibwe tribe who co-founded the American Indian Movement in 1968. Banks described being sent to government-supported boarding schools to strip him of his "Indianness."
". . . I was in the boarding schools when punishment was very severe if you ran away. This was during the early ’40s. I was taken to a boarding school when I was four years old, and taken away from my mother and my father, my grandparents, who I stayed with most of the time, and just abruptly taken away and then put into the boarding school, 300 miles away from our home. And, you know, the beatings began immediately, the — almost the de-Indianizing program. It was a terrible experience that the American government was experimenting with. And that was trying to destroy the culture and the person, destroy the Indian-ness in him and save the human being, save the — kill an Indian, save the man. That was, you know, the description of what this policy is about . . . "
On NPR's "Tell Me More," host Michel Martin interviewed Anton Treuer, a professor of Objiwe at Bemidji State University in Minnesota and author of "Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask."
". . . And you know, we now know as a fact of history that on Columbus' second voyage the Spanish instituted a gold dust tribute whereby those who failed to bring a certain quantity of gold dust would have their hands chopped off. And we know for a fact of history that the Spanish cut the hands off of 30,000 people that year on the island of Espanola — what's now Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
"And we know that within 30 years the two million people that the Spanish estimated to be inhabiting that island before contact were completely annihilated. And that is a textbook definition of genocide. And we have so successfully sugarcoated the history that we have obfuscated some of the most important parts of that story."
- Esther Belin, Shirena Trujillo Long and Noel Genevieve Altaha with Amy Goodman on "Democracy Now!": On Columbus Day, Indigenous Urge Celebration of Native Culture & Teaching of the Americas' Genocide
- Associated Press: South Dakota celebrates Native American Day
- Jill Callison, Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, S.D.: Celebrating Native American Day
- Ray Cook, Indian Country Today Media Network: Decolonization Slog
- Tim Giago, indianz.com: Race relations 22 years after Year of Reconciliation
- Dana W. Hall, Indian Country Today Media Network: 'Fourteen Hundred Ninety-Two': The Columbus Poem Rewritten
- Suzan Shown Harjo, Indian Country Today Media Network: Statement of Vision Toward the Next 500 Years, Revisited
- Indian Country Today Media Network: Christopher Columbus, the Myths Behind the Man
- Indian Country Today Media Network: Columbus Day: The Cartoons
- Indian Country Today Media Network: Natives Gather in NYC's Columbus Circle for 'Indigenous Day of Remembrance' to Honor Ancestors
- Carter Meland, Indian Country Today Media Network: Indians, the Cavalry and the Tea Party
- Steven Newcomb, Indian Country Today Media Network: Living in a World of Domination
- President Obama's Columbus Day Proclamation
- Alexandra Petri, Washington Post: What's wrong with Columbus Day?
- Danny Tyree, syndicated: Columbus Day: Don't change the holiday
"In the five days since Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was declared by many the winner of the first presidential debate, political watchers have waited to see if polls would shift in response to his performance. And, they did," NPR reported on Monday.
"Not only has the Gallup tracking poll tightened to a tie — 47-47 — but the Pew poll [PDF], which last month found President Obama with a strong lead among likely voters — 51-43 — has seen a huge swing. In the latest poll, Romney now leads 49-45."
In the poll from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, Obama's favorable rating among blacks went from 95 percent to 88 percent, and Romney's rose from 7 percent to 11 percent. However, the Pew summary concluded, ". . . the horse race is unchanged among black voters."
Russ Owens, a spokesman for the Pew Research Center, told Journal-isms that the Hispanic sample size was too small to be meaningful.
Meanwhile, a survey of Millennials age 18 to 25 last week from the Public Religion Research Institute showed that "Nearly half (47%) of younger Millennials oppose programs that make special efforts to help blacks and other minorities to get ahead because of past discrimination, while around 4-in-10 (38%) favor these programs.
"[Fewer] than 1-in-5 (19%) white younger Millennials favor programs designed to help blacks and other minorities get ahead because of past discrimination, while nearly two-thirds (66%) are opposed.
