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Unity Conflict Called "Heart-Breaking"

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Founders Weigh Possibility of Coalition Without NABJ

Reporters in Japan Worried About Radiation Poisoning

4 New York Times Journalists Missing in Libya

Huffington's Ties to Newark Mayor Raise Questions

J-Students Spend Break Reporting in Dominican Republic

Source of NPR "Gotcha" Video Analysis Was Surprise

Short Takes

Founders Weigh Possibility of Coalition Without NABJ

Co-founders Will Sutton, left, Mark Trahant, Juan Gonzalez  and  Lloyd LaCuesta recall the 1988 meeting creating  the Unity: Journalists of Color alliance. (Credit: Unity News photo By Marie  DeJesus)As the rift between the National Association of Black Journalists and its partners in Unity: Journalists of Color appeared to deepen, Juan Gonzalez, one of the Unity founders, said he found "possible and viable" both a resolution of the immediate financial dispute and a split-up of the coalition, with NABJ going one way and the other three associations another.

"If the current leaders choose #2, then I urge NAHJ, AAJA and NAJA to abandon holding separate conventions altogether after 2012," said Gonzalez, a former president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, using acronyms for the Asian American Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association.

"Instead, they should have UNITY 2.0 organize the annual gathering where the three groups could organize both separate and joint events, but still retain their individual identities, office and staffs to handle day to day programs."

If all four associations remain in the coalition, Gonzalez stood by his earlier call for joint conventions every two years instead of every four.

Gonzalez responded to an inquiry from Journal-isms to four of the men and women who agreed on the concept of a Unity convention in Baltimore in 1988: Will Sutton of NABJ, Lloyd LaCuesta of AAJA, Mark Trahant of NAJA and Gonzalez of NAHJ. They were asked whether they would be willing to mediate or arbitrate the current dispute if asked.

NABJ, the largest of the four associations, is asserting that Unity has grown beyond its original mission and shortchanged NABJ in the process. It has submitted several proposals to reorder the way the proceeds are divided, but it was outvoted at a meeting last weekend, with none of the other partners supporting NABJ.

The conversation dominated NABJ's e-mail list Tuesday and Wednesday, and it became clearer that the rift goes beyond funding proposals and Unity's mission.

"Since DAY ONE, it has always been NABJ vs the other alliance partners. From the creation of Unity, NABJ was expected to take the lead on everything. There was indeed jealousy due to our size, and for some NABJ members, arrogance about our size," Roland Martin, the NABJ secretary, wrote in answer to a question on the listserve. "Some of us strongly believe there are alliance partners who have decided that they are going to vote as a bloc and make the decisions as to what they want with Unity."

[Rafael Olmeda, former Unity president, responds in the Comments section, below.]

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 the Native American Journalists Association at 3.61 percent.

Kathy Y. Times, the NABJ president, directed members to a statement she wrote on the NABJ website, which reads, in part, "The ideal that UNITY’s mission is far more important than any individual organization does not square with reality."

Joanna Hernandez, Unity president, said in the umbrella group's own e-mail to Unity members, "I know that situations sometimes get ugly before the smoke clears.

"As an alliance partner, NABJ has concerns. It's always the right time to bring concerns to the surface. This is the only way the UNITY board can begin to address them head on and iron out differences in a true collaboration with all UNITY partners sitting as equals at the table."

Of the four Unity founders queried, Sutton could not be reached. In 2008, he and Gonzalez proposed, among other ideas, "Hold UNITY conventions every two years; to provide more association members with the opportunity to attend UNITY conventions at a lower cost . . . "

Trahant, who is also board chair of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, told Journal-isms, "I agree with everything Juan writes. The amazing thing about UNITY after all these years is that it didn't fall apart. There were so many times that we came so close — one shout away — yet the miracle was that it kept going. Have we run out of that magic? I hope not. The new media landscape is our great opportunity."

On whether he would be willing to mediate, Trahant replied, "If that's what was required. I am not sure that would be useful, though. There are new, young, talented leaders in each of the organizations. It's important to draw on their ideas because the future will be so different from the traditions from an industry that no longer exists." Trahant was editorial page editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer before it went out of business exactly two years ago Thursday.

