NABJ Airs Dissatisfaction With Unity
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
With then-presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama as a draw, the Unity convention in Chicago in 2008 attracted 7,550 attendees by its final Sunday. (Credit: Jennifer Dronkers/Unity News)
The National Association of Black Journalists is asserting that Unity, the coalition of journalists of color associations, has grown beyond its original mission and shortchanged NABJ in the process.
"While UNITY's leadership considers our recommendations, we are examining all options for a 2012 convention." That year is when Unity — the coalition of the black, Hispanic, Asian American and Native American journalists associations — is scheduled to meet in Las Vegas.
"The most efficacious business strategy for NABJ may not include an alliance," NABJ President Kathy Y. Times and NABJ Treasurer Gregory Lee said Tuesday in their open message.
They proposed that the individual associations be given a greater share of the proceeds from the convention that the four Unity groups hold jointly every four years.
"Sorry Unity, there are only four members of the alliance. Unity is NOT an alliance member. Its only partners are the four groups," NABJ Secretary Roland Martin, a CNN contributor, said to colleagues on the NABJ's e-mail list. "Folks, Unity should not and is not bigger than the four groups. And Unity should not be seen as an eventual replacement for the four groups."
The Unity organization issued its own message on Wednesday, saying, "It is not productive to disavow what UNITY has become. That denies the natural growth and development of organizations, as well as people. Since the inception of UNITY, the way we do business as an industry has changed dramatically and so has the need for a viable organization that is a voice for all journalists of color and all communities of color. . . . It is also essential that the spirit of collaboration and cooperation be embraced at all times with an eye to the overall mission of the UNITY alliance.
"A central aspect of that mission is that issues should never be based solely on what organization is the largest at a given moment, because moments change."
The message was written before the NABJ statement, according to Unity, but its timing caused many to believe it to be response to the letter from Times and Lee.
The Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Native American Journalists Association provided this joint statement for Journal-isms early Thursday:
"UNITY was established in 1994 as a 'permanent, not-for-profit, strategic alliance of journalists of color acting as a force for positive change.' Our journalism associations think that UNITY’s continued sustainability is of utmost importance. Toward that end, our executive directors, alliance presidents and alliance treasurers have had multiple discussions about how to move forward together.
"And we are confident that participation in the 2012 UNITY convention in Las Vegas will be essential for anyone who values UNITY’s core principles of representing diverse communities in the news and in newsrooms. UNITY’s vision continues to deliver a complete, fair and representative picture of the communities and world in which we live."
The topic became the main item of discussion on the NABJ e-mail list. As of this week, three presidential candidates have been certified for the summer election, and all three — current board members Deirdre Childress, Lee and Charles Robinson — vigorously supported the NABJ position.
"We asked the Unity President and the Unity Executive Director to address questions during an Executive Session of the Board of Directors Meeting in Washington, DC," Robinson wrote. "As a reporter I asked very critical questions. I’m not at liberty to go into each question and answer. I can tell you if a politician I covered came and answered in the way they did, I’d only have run two questions and two answers and you would have got a sense of their vagueness and their attempt to deflect pointed questions," Robinson, a reporter for Maryland Public Television, wrote. However, Robinson said he was optimistic that "a deal can be worked out."
According to NABJ figures, NABJ represented 53.32 percent of the Unity convention attendance in 2008, with AAJA at 20.4 percent, NAHJ at 22.66 percent and NAJA at 3.61 percent.
Under the current formula for splitting the proceeds, Unity received $989,955, NABJ $881,130, AAJA $412,340, NAHJ $434,838 and NAJA $156,643.
Unity receives the first 20 percent of net revenue, the next 40 percent is split evenly among the four alliance partners and the final 40 percent is split proportionately among the four alliance partners based on their percentage of registration. Unity receives all on-site and non-designated registrations, another source of contention.