"By contrast, three-quarters (75%) of black younger Millennials and more six-in-ten (63%) Hispanic younger Millennials favor such programs."
In addition, ". . . Majorities of white (67%), black (54%), and Hispanic (57%) younger Millennials say that their race or gender will make no difference in their career prospects."
- Mark Blumenthal, Huffington Post: Mitt Romney Closes Gap In Presidential Polls
- Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: A Limited and Self-Serving Defense of Political Punditry
- Jelani Cobb, the New Yorker: Barack X
- Mary C. Curtis, Washington Post: '‘Why didn't he fight?' Obama supporters want an answer, Mr. President
- Derek Donovan, Kansas City Star: Conservatives, don't do it like this
- Hannah Groch-Begley, Media Matters for America: Media Cite True Obama Statements To Claim "Both Candidates" Lied During Debate
- Nick Jimenez, Caller-Times, Corpus Christi, Texas: Imagine a test drive with Mitt and Barack
- Jaweed Kaleem, Huffington Post: Journalists Debate Media's Role In Religion Coverage During Presidential Election
- Gregory Kane, Washington Examiner: Obama's dog-whistle speech from 2007 (Oct. 3)
- Myriam Marquez, Miami Herald: Romney skips on way to moderation
- Ruben Navarrette Jr., CNN.com: Obama hits a foul by honoring Cesar Chavez
- Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Obama's second-term blahs
- Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: Brutish goals of Jim Crow never died
- Roque Planas, HuffPost LatinoVoices: Mitt Romney Gaffes While Chasing The Latino Vote
- Jimmy Williams, theGrio.com: The art of racial 'dog whistling'
- Juan Williams, the Hill: Republicans facing longer odds in bid to gain Senate control
By Judith Cummings, former reporter, New York Times
The minority journalists lawsuit was omitted from the New York Times obit of Punch Sulzberger, and I agree with the suggestion that that was no accident.
I was the lawsuit participant who contributed the idea for the principal remedy we demanded — to require the paper to give minority reporters a chance at the major news beats — and I believe that Punch was deeply embarrassed to be sued on racial grounds.
Embarrassed because, I hasten to add, I believe that the hearts of the Arthur Sulzbergers, senior and junior, have always been in the right place where race is concerned. It was some of their appointed department heads who were the problem, along with the publisher's overdone hands-off policy toward the newsroom.
I came up with the news-beat remedy because, in the 1970s, most of us minority reporters were assigned to urban affairs or general assignment (same thing). We were typically trapped there for years, while our white contemporaries racked up crucial experience on a succession of beats. I don't think Punch realized then how bad things were. It was racial discrimination that was hard to see from the fourteenth floor.
The beat idea was a natural one for me to come up with, because the Times had hired me away from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Washington. There, as the chairman's chief speechwriter, I was well grounded in the then-new concept of affirmative action.
As soon as the lawsuit was settled and approved by a federal court, I was the first minority reporter offered a beat: transportation. I focused on the faltering New York City subway and bus systems. After many months of stories, matched week after week by the expert political maneuvering of the transit chief, Richard Ravitch, the New York state legislature stepped up with an $8 billion (in 1981 dollars) financing package to rescue the city's mass transit system, the largest in the nation. I was praised in the newsroom as having covered transportation better than any Times reporter before me. It was an immensely gratifying moment in time.
But the paper did not put my name forward for any industry prizes. To have done so, I believe, would have been to admit that there truly was racial discrimination, as we had contended in the lawsuit. I was instead promoted to the plum post of national correspondent in the Los Angeles bureau (a position that more than one Pulitzer winner coveted but could not get). What I did not receive, however, even after rising to Los Angeles bureau chief, was the same high salary as the white men who preceded me.
I personally believe that Punch was relieved and, yes, maybe even grateful that our lawsuit brought to a head an issue — the denial of minority-group voices in the presentation of the news — that would have caused an even more serious problem for the Times in the multiracial nation that America is today.
