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Unity Leader Defends Secrecy of NLGJA Vote

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Anonymity in Balloting Would Prompt "Honest Discussion"

Anonymity in Balloting Would Prompt "Honest Discussion"

Unity President Joanna Hernandez said Thursday that she had decided to keep secret the votes of Unity board members to admit the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association in order "to allow the board members a level of anonymity in their vote so [as] to prompt honest and open discussion."

She added, "But that does not stop board members or presidents from discussing their positions, if they choose to do so, and I encourage members who have concerns to contact their presidents and UNITY board members from their organizations directly."

Joanna Hernandez

Unity: Journalists of Color, Inc. announced on Sept. 29 that the coalition members had decided to include the predominantly white NLGJA and that the boards of directors of both organizations had agreed to the partnership the previous week.

The action reversed Unity's position of more than 20 years that membership should be limited to the journalist of color associations.

However, the withdrawal in April of the National Association of Black Journalists left Unity with seats to fill for its convention next year in Las Vegas.

NABJ members voted in August to reopen talks on rejoining the coalition, but those talks had barely begun when the Unity board decided to act on its invitation to NLGJA to join. On Wednesday, Joe Davidson, a co-founder of NABJ who made the NABJ motion that led to reopening the talks, said that "NLGJA's inclusion in Unity changes the mission of Unity" and that "if I had to vote right now on recommending unification, sadly I’d vote no."

Hernandez was challenged Thursday by Robert Lopez, an investigative reporter and blogger at the Los Angeles Times, who asked on the Unity Facebook page why Hernandez — who leads members of the national associations of Hispanic, Asian American and Native American journalists — was being secretive about how members voted. Apparently, none of the 12 board representatives has publicly explained to constituents which way they came down on the issue.

"I thought this was a journalism group that supports dissemination of information, among other things," said Lopez, who told Journal-isms he had also been challenging the transparency of the National Assocaition of Hispanic Journalists, of which he is a member.

Hernandez replied Thursday night:

"It is clear that NLGJA joining UNITY was a decision that was 20 years in discussion, much of it heated and emotional on both sides.

"The concerns of the members of the UNITY board who voted not in favor of having NLGJA join were grounded in the short-term financial impact it would have on revenue allocations.

"We needed to come together as a board and make what we believed was the best decision for UNITY. It was not a unanimous decision, but the majority of members supported it, and NLGJA is now a part of UNITY.

"My decision not to release the specifics of the vote tally was to allow the board members a level of anonymity in their vote so to prompt honest and open discussion. But that does not stop board members or presidents from discussing their positions, if they choose to do so, and I encourage members who have concerns to contact their presidents and UNITY board members from their organizations directly.

"UNITY is a mix of cultures and perspectives, and that is what makes the mission so viable and important. And we realize how important it is for us to remain united. That strategy is only more relevant today in the face of a metamorphosing news industry and tough economic times.

"It’s time for us to focus on the real goal of achieving a world where news coverage reflects the true diversity of our communities."

Unity Loses Key Backer With NLGJA Move

September 28, 2011

NABJ Founder Says Gay Group's Admission Changes Mission

SPJ Urges End to "Illegal Alien," "Illegal Immigrant"

Obama's Comments on Grumblin' Lead to More of It

In U.K., Tabloid Front Shows Lifeless Michael Jackson

4 Win Slots in Sports Department Leadership Program

Era Ends: New Show to Replace Ailing Gil Noble's "Like It Is"

Veteran Latino Watcher Says Don't Trust D.C. Organizations

Short Takes

Gay-entertainment blogger David Hauslaib of Queerty, left, bid $1,050 for a date with CNN anchor Don Lemon at a signing of Lemon's book “Transparent” last month in Philadelphia at the convention of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association. Lemon disclosed in the book that he is gay. (Credit: Scott A Drake/NLGJA)

NABJ Founder Says Gay Group's Admission Changes Mission

Joe Davidson, an NABJ  founder, said Wednesday, 'The Unity we voted to seek reunification with in August is not the Unity that exists today.'

The co-founder of the National Association of Black Journalists who successfully steered the association into talks on reunifying with Unity: Journalists of Color, Inc., said Wednesday that "if I had to vote right now on recommending unification, sadly I’d vote no."