The Unity statement said, "Under the initial proposal submitted to UNITY by the NABJ board, the financial impact would be a 62.26 percent loss for UNITY and a 30.74 percent loss for NAJA. The other alliance members would experience financial increases of 31.30 percent for AAJA, 50.75 percent for NABJ and 34.24 percent for NAHJ."
However, NABJ board members said in their discussion that NABJ had submitted a second proposal that was ignored in the Unity messsage.
"I feel compelled to say that what has been put out by UNITY has not all been true, but we have done a poor job in keeping NABJ members posted along the way," Childress, entertainment/film/weekend editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, said on the e-mail list. She was responding to complaints by some rank-and-file members that they had been kept in the dark about the dispute.
A flashpoint in the NABJ board's dissatisfaction with Unity came in October, in a rare contested election that saw Joanna Hernandez, a Washington Post multiplatform editor who represents NAHJ, elected Unity president by the Unity board.
Hernandez defeated Barbara Ciara of NABJ, the then-Unity president who was seeking a full term. Ciara told Journal-isms then that she felt a "gentleman's agreement" was violated: that she would win the seat unopposed.
A second flashpoint was the undoing of Ciara's appointment of Leisa Richardson of the Indianapolis Star, a past NABJ convention chair, as Unity convention chair for 2012. No NABJ representative has served as president during a convention year, NABJ board members said.
Asked about this on Feb. 11, Unity Executive Director Onica Makwakwa told Journal-isms via e-mail, "A convention chair is usually selected by the entire board. The UNITY board has not officially made a decision to have a convention chair nor has the board voted on any particular person. However, the board will discuss several convention related issues including the possible appointment of a chair at their upcoming meeting. . . . there was no consensus for continuing the position at the time when the board reviewed the convention. However, Joanna has committed to including this item on the agenda for our next meeting."
At a joint meeting of the boards of directors of the four associations at the Unity convention in 2008, Will Sutton of NABJ, Lloyd LaCuesta of AAJA, Mark Trahant of NAJA and Juan Gonzalez of NAHJ, who are among the Unity co-founders, recalled that the four groups had met in Baltimore 20 years earlier to agree on the concept of a Unity convention. NABJ and NAHJ had discussed the concept in 1986.
The groups worked mightily to overcome cultural and historical differences, as noted in this column during that 2008 convention. Wayne Dawkins, an NABJ historian, told board members that Unity was founded as the nation prepared to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the New World. Native Americans felt there was nothing about 1492 to commemorate, some Latinos felt pride because of Columbus' ties to Spain and African Americans related Columbus' achievement to slavery and the Middle Passage. For Asian Americans, the debate "was like watching a tennis match," he said, as the others lobbed the question back and forth.
Still, the conveners saw their commonality. "I remember talking to a native Hawaiian and thinking that could easily be a NAJA member," said NAJA's Trahant, who is also board chairman of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. Sidmel Estes, a former Atlanta broadcast producer and onetime president of NABJ, said she still had the founding document and remembered those founders being all male and all having a similar brown complexion, despite racial differences.
Attendance at the 2008 convention rose to 7,550 attendees and 7,303 registrants by the closing day, Makwakwa told Journal-isms then, making it the nation's largest convention of journalists of color, perhaps of journalists of any color.
KOMO-TV reporter Shomari Stone, who is black, in blue jacket, saved a purported white supremacist from being beaten by a black man, then told the victim to judge a man by his character. (Video) (Credit: KOMO-TV)
" 'Instinct just snapped in,' said KOMO reporter Shomari Stone, explaining why he jumped in to break up a fight in downtown Seattle (video above)," Andrew Gauthier wrote Monday for TVSpy.
"Stone was out on assignment near Seattle’s waterfront when he and his photographer witnessed an altercation between a group of men nearby. One man jumped on top of another and began repeatedly punching him in the head. That’s when Jones rushed in and tackled the assailant. He broke up the fight and a witness called 9-1-1.