He certainly was always warm and cordial toward me. Punch would come out for visits after his daughter Karen moved to Los Angeles, and he occasionally invited me to join the family for dining out. At the dinner table, he would tease me about us both being nicknamed for comedic figures from French folklore (the puppets Punch and Judy, for the chronologically challenged), while the rest of the family cringed. Corny? Totally. Endearing? Absolutely. We have lost a great man of his times.
Judith Cummings was a Times employee for nearly a quarter-century, starting in 1971 as a reporter in the Washington bureau. She is busy traveling of late but is thinking about teaching reporting in a university or newsroom setting.
- The television industry "has made little progress in putting minority actors in leading roles," Neal Justin wrote Saturday for the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. "While there's a steady stream of great minority character actors playing diner owners, community-college students and even physicists, they rarely get to be the star. The only returning broadcast shows with that distinction are ABC's 'Scandal,' featuring Kerry Washington, and CW's low-rated 'Nikita,' with Maggie Q."
- Immigration authorities said Monday they won't take action against Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was arrested in Minnesota Friday for driving without a valid license, Steve Karnowski reported Monday for the Associated Press.
- "Madhulika Sikka, currently executive producer of 'Morning Edition,' public radio’s largest news program, will become executive editor" at NPR in January, NPR announced on Tuesday. "She will oversee all desks and reporters, and help set the agenda for the entire News division." ". . . Sikka has been with Morning Edition since joining NPR six years ago from ABC News’ Nightline, where she was a senior producer." She is a member of the South Asian Journalists Association.
- Ruben Keoseyan, formerly managing editor and executive editor of Los Angeles-based La Opinión, the nation's largest Spanish-language newspaper, has been named vice president of content for Telemundo Los Angeles KVEA, effective immediately, Telemundo Media announced Monday. "Keoseyan will lead KVEA's news department to solidify its competitive position in the market, ensuring the gathering and distribution of high quality news coverage across all platforms. In addition, he will be responsible for ensuring all local newscasts reflect and serve the needs and uniqueness of the Greater Los Angeles Hispanic community," the announcement said.
- CNN announced Monday the creation of CNN Films "to secure feature-length documentaries for air on CNN and CNN International, alongside theatrical distribution. The move is part of a wider strategy to acquire original non-fiction content to complement CNN's award-winning news programs; it was announced by CNN Worldwide Managing Editor Mark Whitaker." The move will not require new hiring, a CNN spokeswoman said.
- Wayne K. Brown, one of the most influential African-Americans in the radio business, lost his battle with liver cancer this past weekend," NewsOne reported on Monday. Brown, 55, was the VP/GM of Radio One's Atlanta market for eight years and spent 13 years at CBS headquarters in New York. Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Communications has a scholarship for minority students in Brown's name. Charlotte Observer account
- TV One has commissioned 12 episodes for a sixth season of its docu-series "Unsung," which profiles "gifted musical talents who have played an important role in recent music history, but have not necessarily become household names," the network announced on Monday. The series returns in January with profiles of Eddie Kendricks, the Whispers, EPMD, Lou Rawls, Midnight Star and Isaac Hayes, among others.
- Sharon Reed has joined KMOV-TV in St. Louis, the station announced Friday. She is to co-anchor the 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts. "Reed comes to St. Louis from WOIO-TV in Cleveland, Ohio where she anchored the 5 and 10 p.m. newscasts." In 2003, Reed posed nude for artist Spencer Tunick, which WOIO News Director Steve Doerr said then earned the highest ratings in station history. In 2006, Reed's friendship with R&B singer Gerald Levert led to WOIO being first on the air with the news of the death.
- "We were thrilled a few weeks ago when Condé Nast announced the hire of its first-ever African American editor-in-chief, Keija Minor at Brides, and now comes news that Elaine Welteroth has been tapped as the new Beauty and Health Director at Teen Vogue," Julee Wilson reported Friday for Huffington Post.
