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Unity Chooses Chicago for 2008

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Sunday, June 19, 2005

"Overwhelming" Vote Picks City Over Boston, D.C.

The Unity: Journalists of Color board of directors picked Chicago over Washington and Boston Saturday as the site for its 2008 convention, the organization announced.

However, the board chose Boston as the alternate city if the alliance and Chicago fail to reach a final agreement, according to a Unity announcement.

The Unity conventions, which join black, Hispanic, Asian American and Native American journalists, recruiters, speakers and other journalists, have become the largest assemblages of journalists in the world. Last year's gathering in Washington drew 8,158 registrants. The NABJ Journal reported in 1999 that nearly 7,000 had attended Unity in Seattle that year, and about 6,000 were at the first Unity in Atlanta in 1994.

"The Board entertained formal presentations from convention bureau and hotel representatives from Chicago, Boston and Washington, D.C., during a site-selection meeting held during the National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention in Fort Worth, Texas," Unity's weekend news release continued. Houston had been eliminated earlier.

"We had strong presentations from each of the three cities," Unity President Mae Cheng said in the release. The 17-member board's vote was "overwhelming" for Chicago, the announcement said.

Chicago was chosen despite the recent repeal of a 1675 law that banned Native Americans from entering Boston, as Russell Nichols noted in a story today in the Boston Globe.

''We kind of felt it was between us and Chicago," Jim Rooney, executive director for the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, said in the Globe story. ''That's disappointing."

"All the cities were strong, but we were ultimately impressed by what Chicago had to offer -- from the great new facilities to the diverse culture of the community to how welcome all the alliance partners will feel in Chicago," Bryan Monroe of Knight Ridder, who is also Unity's vice president and vice president/print of the National Association of Black Journalists, told Journal-isms today.

Nichols wrote in the Globe that, "Salespeople had been attempting to sway board members since November.

"According to the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, Unity conventioneers could spend an estimated $4.5 million in and around the city if the 2008 convention, which is expected to draw about 9,000 people, had been held here.

"City officials have said that they hoped the convention would have allowed them to prove that the image of Boston as a place of racial intolerance, which stems from the 1970s school integration policies that led to violence, is outdated.

"Seth Gitell, press secretary for Mayor Thomas M. Menino, said he had met with representatives from Unity. He said the fact that Boston was a finalist would help market the city."

Separately, the Unity Web site has posted an editorial from the June print edition of the trade magazine Editor & Publisher endorsing the Unity concept.

"Nobody thinks that Unity 2008 will be scrapped -- not even Michael Woolfolk, the Columbia, S.C., TV news anchorman who raised the issue of Unity's future in his campaign to be president of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ)," it said. "At a debate in April, Woolfolk was quoted as saying, "I think Unity works better as an organization. Do we need to be doing the mega-convention? I don't think so." At another forum, he explained he didn't want Unity to drop the conventions, just focus more on diversity work between events.

". . . There's nothing wrong with NABJ debating the future of Unity conventions. But the value of those gatherings -- to journalists and their industry -- is beyond argument."

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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 BugMeNot.com 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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