"According to police officers, the man that Stone saved was possibly a white supremacist. When the victim, whose arms were covered in swastika tattoos, approached Stone to thank him after the incident, Stone, who is African-American, told the man, 'Remember to judge the man by his character and not the color of his skin.' "
The gossipy website MediaTakeOut headlined the story, "Black TV Reporter Helps Skinheads on Live TV!"
A reader commented on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer website: "Wow…real men still exist. Good job. You made my day. Great to see someone stand up to thugs."
Others called Stone a sellout.
Still others deflected the racial angle and made the incident part of friendly banter. On ABC's "Good Morning America," Ron Claiborne said he would save colleague Jackie Meretsky from any kind of brawl.
Stone was last in this column in 2008, when he was working for WFOR-TV in Miami. His voice and that of Eliott Rodriguez were on the title track of rapper Foxy Brown's album "Brooklyn's Don Diva." The track sampled the newsmen's comments as they reported on Brown's release from Broward County jail following her arrest in a fight at a beauty supply store.
"The whole world is watching, the whole world is watching, the whole world is watching as innocent Africans are being lynched in Libya," Farouk Martins Aresa wrote Tuesday for ModernGhana.com, which calls itself "Ghana’s leading general news and information destination online."
"The time to act is right now since nobody acted yesterday or [the] day before. It started as a rumor, then it was reported on social network[s] and now we know it is real. The world must act and act quickly. There are men, women and children dying in the hands of Libyan mobs simply because they look [African] and must therefore be mercenaries because they cannot place their hands on [Gaddafi]. Mercenaries come in different colors and nationalities and these Africans are ordinary workers like the Egyptian and Tunisians.
"We are demanding a special meeting of United Nation[s] to discuss the elimination of Africans by lynching in Libya. If it was any other group, the world will be crying genocide. Not only are African families in danger, Libyan blacks will be lynched before they open their mouths and speak Arabic. Most people watching the atrocities on face book would have seen Arabian features on some of the people caught and tortured to death.
". . . .The story is how many Africans south of Sahara are being lynched in Libya by both sides and how many are conscripted by [Gaddafi] and forced to defend themselves or die facing [Gaddafi's] opponents and defectors. It is a no win situation for these poor Africans that went to Libya for fortune or were working there when civil war broke out. Others in the same situation as Africans can easily change to either side. Indeed, Africans cannot leave their homes for fear of being mistaken for mercenaries and must starve to death inside."
"It is beyond irony that the authorities in Tripoli are inviting in foreign reporters for guided tours of the capital while they round up Libyan journalists who dare talk to foreign broadcasters," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "We are deeply concerned for the welfare of six Libyan journalists who have either been detained or gone missing since the unrest began. We hold the Tripoli administration responsible for their safety."
- Committee to Protect Journalists: Equatorial Guinea suspends journalist over Libya mention
- Babak Dehghanpisheh, AhlulBayt News Agency, Iran: Libyan Journalists Join the Revolution
- Paul Delaney, theRoot.com: Crazy Qaddafi Déjà Vu
- Roy Greenslade, thisislondon.co.uk: TV sets agenda in coverage of Arab uprisings
- Interfax.com: Gaddafi nurse leaves Brovary because of journalists, according to neighbors
- Gus Lubin, BusinessInsider.com: Hillary Clinton Says Al Jazeera Is Putting American Media To Shame
- Lawrence Pintak, Columbia Journalism Review: Egypt’s Revolution through My Students’ Eyes: Arab reporters bear witness to Mubarak’s fall
- Reporters Without Borders: Iraq: Action call after "black day" for media freedom
- Alex Weprin, TVNewswer: February 2011 Ratings: Middle East Unrest Propels CNN to Double Digit Growth
The Los Angeles Times' Ruben Vives on a 2004 interview. (Credit: Boss Mezzy/Flickr)
"The awards keep rolling in for LA Times reporters Ruben Vives and Jeff Gottlieb, who broke the story about the outrageous salaries of various city officials in Bell," Matthew Fleischer wrote Monday for FishbowlLA.