- "Documentary filmmakers are fighting a subpoena that would require them to hand over outtakes and notes, claiming that they are protected under New York's shield law," Lilly Chapa reported Friday for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. "New York City lawyers are requesting the materials from Ken Burns' documentary, 'The Central Park Five,' to aid in the defense of a nine-year-old lawsuit against the city. The city's lawyers claim in a subpoena that the filmmakers are not protected under New York's shield law because they are acting as advocates, not journalists."
- State-owned China Central Television has put 100 journalists to work in Washington, D.C., this year, Elizabeth Dwoskin reported Thursday for Bloomberg Businessweek. A few dozen send dispatches in Mandarin to 42 channels back home, "while 60 others produce business and news-magazine shows for a new English-language channel. Dubbed CCTV America, it airs on cable and satellite and is meant to burnish China's image in the U.S."
- "Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez pledged to deepen his socialist revolution after a comfortable election victory that could extend his divisive leadership of the OPEC nation to two decades," Todd Benson and Helen Murphy reported Monday for Reuters. The Committee to Protect Journalists reminded readers of its Aug. 29 special report by Monica Campbell. CPJ said then, "The Chávez administration has used an array of legislation, threats, and regulatory measures to gradually break down Venezuela's independent press while building up a state media empire — a complete reversal of the previous landscape. One result: Vital issues are going uncovered in an election year."
- "Ethiopian authorities should halt their harassment of journalists covering the country's Muslim community and their intimidation of citizens who have tried to speak to reporters about sensitive religious, ethnic, and political issues," the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
Unity Board Minutes, April 15, Las Vegas: "She Said [That] to NLGJA Members, the Name Is Like the Colored Drinking Fountain."
The minutes of the Unity: Journalists of Color, Inc., board meeting of April 15, approved this past weekend, were recorded by secretary Patty Loew of the Native American Journalists Association.
Present: Janet Cho, Doris Truong, Sharon Chan, George Kiriyama of the Asian American Journalists Association; Tom Arviso Jr., Loew, Michaela Saunders and Rhonda LeValdo of NAJA; Michele Salcedo, Mekahlo Medina, Peter Ortiz and Joanna Hernandez of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists; Michael R. Triplett, Jen Christensen, Sue Green and David A. Steinberg of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association. Also, executive directors Jeff Harjo of NAJA, Michael Tune of NLGJA, Kathy Chow of AAJA, Anna Lopez Buck of NAHJ and Onica M. Makwakwa of Unity. Consultant Jennifer Rutledge was also present.
From the minutes:
Discussion about name change: RUTLEDGE suggested that the board use a technique . . . called creative problem solving and ask itself a series of questions about internal and external perceptions of a name change.
LOEW pointed out that the organization was originally UNITY 94, then UNITY 99. She said that sometime before 2004, it changed to UNITY: Journalists of Color.. . . MAKWAKWA said . . . Originally, UNITY was an organization that existed only in convention years. In 2004 it became a continuous organization that did advocacy. For the first two conventions, individual alliance partners shouldered the responsibility of putting on the convention, but it was very challenging.
GREEN said she remembered the first convention. She said the intent was to be inclusive to address the issue of diversity in news coverage. She said UNITY was an inclusive name. She said it was about being one voice about whatever we saw that might be wrong or right. She said her roommate, who is white, does not feel included because of "journalists of color" in the name. She said the time to change the name before the convention is important because some NLGJA members may not feel welcome.
ARVISO JR. said that this is a really important name change. He said the name has a legacy and it's about respecting the work that has been done. He advised the board not to rush the vote. He recommended that board members go back to their associations, discuss it, and ask them if they want to change the name. He said he'd like to go back to NAJA and ask the members if they want to change.
SAUNDERS asked if there would be time for all of us to vote on the issue at the convention. CHAN said she feels that we had that conversation when we asked our members whether we should include NLGJA. They said yes. She said she wanted as many people as possible to have this experience in Las Vegas as possible. She said that a vote in October is too late because then NLGJA members are excluded.