Similarly, Gonzalez said, "On the issue of mediation or arbitration, given my well-known views on how UNITY needs to evolve in the future, I would not be the type of 'impartial' person needed for any mediation effort."

LaCuestra, a reporter for KTVU-TV in the San Francisco Bay area, said, "I was contacted by some Unity folk about the disagreement and chose not to publicly express my thoughts. I am still doing that because as a reporter, I don't feel I have all the facts yet. I am just saddened that after all these years there is still a public perception that ALL of the associations are not working towards a common good. As for being a mediator arbitrator, I am always available to serve if I can."

Following is the response from Gonzalez, a columnist at the New York Daily News and co-host of Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now!":

"The growing conflict within UNITY is heart-breaking.

"At a time when the journalism profession is going through such profound turmoil, our alliance groups are sending a terrible message by engaging in a public fight over how to share UNITY convention revenues.

Juan Gonzalez

"I see valid arguments on both sides of this dispute. It should be possible to bridge the differences through reasonable negotiations, good will, and give-and-take by all sides.

"But this dispute, in my opinion, reflects a much bigger problem. Despite the enormous transformation of our news media system over past few years, the individual UNITY alliance organizations simply have not adjusted their methods of operation, their tactics, and their strategies to the new reality.

"When you have no clear vision or plan for the future, it becomes all too easy to turn on each other and squabble over dwindling resources.

"At both UNITY 2004 and 2008, I urged those who attended the UNITY workshop to rethink how we do things. Last year, at the NAHJ convention in Denver, I warned my fellow members that unless our organizations came up with new strategies quickly, we would soon face rapid decline, even the possible bankruptcy of some the groups in a very short time.

"I have some definite ideas about mid-term and long-term solutions.

"To me, the most basic principle to hold on to is this: UNITY is only an instrument of the member organizations within the alliance, not an organization with a distinct institutional interest that is somehow different from or that supersedes its component parts. The 'sovereignty' of the four separate organizations must be preserved. UNITY has no life apart from its alliance members. But just as national sovereignty means something vastly different today in a global economy than it did back in the 19th and early 20th centuries, so too must our ideas of independence and interdependence in the alliance change.

"Second, it should be abundantly clear by now that the enormous expenditures of money entailed with four separate annual minority journalism conventions — a system that has remained unchanged for more than 30 years — will not be sustained and underwritten for very much longer by the media industry and media-related foundations, or even by our own members who must spend considerable sums of their own money and time to attend these conventions each year.

"Our alliance is at a crossroads. It has only two choices at this time:

"1) Solve the immediate financial dispute, then move quickly to tackle how to make both UNITY and the individual member groups stronger,

"2) Split, with NABJ going its own way and the other three organizations creating, in effect, UNITY 2.0.

"Each of these is possible and viable.

"If the current leaders choose #1, I urge that after 2012, UNITY take responsibility to organize joint conventions every two years instead of every four years. It simply does not make sense to siphon off 4 years of revenue to fund UNITY just to organize a convention that takes at best 18 months to prepare. Whatever new funding formula is developed should better reflect NABJ's predominant share of UNITY convention attendees. The individual groups could then hold their own conferences in odd-numbered years, or even hold conferences in the same city if they so choose (e.g. AAJA with NAJA, or NAHJ with AAJA in old-numbered years) and thus share hotel and meeting costs.

"If the current leaders choose #2, then I urge NAHJ, AAJA and NAJA to abandon holding separate conventions altogether after 2012. Instead, they should have UNITY 2.0 organize the annual gathering where the three groups could organize both separate and joint events, but still retain their individual identities, office and staffs to handle day to day programs.

"None of these organizational solutions, however, addresses the question of what should be the programmatic thrust of our organizations in an era where the last thing on a corporate executive's mind is diversifying his or her news staff (most executives, after all, are fixated on REDUCING their news staffs!)

"I have some definite ideas about how we change our programs as well, and am willing to share those with the current leaders of UNITY, if they so desire.

