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Unity Attendance Tops 8,100

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Friday, August 6, 2004

Event Could Host 10,000 Journalists in 2008

Registration for the Unity convention at the Washington Convention Center reached 8,158 this morning, exceeding projections, Unity president Ernest Sotomayor said today.

Expectations were that 7,000 journalists would attend. The NABJ Journal reported in 1999 that "nearly 7,000" had attended Unity in Seattle that year, and about 6,000 the first Unity in Atlanta in 1994. Each could claim the distinction as the world's largest convention of journalists.

The growing numbers for Unity -- and of its four constituent organizations -- might limit the organization's options as it plans for another convention in 2008.

Sotomayor said it is not unrealistic to expect 10,000 attendees at that event, and conceded there were "few cities in the country that can hold it." The National Association of Black Journalists announced July 28 that its membership roster had grown by 43 percent, to 4,695, in one year.

Unity announced last fall that it would meet every four years rather than every five, Sotomayor said.

In part, this is to take advantage of the presidential election years, "the idea being we wanted to influence the quality of coverage," the Unity president told Journal-isms. The organization has also discussed proposing Unity as a sponsor of the presidential debates.

However, this does not necessarily mean the conventions will be in Washington. Among the factors the board will consider are the strengths of local chapters, he said, with NABJ and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists having strong chapters in Washington, but the Asian American Journalists Association more effective on the West Coast and the Native American Journalists Association stronger in the middle of the country.

Unity blog

"Minority Journalists" or "Journalists of Color"?

Around 1998, the Unity '99 organization was renamed "Unity: Journalists of Color, Inc." a development that coincidentally followed questioning by a number of journalists about the appropriateness of the term "minority."

Still, most news organizations reported this week that "minority journalists" met in Washington.

"I haven't used that word the entire week," Ernest Sotomayor, Unity president, told Journal-isms. "I don't think there were very many people in that ballroom who felt they were minorities."

In the mid-1990s, the American Society of Newspaper Editors' "Minorities Committee" became the "Diversity Committee."

An ASNE president, David Lawrence, then at the Miami Herald, had asked whether ASNE should retire the term after he read a 1991 column by Derrick Z. Jackson in the Boston Globe.

That April 7 column began:

"Let us bury the term 'minority.' Minoriteee ends like tineee, which ends like weeneee, which ends like dinkeee. When corporate and newsroom executives utter the mantra, 'We could use a minoriteee,' I swear they have invented a human specieee so darn puneee, it is a fait accompleee that the search for a minoriteee will be met with futiliteee.

"At best, I think of 'minoriteees' as midgets. Circus midgets are never ringleaders. They are the boobeees. At worst, I think, 'eeensie weensee minoriteee crawled up the water spout; down came the rain and . . .'

"Minority is built on a pretty sorry root word, 'minor.' Minor means 'lesser.' It means 'lesser in importance, rank or stature.' It means 'lesser' in seriousness or danger; requiring comparatively little attention or concern.'

"Last but not lesser, 'minor' means 'A person or thing that is lesser in comparison to others of the same class.'"

Geraldo Rivera Pledges $100,000 to NAHJ, Unity

"Fox News Senior Correspondent Geraldo Rivera pledged last night to make a financial gift of $100,000 to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and UNITY Journalists of Color during NAHJ's Hall of Fame Gala," NAHJ announced today.

"Rivera presented NAHJ with a check for $40,000 and UNITY with a check for $10,000 at the gala and will match that total in 2005. NAHJ will name a scholarship in Rivera's name as a result of his donation.

"Rivera's donation to NAHJ allowed the association to successfully reach the goal of the Ford Foundation's challenge grant it received last year. The grant called on NAHJ to raise $115,000 from individuals that the foundation will match dollar-for-dollar.

"Rivera's gift will help to support NAHJ's Campaign for Parity, a multi-year initiative to strengthen education and professional development opportunities for Latino journalists, increase advocacy efforts around coverage of Latinos and partner with media companies across the U.S. to more rapidly achieve newsroom parity."