GREEN said her members thought this discussion would have happened when NLGJA joined. SALCEDO said that the name strikes at the core of what UNITY is and what image we want to project going forward. She asked what do we gain or lose. She said funders and recruiters already include NLGJA and that there's a disconnect if we say we are all about diversity and inclusiveness but our name limits that to people of color. She said there would be a relatively small number of conventioneers from her alliance who would vote. To mount a larger vote, including people who aren't attending, would be a massive effort.
TRIPLETT said that UNITY board members are here on behalf of our members, but that ultimately we are board members representing UNITY. If association members vote at the convention, it will become a distraction. If we're trying to attract the presidential candidates, he asked whether we really want to distract and create turmoil? Would a presidential candidate want to walk into that? STEINBERG agreed, saying that the coverage at the convention would focus on the name-change vote.
CHO said that even though our original name was UNITY it represented four groups who came together in a historic move, based on ethnicity and race and in principle included "journalists of color" in lower case. CHO said that when NLGJA was admitted, I read on the website your loving tribute to your founder Roy Aarons, and I want to assure you that we hold our UNITY founders in the same high regard and affections. And to hear them accused of homophobia is very offensive and inappropriate, because UNITY from the beginning has always welcomed people who are LGBT and has always welcomed everyone who shared and believed in our mission.
CHO shared comments from UNITY: Journalists of Color founders and asked that they be reflected in the minutes: "I urge you and others to delay any vote on the name change until the Unity membership is given an opportunity to have its say. We saw the firestorm that happened with NABJ when it withdrew from Unity without first consulting its membership. If anything, this is an issue of the Democratic process and the Board acting in isolation." — Lloyd LaCuesta, former AAJA National President, former UNITY President. "It wasn't anti-anything; it was pro-coalition, and being descriptive of the entire group." — Will Sutton, co-founder of UNITY Journalists of Color.
CHO said she had also spoken with two of the AAJA founders who said: "The first priority should be reunification with NABJ. Everything else is a distraction" — Bill Sing and David Kishiyama.
STEINBERG said that there is a perception by some people in NLGJA that the name was changed to keep us out. He said it doesn't matter if it was true, the perception is there. He said UNITY needs to acknowledge that the perception is out there. He said that it's hard to promote inclusiveness when there is a name over the door that says journalists of color and excludes them.
HERNANDEZ said there was no discussion about the name change in NAHJ. SALCEDO said the name change was raised on Facebook and in a town hall. STEINBERG said as a journalist, the name is not factual anymore. He said that when UNITY board members voted us in, the name was no longer accurate.
ORTIZ said that he feels strongly about the issue. He said he didn't think that there was consensus among the NAHJ members that it was okay. [Loew steps out, Chan takes notes, but experiences technical problems, Ortiz amended his comments reflected in italics on 9-28-2012]
Ortiz acknowledged that there may have been perceptions and misperceptions out there in the past, but that the reality for this NLGJA board is that they were not excluded. Whatever the perception may have been, they were not excluded as members of UNITY: Journalists of Color. They were accepted as equal partners.
He said NLGJA board members also have to acknowledge that they were welcomed on the board and were not excluded.
TUNE said that he once lived in Nebraska where his marriage wasn't recognized. He said a marriage license is just a piece of paper, but not reflecting us in the name is still a "slap in our face." [Loew returns, resumes note taking]
KIRIYAMA said he supported a name change because the world is changing. But he said he didn't know if we've reached out to a majority of our members.
TRUONG said she thought the UNITY board should change its name before the August convention. She acknowledged the concern about how the name change might be viewed by NABJ members, but said that UNITY honored NABJ in the redesign of the logo. She said NABJ will always be part of UNITY, but this is not the same organization that NABJ left. SALCEDO asked if the board could take a straw poll.