"It was announced today that the pair picked up the Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting — an award given out by USC’s Annenberg J-school. Vives and Gottlieb beat out finalists from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News."
USC said the team, led by Vives and Gottlieb, "was hailed for 'Breach of Faith,' which exposed pervasive municipal corruption in the city of Bell, Calif., and detailed exorbitant compensation packages received by city officials. In the Los Angeles suburb of 36,000, city manager Robert Rizzo had received annual compensation of $1.5 million in salary and benefits, the reports showed, with similar pay packages going to the police chief and other city administrators.
". . . In the official award citation, the panel of judges called the team’s work 'the finest tradition of shoe-leather investigative reporting,' and hailed the group for their service to the public. Eight former and current city officials have been arrested in the aftermath of the scandal, and the state controller’s office has ordered municipalities around California to post the salaries of officials on the Internet."
Vives, 31, a Hispanic journalist, covers the hard-pressed southeastern part of the Los Angeles county, including Bell, a densely packed city of 36,000 people, mostly Mexican Americans with a smattering of Lebanese immigrants, David Folkenflik told NPR listeners in September, explaining "How The L.A. Times Broke The Bell Corruption Story."
CNN en Español plans to launch of three new shows on Monday: "Café CNN," "CNN Dinero" and "Conclusiones," CNNE announced on Tuesday. "The network embarked on a comprehensive reface late last year, and these three shows bring the total number of new programs on air to 10," it said.
"Cafe CNN," airing weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Eastern time, is to be "a rolling three hour news magazine show" hosted by anchor Carlos Montero with Lucia Navarro and Alejandra Oraa, "two successful journalists who are making their debut on CNN en Español with the launch of Café CNN."
"Cafe Dinero," featuring personal finance expert Gabriela Frías and financial expert Xavier Serbia, who will make his official debut as a fulltime anchor, will air weeknights from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern time.
"Conclusiones" debuts at 10 p.m. Eastern. "Hosted by Fernando del Rincón and Gabriela Frías, 'Conclusiones' will monitor the key events of the day, combining in-depth analysis with the most compelling news headlines, helping viewers evaluate the impact of the day’s news."
"Fox News Channel says it has suspended contributors Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum for two months as the men explore a possible White House run," David Bauder reported for the Associated Press.
"The network, in an on-air announcement by Bret Baier on Wednesday, said the contracts for the two men will be suspended until May 1. Their contracts will be terminated unless they notify the network by then that they are not running for president.
"Both Gingrich, the former House speaker, and former Pennsylvania senator Santorum have not declared candidacies. But they have signaled that they are seriously considering a run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. The news network has other potential candidates on its payroll, including Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, but their status was not addressed on Wednesday."
Editorial Page Editor Harold Jackson told Journal-isms on Wednesday, "Rick's status as a regular contributor ended with the termination of his contract. We have run only one column written by him since then, which was published on a freelance basis last October.
"If Santorum has become a political candidate we would not publish him on a freelance basis; in other words, we would not pay him. That said, we might publish commentary by a political candidate without remuneration if we felt it was in the public's interest to hear what he or she had to say, and if the timing of the publication would not have a distorting impact on an election."
"Old age is a shipwreck, said Charles de Gaulle. And if Helen Thomas, 90, has hit the shoals, so has the Society of Professional Journalists, the 101-year-old organization to which she belonged until she resigned in anger and anguish in January," Michael Miner wrote in the Chicago Reader.
In the piece, Miner deconstructs the process by which SPJ retired the Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement after Jews and others took exception to Thomas' critical comments about Israel and Zionism.
The references by Miner below are to former SPJ president Christine Tatum, SPJ director at large Bill McCloskey, SPJ President Hagit Limor and Steve Geimann, president of SPJ's Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.