NABJ Launches $1 Million Campaign for Building

The National Association of Black Journalists raised $61,000 from its members to more than match a $50,000 challenge grant from the Ford Foundation, NABJ treasurer John Yearwood told members at NABJ's banquet Thursday night, as he announced that NABJ is starting a $1 million "Freedom Fund" to help secure its own building.

NABJ's current home sits on the University of Maryland campus. The first NABJ members to pledge for the building fund were President Herbert Lowe, $2,500; Carole Simpson of ABC-TV, who emceed the banquet, $5,000, and Larry Olmstead, vice president/staff development and diversity of Knight Ridder, $2,500.

In a May 27 e-mail to NABJ members, Yearwood wrote that "All four minority journalism organizations were given the same goal to secure the matching grants. NAHJ and AAJA have met and, in some cases, exceeded their match. NABJ and the Native American Journalists Association are yet to hit the mark. . . . Those are funds that could be used for fundraising training, consultant, staffing, computers and software."

NABJ did not stage its traditional awards gala at its convention, announcing instead that it would be held at a separate time and place. The gala is planned for Oct. 9 in Washington at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. A "Save the Date" at each banquet table said members could call the NABJ office to purchase tickets in advance.

National Public Radio Joins NAHJ's Parity Project

"The National Association of Hispanic Journalists' (NAHJ) is proud to announce that National Public Radio (NPR) has become the first national news organization to join NAHJ's innovative Parity Project," NAHJ announced today.

"NAHJ announced this partnership at its Hall of Fame Gala on Aug. 6, 2004 during the UNITY: Journalists of Color Convention in Washington, D.C. More than 1,500 NAHJ members and guests attended the gala.

"During the Unity 2004 convention, NPR and NAHJ organized a task force to meet with key NPR staffers to formulate plans on moving ahead with the project.

"To kick off the project, NPR will work with two NAHJ staff members to meet with key producers and editors of the news and newsmagazines to learn how broadcasts are created and what skills are required to be successful at NPR. With that background, NAHJ will be in a better position to help NPR find Latino applicants for upcoming job openings.

"NAHJ staff members will work with newsroom leaders to organize a series of brown bag lunches, in Washington and in the West Coast Bureau in California, to discuss issues of interest to Hispanics, potential story ideas and Hispanic sources, who have expertise in the subject areas NPR covers."

Villafañe Heads NAHJ; Wu Leads AAJA

In unopposed contests, Veronica Villafañe, a "convergence" anchor and reporter with California's San Jose Mercury News, was elected president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists; and Esther Wu, a columnist/reporter with the Dallas Morning News, becomes national president of the Asian American Journalists Association.

"I hope to focus my administration on three areas: personal participation, chapter relations and fundraising," Wu wrote during her campaign.

In her candidate statement, Villafañe listed these priorities:

"1) continue the Parity Project, whose objective is to double Latino journalists in the nation's newsrooms

"2) provide more programs aimed at Spanish-language journalists, which is why I will work hard to implement a Spanish-language leadership institute

"3) develop career counseling and other programs for mid-career journalists

"4) increase member participation in NAHJ activities outside of the convention."

NABJ Votes to Shrink Board, Keep Student Vote

NABJ members decided to reduce the size of the organization's board of directors and to retain a vote for its student representative in balloting on four constitutional amendments that drew a light turnout.

About 192 members voted, according to the student convention online report.

All amendments passed with the exception of one on associate members, which did not get the required two-thirds percentage in the balloting, executive director Tangie Newborn told Journal-isms.

Proposal 1, which passed, "would eliminate from the Board and Executive Board the position of the Immediate Past President, and remove the positions of four regional directors from the Board. The Board would specify the new regional boundaries by its October 2004 meeting. The new Board changes would impact the 2005 election and take effect with the 2005-2007 term," according to election material.

Proposal 2 asked, "Shall the Associate Representative remain a voting member of the Board of Directors?" Since the vote did not carry, the status quo remains and the associate representative continues as a voting board member, Newborn said. The associate representative's constituents are defined as part-time freelance journalists, journalism educators and other media-related professionals.