HERNANDEZ said she wanted to continue the discussion. She expressed concern about rushing the vote, saying she didn't think that NAHJ's representatives on the UNITY board members had had time to reach out to their alliance. CHAN said she feels obligated as a board member to reach out to anyone who wants to attend the UNITY convention. CHAN moved and SALCEDO seconded a motion to change the name from UNITY Journalists of Color to UNITY Journalists.
Discussion continues: LEVALDO said she sees a lot of change with our groups and that she felt that that we're not including our brothers and sisters. She also said that personally she would like to talk to NAJA members. HERNANDEZ wondered whether the name change was something that could be used to generate excitement for the convention by allowing alliance board members to weigh in on the name change.
LOEW asked whether it was possible to compromise. She asked whether it would be possible to use the UNITY logo without the "Journalists of Color" tag for the convention to signal to NLGJA members that they are welcome and vote on the name change later after the one-year provisional partnership was up. She said she would like to keep the name change discussion and a vote out of the convention to avoid conflict and distraction.
TRIPLETT said he thought a name-change vote was going to be a public relations disaster and that it was possible that NLGJA members would boycott the convention. He said gay and lesbian people are the only ones who constantly have their rights put to a vote. He said that if he's in the White House and coordinating a presidential visit, he would cancel. He said CHRISTENSEN's partner is a person of color, yet when she sees the name, she thinks we're excluded.
CHRISTENSEN said she originally was opposed to joining UNITY because the organization was a mess. She said she had heard the rumors that UNITY was homophobic, that NLGJA leaders came to this board, asked to join and were rebuffed. She said she changed her mind when GREEN stood up and gave a moral argument. She said GREEN told us that we can help. We can understand and she persuaded us. Now our members are excited about it. She said to NLGJA members, the name is like the colored drinking fountain. She said UNITY has a moral responsibility to change this name.
SALCEDO agreed, saying that when our members refer to us and the convention, they call it UNITY. They don't say UNITY: Journalists of Color. She said she thought that NAHJ members have already weighed in on it. She said that a vote at the convention would suck all the oxygen out of the room. She said it was important to remember that [it] was not only UNITY that would vote at the end of the year about whether NLGJA would remain an alliance partner, but that NLGJA members would also vote on whether they want to stay with us. She said that we're chosen to serve on this board to lead our organization in unity for the mutual benefit of our organizations to foster diversity within the news media industry. She said NLGJA represents the only folks whose civil rights are voted on by the majority.
ARVISO JR. said he respected the views of UNITY board members and described the conversation as healthy. He said it was a conversation that we should carry back to our members. He said he didn't feel good about making this change without hearing more from NAJA members. He said that Native Americans have had change forced upon them by the government and others. He said that Native Americans have been told to cut your hair and not speak your language. He said that NAJA operates by consensus. When there is an important decision, he goes back to his community and talks to them first. He said that we need to discuss this and not force this on our members. He asked the board not to rush the vote.
GREEN said she appreciated ARVISO JR.'S comments about consensus. GREEN used the experience of her parents, one black, one white, who were denied the right to marry because they were interracial. They finally got approval, but could never be stationed in the South. She said her parents drove only at night so they wouldn't be seen. She said she and her partner got married in Massachusetts because "I felt it's important for me to be seen." She said she hoped the board would understand why this is such an important issue for us and why six months feels really long.
CHO said UNITY changed its mission statement, by-laws, and articles of incorporation in response to NLGJA's concerns. "We are not excluding anyone." She asked whether NLGJA since joining UNITY could point to any instance where NLGJA members felt excluded. TUNE responded by saying "this one." CHO asked for clarification. TRIPLETT clarified that he was referring to the conversation about the name change. He said he recognized that his ability to advance has come on the backs of people in this organization and other civil rights movements that have worked to include women and minorities.
LOEW said this was a difficult decision for her and agreed with ARVISO JR.'s comments about the importance of consensus. She said she hoped that her vote would reflect the wishes of NAJA members, but that she was a board member of UNITY, not NAJA and felt that her vote needed to reflect was she thought was best for UNITY. She said she intended to vote for the name change. The question was called.