"There was no communication, Tatum says, until McCloskey ran into Thomas at a party on December 18. Tatum reproduces McCloskey's memo to Limor describing the encounter:
"The first words out of her mouth were 'Well, are you going to take my name off the award?' I told her we were expecting to discuss the issue when we met in January.
"She said we would be 'hypocrites' if we stripped the award of her name. Her view that as a columnist and a retiree she has the right to speak her mind. [sic] She also carefully noted that she was talking about Zionists in the political sense, as opposed to the religious sense and said Americans should not allow any group to hold such sway over the communications and other businesses.
"Helen remains outspoken and dug in.
"After the board decided, Geimann called Thomas, and a day later she called him back. The conversation didn't go well. 'She said she already knew,' Geimann reported. 'She asked if I worked for the Israeli government and said SPJ was taking away her honor. I tried to explain that the then-recommendation preserved the honor for her, and the other recipients would forever be HT lifetime achievement honorees. She complained about the recommendation, suggested her First amendment rights were being denied then hung up on me.'
"Thomas e-mailed Limor to say she was 'saddened' by the board's decision 'to betray the First Amendment, and my right to free expression.' She continued, 'Obviously your Board has bowed to outside pressure, but SPJ did not have the courtesy, nor the courage, to inform me personally of the decision. Instead, I had to read a jubilant press release from the Jewish & Israel News (JTA). Also, you have not stated your honest reasons for your actions. An infamous chapter in SPJ's long and proud history.'
"She concluded: 'I learned long ago that the greatest sin during the Nazi era was silence. Of course I cannot remain a member of a so called professional journalism organization that would deprive Americans of freedom of speech.' "
"Attorney General Eric Holder finally got fed up Tuesday with claims that the Justice Department went easy in a voting rights case against members of the New Black Panther Party because they are African American," Politico reported on Tuesday under the headline, "Eric Holder: Black Panther case focus demeans 'my people'."
"Holder's frustration over the criticism became evident during a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing as Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) accused the Justice Department of failing to cooperate with a Civil Rights Commission investigation into the handling of the 2008 incident in which Black Panthers in intimidating outfits and wielding a club stood outside a polling place in Philadelphia.
"The Attorney General seemed to take personal offense at a comment Culberson read in which former Democratic activist Bartle Bull called the incident the most serious act of voter intimidation he had witnessed in his career.
" 'Think about that,' Holder said. 'When you compare what people endured in the South in the 60s to try to get the right to vote for African Americans, and to compare what people were subjected to there to what happened in Philadelphia — which was inappropriate, certainly that…to describe it in those terms I think does a great disservice to people who put their lives on the line, who risked all, for my people,' said Holder, who is black.
"Holder noted that his late sister-in-law, Vivian Malone Jones, helped integrate the University of Alabama.
"To compare that kind of courage, that kind of action, and to say that the Black Panther incident wrong thought it might be somehow is greater in magnitude or is of greater concern to us, historically, I think just flies in the face of history and the facts.,' Holder said with evident exasperation."
Wrote one commenter, in a sentiment echoed by others, " 'my people'? I thought this guy was supposed to represent ALL Americans in a color blind manner? So what does that say about his attitude towards the rest of America?"
- Jon Bershad, Mediaite: Rush Limbaugh Lashes Out At Eric Holder Over Black Panther Comments
- Editorial, Investor's Business Daily: Eric Holder's People
"March 3 is the deadline to apply for the 16th annual Minority Writers Seminar to be held April 14-17 at the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee," according to the National Conference of Editorial Writers.
" 'Experienced minority journalists receive intense training for writing opinion in a 'boot camp' environment, said Neil Heinen, president of the National Conference of Editorial Writers Foundation, sponsor of the highly successful seminar in partnership with the Diversity Institute.