"But the directors of the four organizations are the ones who must make the big decisions now. I appeal to them to think long and hard about breaking up an alliance that took so many years and effort by so many dedicated people to construct.

"I wish them the best of luck in their deliberations."

CNN's Sandra Endo tells Ali Velshi that her family finally heard from her grandmother, who lives in Fukushima, Japan. (Video)

Reporters in Japan Worried About Radiation Poisoning

"With dozens of U.S. TV news journalists now on the ground in Japan, the bosses back home are becoming increasingly concerned about the potential for radiation poisoning due to the deteriorating conditions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant," Chris Ariens wrote Tuesday for TVNewser.

"ABC’s David Muir . . . was in the area of the plant yesterday and moved south after the explosion. During 'Nightline' he held up a radiation meter which was not detecting anything out of the ordinary. This morning, that changed[.] Diane Sawyer and her crew began heading back to Tokyo, explaining to George Stephanopoulos on 'GMA' that radiation levels had increased through the day. 'We came down this highway, the 7½ hour trip,' said Sawyer. 'We’re about midway through it now.' Correspondent Clarissa Ward has also moved out of the area. Her Japanese translator left the ABC News team yesterday, fearing radiation poisoning.

"Weather becomes an important factor in this story as correspondents and crews watch the wind while covering the story.

“ 'We are closely monitoring the situation, moment by moment,' David Verdi, VP of worldwide news gathering for NBC News tells TVNewser. 'We are constantly consulting with our experts and tracking the wind patterns.' In addition to Lester Holt . . . Ann Curry, Chris Jansing, Ian Williams and Lee Cowan are covering for NBC/MSNBC.

"CBS’s Harry Smith was in Northern Japan this morning for 'The Early Show,' but he and all other CBS staffers have left. 'We have moved our teams out of Sendai, Japan and we continue to reassess deployments, as the situation warrants,' says CBS News VP Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews."

Some networks personalized the tragedy with their own staffers' experiences.

Ariens reported for TVNewser on Tuesday, "CNN Newsource reporter Sandra Endo talked with anchor Ali Velshi today about how her family in northern Japan is coping in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami. Endo’s father was born in Fukushima. Her grandmother, aunt and cousins lived through the quake, but many neighbors did not.

"Endo is a national correspondent for CNN Newsource — the affiliate news service of CNN — based in Washington, D.C."

On Tuesday's "CBS Evening News," reporter Ben Tracy told viewers, "There are a lot of reunions and one that hit very close to home for us is our colleague Lucy Craft who was actually reunited with her 17-year-old son in Tokyo just a couple of hours ago. He had actually been at boarding school in Sendai when the earthquake and the tsunami hit and she had -- it had been about two days before she could get in touch with him so obviously she was worried. But like any 17-year-old, he very nonchalantly sent her a text message saying 'mom, stop worrying, I'm fine.' "

4 New York Times Journalists Missing in Libya

Anthony Shadid"The New York Times said Wednesday that four of its journalists reporting on the conflict in Libya were missing," Jeremy W. Peters reported for the Times.

"Editors said they were last in contact with the journalists, who were reporting from the northern port city of Ajdabiya, on Tuesday morning New York time. And despite second-hand reports that they had been swept up by Libyan government forces, the paper said it could not confirm that information.

" 'We have talked with officials of the Libyan government in Tripoli, and they tell us they are attempting to ascertain the whereabouts of our journalists,' Mr. Keller said. 'We are grateful to the Libyan government for their assurance that if our journalists were captured they would be released promptly and unharmed.'

"The missing journalists are Anthony Shadid, the Beirut bureau chief and twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize for foreign reporting; Stephen Farrell, a reporter and videographer who was kidnapped by the Taliban in 2009 and rescued by British commandos; and two photographers, Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario, who have worked extensively in the Middle East and Africa."

Ghaith Abdul-AhadMeanwhile, Sam Jones reported for Britain's the Guardian, "Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, the Guardian correspondent who was detained by Libyan authorities a fortnight ago, has been released.