Proposal 3 asked, "Shall the Student Representative remain a voting member of the Board of Directors?"

Proposal 4 established a Constitution and Operating Procedures Committee and the Board of Directors as a clearinghouse for proposed amendments to ensure that proposed changes are consistent with existing NABJ policies.

NAJA Adds Mascot Activist to Board; Elects 4

Four candidates have been elected to seats on the Native American Journalists Association board of directors, and a fifth appointed to fill a vacancy. The new board is to meet Sunday and elect its officers, President Patty Talahongva told Journal-isms.

Suzan Shown Harjo, a Native activist who has challenged in court the use of the trademarked sports name "Redskins," was named to the NAJA board to fill a vacancy created by the resignation for personal reasons of Denny McAuliffe. She is a columnist for the newspaper Indian Country Today and her journalism roots go back to the 1960s and 1970s.

Elected were Frank King III, publisher, Native Voice, Rapid City, S.D., 32 votes; Mike Kellogg, publisher, Stillwater News Press, Stillwater, Okla., 28 votes; Ronn Washines, managing editor, Yakama Nation Review, published on a reservation within Washington state. 33 votes; and Cristina Azocar, director of the Center for the Integration and Improvement of Journalism at San Francisco State University, 48 votes. The top three vote getters serve three-year terms; the other gets two years.

The candidate field included Tirsea McNeal, a junior at Weber State University in Utah, who received 19 votes, and Tim Giago of the Lakota Nation Journal, NAJA's first president, who dropped out of the race, Talahongva said.

Harjo's biography notes that: "Ms. Harjo is President and Executive Director of The Morning Star Institute, a national Indian rights organization founded in 1984 for Native Peoples' traditional and cultural advocacy, arts promotion and research. Morning Star has initiated an ongoing international effort to issue declarations of tribal cultural property and to achieve a Treaty Respecting Cultural Property Rights of Native Peoples. Morning Star was the sponsoring organization for The 1992 Alliance (1990-1993) and for the initial lawsuit, Harjo et al v. Pro Football, Inc., regarding the trademarks and name of Washington's professional football team."

Elections chair Keith Saenandore told Journal-isms that about 200 NAJA members were at the convention and that membership had increased to about 600 members after having declined.

Bush Adds to Journalists' Job Description

Overlooked in the reporting on President Bush's speech to Unity on Friday was his comment that journalists have a duty to encourage people to register to vote. While one can argue that voting is a good thing that should be encouraged by editorial writers, for other journalists, urging readers or viewers to register would be a novel addition to the job description.

Answering a question about voting in Iraq, Bush said:

"People have got to show up to vote in the first place. This is -- the thing about democracy is people need to step up and decide to participate in the first place. There's no guarantees people are going to vote. They should be allowed to vote. But the problem we have in our society is too many people choose not to vote. And we have a duty in the political process -- and you have a duty as journalists to encourage people to register to vote, to do their duty. I'm not saying every -- I'm saying people are choosing. It's not guaranteed they're going to. That's part of the problem we have in America, not enough people do vote. And you have a duty on your radio stations, on your TV stations to encourage people to register to vote. I have a duty to call them out to vote. Of course," he added with a smile, "I'm going to try to call them out to vote for me."

Jayson Blair, Cosby, Bill Clinton Turned Down Unity

President Bush, Sen. John Kerry, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons were some of the marquee names at Unity, but the convention planners went after others who turned them down.

Barbara Ciara, vice president/broadcast of the National Association of Black Journalists, told the NABJ membership meeting Friday that disgraced reporter Jayson Blair had agreed to be part of an ethics discussion, but withdrew after NABJ's board of directors voted him its Thumbs Down award, along with "those pundits who sought to link his downfall to race and affirmative action."

Back in March, when Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Village Voice described Blair reading from his then-new book, Coates reported that Blair was "weighing an appearance at this year's National Association of Black Journalists convention, which tonight's reading has somehow made him come to believe will not end in tar and feathers."

Entertainer Bill Cosby and former president Bill Clinton had schedule conflicts, Ciara said, and Michael Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, "flat out refused to come."

Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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