"Enrollment is limited to 12, and minority journalists who have been writing opinion less than two years may apply. NCEW Foundation pays for lodging and food at the Seminar and reimburses up to $200 each for transportation to and from Nashville. . . . "
For more information and to apply online, go to http://www.minoritywritersseminar.org/.
- "By a modest margin, more say they back Wisconsin’s public employee unions rather than the state’s governor in their continuing dispute over collective bargaining rights," the Pew Research Center reported on Monday. ". . . While whites are nearly evenly divided (38% unions, 36% governor), non-white people are much more likely to say they side more with the unions that represent public employee workers (51% vs. 19%)."
- "The 14 Wisconsin Democratic senators who fled to Illinois share more than just political sympathy with the public employees and unions targeted by Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair bill," Daniel Bice and Ben Poston reported Monday for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. ". . . In fact, nearly one out of every five dollars raised by those Democratic senators in the past two election cycles came from public employees, such as teachers and firefighters, and their unions, a Journal Sentinel analysis of campaign records shows."
- African Americans might have been shut out of the Academy Award nominations, but they were still watching the Oscar show on Sunday night. The telecast ranked first with African Americans, as with the general population, according to the Nielsen ratings. The Oscars were followed by the Wednesday and Thursday editions of "American Idol," and the Academy Awards red carpet show. On cable, the top shows among blacks were "The Game" and "Let's Stay Together," both Tuesday on BET; followed by the NBA Sunday on ESPN; the NBA Thursday on Turner Network Television; and the "BET Honors" on Monday.
- In the early morning hours of March 3, 1991, construction worker Rodney King and two companions were pulled over after a high-speed chase in Los Angeles. King’s friends were arrested without incident, but the violent confrontation between King and the officers on the scene made national headlines, and ignited racial tensions in the city – and the nation," CNN reports. "CNN anchor Don Lemon retraces the events of that evening, and the riots that divided Los Angeles and the nation in 'Race and Rage – The Beating of Rodney King.' " It debuts Friday at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times. "Lemon and King revisit the scene of the beating together, retracing the events that altered his life, and the riots that followed. Lemon also speaks with Bobby Green, who famously rescued Reginald Denny, a driver who was assailed by a mob at a city intersection during the riots."
- "Federal officials recently detained another journalist and photocopied the contents of his laptop computer and other electronic devices as he returned to the United States from assignment overseas," the Reporters Committee on Freedom of the Press reported. "Meanwhile, the U.S. government has asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of such border searches." The case involves videographer Brandon Jourdan, who was interviewed by "Democracy Now!," a nationally syndicated daily television and radio news program for which he was documenting the rebuilding of schools in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
- The Univision Network announced Wednesday that it is set to finish the February sweep period as the No. 4 network in broadcast prime time among all adults 18-34 (989,000) and persons 12-34 (1.2 million), ahead of NBC. "Additionally, the network maintained its fifth-ranked position among Adults 18-49 (1.8 million) and Total Viewers 2+ (3.5 million) as one of the top overall television networks, regardless of language," Univision said.
- In Mexico, 41 percent of those polled said they have used the Internet, while 58 percent said they have not, according to a joint effort by Univision and the Mexican polling firm Parametría released Wednesday. Sixty-four percent of those polled who are Internet users said they have used social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, while 36 percent said they had not. The poll was conducted in Mexico from Feb. 19 to 23 among 1,000 participants as part of Noticiero Univision’s series "Los Presidenciables" (Presidential Hopefuls), about Mexico’s leading 2012 presidential candidates.
- "Supporters behind incumbent Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo and rival Alassane Ouattara are targeting rival partisan media outlets and their journalists in an increasingly bloody struggle for power," the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Tuesday. "Nine newspapers in Ivory Coast have closed down in protest at alleged harassment by supporters" of Gbagbo, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported. "The papers — both independent titles and those backing or Gbagbo's rival, Alassane Ouattara — claim their staff had suffered more than two months of physical threats."
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