"Abdul-Ahad and Andrei Netto, a correspondent for the Brazilian newspaper O Estado de S Paulo, were picked up in the coastal town of Sabratha on 2 March then moved to a prison on the outskirts of the capital, Tripoli.

"Netto was freed a week ago, but Libyan officials continued to hold the Guardian reporter despite protests from the newspaper and Amnesty International.

". . . Abdul-Ahad entered Libya from Tunisia and was last in touch with the paper on the day of his capture.

"The journalist, an Iraqi national, is a highly respected staff correspondent who has written for the Guardian since 2004. He has reported from Somalia, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan on the stories of ordinary people in times of conflict."

Huffington's Ties to Newark Mayor Raise Questions

Cory Booker"Buried in AOL’s five-page press release Monday about its adding Biz Stone as an adviser and hiring 11 new journalists, among other moves, was the news that would expand in Newark, N.J., in partnership with the city’s mayor, Cory Booker," Lucia Moses wrote Wednesday for Mediaweek.

"Huh? AOL didn’t go into detail, but the idea of a news organization partnering with politicians it’s supposed to cover is bizarre, to say the least. But maybe not so strange, considering Huffington — the new head of AOL’s Huffington Post Media Group — is a longtime supporter and pal of Booker. (The two once were even reported to be an item, although they deny it.)

"Huffington told Adweek that the partnership merely entails Booker’s office giving Patch information about local services for the site to promote. 'Mayor Booker’s role is as a resource to us as we launch the Patch networks, not to have any editorial input,' she said. 'The partnership is to accelerate the launch by working with the mayor and his team in the community. They’re providing information. Every Patch digitizes information about government and school services so we can make them more available.'

"Similarly, Anne Torres, Booker’s acting communications director, e-mailed to say, 'The Mayor's Office is simply supportive of the endeavor to bring to Newark. The Mayor's Office is not providing any financial resources or staff to this endeavor.'

"Huffington is looking at extending Patch to other struggling communities; a New Orleans site is already in the works. 'We’re talking to Mary Matalin,' she said, referring to the Republican political strategist, who recently moved to the Big Easy with husband James Carville.

"Huffington insisted that Patch would still be able to publish critical coverage of Newark’s mayor. That, of course, would require Patch going out on a limb, given her longstanding ties with Booker. 'Cory and I have just been really good friends for 10 years. I’ve written about him and I’m a big admirer of him,' she gushed. 'He’s a game-changer.' "

Student reporters from the Cronkite School interview Haitians who are living in the Dominican Republic, which revoked "birthright citizenship" last year. (Credit: Arizona State University)

J-Students Spend Break Reporting in Dominican Republic

"Seventeen students from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University are spending their spring break in the Dominican Republic reporting on immigration issues," the university announced on Tuesday.

"Students will be in the country for 10 days, reporting and shooting photos and video for an in-depth, Web-based project and a television package. They are led by Rick Rodriguez, the school’s Carnegie Professor of Journalism, and Jason Manning, director of Student Media."

Rodriguez is a former executive editor at the Sacramento (Calif.) Bee who joined Cronkite School in 2008 as the school’s first Carnegie Professor specializing in Latino and transnational news coverage.

"The project is part of a depth reporting class taught by Rodriguez. Students spent the first part of the semester preparing for the trip by researching the issue of stateless people in the Dominican Republic, a subject Rodriguez called 'timely and important,' in part because of a debate in the United States over the citizenship status of children born to undocumented immigrants.

"The Dominican Republic revoked birthright citizenship last year. Previously, individuals born in the country were automatically considered citizens. The new law prevents individuals born to people residing in the country illegally from obtaining identification documents, limiting access to important services, such as education, health care and housing.

"Some lawmakers in Arizona have proposed similar legislation to address illegal immigration into the United States.

"Cronkite students are based in Santo Domingo and are traveling around the country interviewing government officials, legal residents and immigrants from neighboring Haiti, who flood into the Dominican in search of jobs, education and health care."