Joanna Hernandez (does not vote) Cho-No, Ortiz-No, Steinberg-Yes, Truong-Yes, Green-Yes, LeValdo-Yes, Arviso Jr. Jr.-No, Saunders-Abstain, Christensen-Yes, Triplett-Yes, Chan-Yes, Salcedo-Yes, Medina-Yes, Loew-Yes, Kiriyama-Yes, Alvear-No (via proxy held by Ortiz) Motion approved. 11 Yes; 4 Nos; 1 abstention.
Cho added for Journal-isms by email:
"The minutes do not mention the compromise that Tom Arviso Jr. and I had suggested as co-chairs of the Strategic Planning Committee: that the alliance groups, who were all planning to hold their national elections, include questions on members' ballots asking them if they thought UNITY should keep 'Journalists of Color' in its name or would they prefer another option? We thought this would be better than an online poll because every member would have a chance to weigh in, but it was clear that some people had come to the meeting already planning to vote down the name. It seemed almost choreographed."
Peter Ortiz added for Journal-isms by email:
"Jennifer Rutledge also raised some important questions to the board in regard to the name change that I don't think were reflected in the minutes. I think these questions are important because it does show the board was made aware of potential consequences.
"- How important is it to UNITY to preserve its legacy and focus on 'journalists of color?'
"- What are the benefits and importance of retaining UNITY’s name?
"- What are the benefits and importance of changing UNITY’s name?
"- Are there any others who should have input or be involved in making the decision beyond those on the board? If so, who are they?
"- What will members of each current alliance member organization say? How might this impact their support for UNITY?
"- What will major funders and supporters say about this? How might this impact their support for UNITY?
"- Are there any other major stakeholders who should be considered (e.g., founders, Legacy Council)?
"- Will a change impact UNITY’s reunification efforts with NABJ or any other priorities? If so, in what ways? If not, why not?
"- How do we ensure that we get the greatest support for any decision made regarding this?
"- Is the timing right? If so, why? If not, why not? Should UNITY seek to do this now, given: a) The addition of the new UNITY member organization? b) The upcoming transition of the board? What if UNITY doesn't change its name? — Are there any other concerns or questions that need answers? If so, what are they? — What should be our next steps?
Doris Truong, national president of the Asian American Journalists Association and vice president-elect of Unity Journalists, wrote this report on Sept. 27.
This is a personal report, as I was unable to get feedback from our members by my deadline. (I will try to get quotes, as requested, by the time the UNITY board meets Oct. 6.)
From my perspective, the partnership with NLGJA has been wonderful. We have seen great involvement in activities from NLGJA members, and one side effect has been that joint members are even more involved in both our organizations. (One member of AAJA-D.C., Curtis Tate, recently became the president of NLGJA-D.C.)
Leading into this summer's joint convention, NLGJA members were the most helpful with the UNITY Tumblr. They helped produce content for the account as well as highlight events that were open to all of our members.
While we were in Las Vegas in August, so many NLGJA members came up to thank me for including them for the first time in UNITY that I lost count. They were enthusiastic about the opportunities for professional training and networking, and I was happy to see them introducing themselves to people from other associations as well as visiting our exhibitors in the career fair.
At the NLGJA President's Reception during the convention, I offered to process credit card donations for NLGJA. I was touched that members who [were] giving to NLGJA also asked if they could make a contribution to AAJA and to NAJA (because NAJA President Rhonda LeValdo was also in the room). By the night's end, nearly $1,100 was collected for our three organizations — a nice outcome from an impromptu fundraiser.
The Southwest in particular has seen greatly stepped-up activity, thanks in no small part to Robin Phillips at Arizona State. She has been instrumental in organizing UNITY mixers (and remembering to include our colleagues in NABJ as well as other professional journalism groups). I was particularly impressed that a pre-UNITY event at ASU collected funds to support several students' convention attendance.