Source of NPR "Gotcha" Video Analysis Was Surprise

Few expected such a revelation from, the website sponsored by Glenn Beck that found that the "gotcha" video that led to the departure of two NPR executives had been deceptively edited, as Alicia Shepard, the NPR ombudsman, reported Wednesday.

"The tone — which I have tried hard to not adopt — from so many in the media and out is one of surprise that Glenn Beck's website would take on someone such as James O'Keefe," Shepard wrote.

Scott Baker, who is editor in chief of the six-month-old website, told Shepard, "I've had a long-standing interest in media ethics. I took it as a class in college and I wasn't even a journalism or communications major!" Pam Key, his partner who examined the video, "was primarily a professional illustrator...mainly of children's books as I understand it."

"Take a look at their terrific analysis of the videos distributed by James O'Keefe III," Shepard advised. "A compliment to O'Keefe for posting the two-hours, but as The discovered even the 'full' version shows signs of editing."

Both Ron Schiller, NPR's former chief fundraiser, and Vivian Schiller, the former CEO who is no relation, resigned March 10 after the surreptitiously recorded video was made public. On the video produced by the conservative provocateur, Ron Schiller said that members of the tea party movement are xenophobic and racist and that NPR would prefer to do without subsidies provided by the federal government.

Short Takes

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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 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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Unity Conflict Called "Heart-Breaking"

From Rafael Olmeda:

As a former board member and a former president of UNITY, I have never witnessed any vote, behavior or interaction that even remotely suggests the other associations are jealous of NABJ. I have always been proud of NABJ and appreciative of what the association brings to the coalition.What I have witnessed is a tension between the alliance partners, each of which is responsible for its own health, and the coalition as a whole, which only remains strong if the partners remain committed to it. The board of UNITY exists to resolve that conflict, to balance those interests when they compete because they recognize that each coalition member is strengthened by this alliance.I have a hard time seeing how we can preach diversity within our profession if we cannot put aside our own differences long enough to keep the UNITY coalition alive.

United We Stand

I am not a journalist but reading the saga surrounding UNITY troubles me as an activist. I cannot imagine this coalition will survive if people continue to posture and pursue thier own agendas.

As a reader and consumer in the media industry which for decades and currently displays contempt for all people of color I need alliances like UNITY to exist.

Please then from the perspective of an activist in the trenches PLEASE work out your collective issues and differences so that UNITY will continue to make a difference in the MSM and other media platforms. We really, really,  really need UNITY in so many ways on so many levels.

UNITY in flames

If UNITY is meant to be a coming together of equals, I don't understand the stance of NABJ that it is first among equals.  The entire field of journalism is collapsing in upon itself.  To observe people of color squabbling among themselves like chickens over crumbs is ugly and unseemly.

NABJ is conducting an online "town hall" meeting where President Kathy Times has made it abundantly clear she's firmly in the "let's take a walk" camp.   Times also said in a video message to NABJ how fondly she remembers the first UNITY convention in 1994.

I remember it too.  I drove from Columbus, Ohio, to Atlanta to attend what was to me the Woodstock of Journalism.   It is a moment of time frozen in my mind as I watched a gathering of the tribes in a way never seen before.  There were rough spots of course, but the good about UNITY far outweighs the bad.  So it was when I attended UNITY '08 and contrary to Times, the idea of UNITY does mean more than any single entity---and the egos involved.

From the UNITY website: The truth is that NABJ does take home a significant portion of convention receipts, and that is appropriate based on the current number of NABJ members who attend UNITY conventions. The division of revenues from UNITY 2008 was: AAJA $396,011; NABJ  $875,652; NAHJ $427,259; NAJA $143,197; and UNITY $935,109.

If these numbers are correct, I am at a loss to understand what NABJ has to gripe about unless they truly believe being the largest of the four organizations means they should be sitting at the head of the table.  

Maybe it boils down to an erroneous and arrogant assumption that while we all are equals, one of us is "equal-er."  

Jeff, As I noted in my


As I noted in my comments activists like me depend on the journalism of people of color...Please make a difference and keep this alliance alive and moving forward..

We need UNITY!!!!!!

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