On a granular level, the governance experience of David Steinberg and the parliamentarian skills of Michael Triplett have kept our UNITY meetings on track. NLGJA ED Michael Tune has brought his energy and organizational skills to the service of us all, which has been a boon for his fellow EDs.
Having NLGJA in the room also brings a fresh perspective to our UNITY discussions; they are often the ones to ask if the status quo is serving all our best interests, and they offer viable alternatives for consideration.
Last: When NAHJ President Hugo Balta was assembling questions for the Commission on Presidential Debates, Triplett offered one of the all-time-great diplomatic responses as to why NLGJA declined to participate, making sure to highlight issues of concern to people of color.
I wholeheartedly welcomed NLGJA to our alliance in 2011, and I hope the members of NLGJA would like to continue being affiliated with what UNITY Journalists represents. Together, we are stronger and more effective in getting our message heard.
AMENDED OCT. 6, 2012
This is the only comment I received from AAJA's membership:
"The NLGJA representatives to UNITY programming were energetic and thoughtful. Our team were mission oriented and result driven. It was a pleasure working with NLGJA." — Paul Cheung, UNITY 2012 Programming Co-Chair
By Rhonda LeValdo, president, Native American Journalists Association
First, NAJA's relationship with NLGJA has been wonderful. We really have made many friends in NLGJA members and even had some join NAJA's membership during UNITY. I was able to talk at length to many NLGJA members during UNITY, where many thanks were said about having the opportunity to join UNITY.
I think that speaks volumes, the sincere gratitude in many NLGJA members' voices about being a part of the history that was made. I know personally that many NAJA members who came up to me and thanked us for including NLGJA, they felt truly "included" in this convention.
As far as how this relationship furthers UNITY’s mission to advocate for journalists of color and other underrepresented groups, I know that many of our NLGJA members would advocate for all our groups, some already have. With NLGJA declining to participate in the Commission of Presidential Debates submissions so that our journalists of color associations would be the main concern, I thought was very honorable of them.
In regard to their promises made to UNITY, I know NLGJA is working on increasing their members of color. I am not aware of how many paid registrants NLGJA had, but I know they definitely contributed to he success of UNITY.
I truly believe NGLJA efforts to UNITY have been with the best intentions of making this relationship strong.
Finally, I have included some quotes from my NAJA membership.
"I believe the mission of NLGJA and UNITY are aligned. I believe NLGJA took its membership in UNITY seriously. The representatives of NLGJA took an active role on the board, its members participated in the convention and it appears NLGJA is committed to UNITY's future."
— Michaela Saunders, UNITY/NAJA representative
"I'm for NLGJA remaining in UNITY. I think NLGJA contributed to the overall quality of the discussions and sessions at the convention in Vegas, since many of their members have leadership positions within their own media companies. NLGJA also has the mission of fighting for fairness and accuracy in the media, which is similar to our mission and I'm always for joining forces with groups that share a similar causes.
"I admittedly don't know a lot about the operations of NLGJA as an organization. But I would like to say that I hope that as NLGJA becomes a permanent member of UNITY, it will consider prioritizing for at least several years the part of its mission that pushes for greater diversity within its own ranks — if it isn't doing so already.
"I'd also love it if it addressed the unique issues that its journalists of color, and Native journalists, might face. I think there could be an ongoing two-way conversation between NAJA and NLGJA that serves our mutual members and that could be one of the great outcomes of our new alliance with NLGJA. From the sidelines, I'd also support more discussion about one more name change for UNITY that better reflects the coalition's mission of diversity but does not exclude NLGJA. UNITY Journalists does not go far enough in distinguishing the organization."
— Mary Hudetz, NAJA Vice President
"Any time we can create a more diverse newsroom by continuing to educate journalists who share UNITY's mission, it helps all of us, no matter what organization we're representing. I had nothing but positive interactions with NLGJA members and would be thrilled to have them join us at the next conference."
— Rebecca Landsberry, NAJA Board of Directors member
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