Joe Davidson, a columnist at the Washington Post, said this month's decision by the Unity board members to admit the predominantly white National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association "makes reunification less likely and less desirable.

"NLGJA's inclusion in Unity changes the mission of Unity. Throughout Unity's history, its mission has been to advance the interests of journalists of color, as its full name now, but perhaps not for long, indicates. That mission was closely aligned with the values those of us who founded NABJ set out to instill in our organization 37 years ago. While I wholeheartedly support the aims of NLGJA, its inclusion in Unity means Unity no longer is an organization focused exclusively on journalists of color."

NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr. said Wednesday that he had appointed a commission to "recommend an effective plan for NABJ's future participation in the alliance" and to be chaired by Keith Reed, senior editor of ESPN The Magazine, NABJ's treasurer. Other members are former NABJ presidents Vanessa Williams and Sidmel Estes; Davidson; Jackie Greene, a former Unity president and NABJ treasurer; NABJ organizer Paul Brock; Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press columnist; Jerry McCormick, a former NABJ board member; NABJ member Herbert Sample; Zuri Berry, Boston.com sports producer; and Michelle Johnson, who teaches multimedia journalism at Boston University.

"This body will examine the organization's past and its future financial and governmental structures of the alliance," Lee said. "The objectives should be in line with NABJ's mission and all in line with NABJ's fiduciary philosophies and obligations. This body will report to the president and the board its recommendations."

The group, which includes both those who favored and those who opposed the pullout from Unity, held its first conference call meeting Wednesday night.

The NABJ board voted in April to withdraw from Unity because "as a business model, UNITY no longer is the most financially prudent for NABJ and its membership."

It also faulted the governance structure and said could not obtain necessary information.

Remaining are the national associations of Hispanic, Asian American and Native American journalists.

At a passionate and emotional business meeting Aug. 5 during the NABJ convention in Philadelphia, Davidson proposed that NABJ seek reunification with Unity: Journalists of Color Inc. as soon as is feasible" but "based on conditions involving the financial and governance structure of Unity that do not conflict with the best interests of NABJ." His motion passed, 48 to 31.

Talks on reunification began Sept. 14. Five days later, Unity and NLGJA announced that their boards of directors agreed that NLGJA would join the coalition, a step Unity had not taken while NABJ was a partner. Unity President Joanna Hernandez would not disclose the Unity board vote, saying only that a majority of its 12 members supported including NLGJA.

"If NLGJA is in Unity, why not all other groups that have faced some form of bias?" Davidson wrote to NABJ members. "Will Unity come to represent everyone except straight, white men who are not disabled? Is Unity becoming another SPJ, an all purpose organization of journalists?" referring to the Society of Professional Journalists.

"As a supporter of Unity's original mission, these questions trouble me. I worked for NABJ's reunification because I believed in that mission. But what is the mission now? Is reunification still in NABJ's 'best interests,' as the Philadelphia motion instructs?

"As a member of the commission, I am open to the voice of the membership on these questions. But if I had to vote right now on recommending unification, sadly I’d vote no.

"The Unity we voted to seek reunification with in August is not the Unity that exists today.

"I urge the membership to be heard on this issue."

Rebecca Aguilar tells the Society of Professional Journalists convention Tuesday that her mother, now a citizen, is insulted by the phrase "illegal alien." (Credit: Sandra Gonzalez Whaley)

SPJ Urges End to "Illegal Alien," "Illegal Immigrant"

The Society of Professional Journalists, hearing an emotional plea from Rebecca Aguilar, a member of SPJ and of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, voted Tuesday to recommend that newsrooms discontinue using the terms "illegal alien" and "illegal immigrant." The resolution from the 7,800-member organization says only courts can decide when a person has committed an illegal act.

Aguilar argued that using those words insulted Latinos and all those who are or had once been in the United States illegally. She used the example of her mother, who became a "proud American" in 1980. Her mother felt insulted "every time she heard that word," Aguilar said of the phrase "illegal alien."

"She turned the tide," the new president-elect, Sonny Albarado, projects editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock, said of Aguilar. "She delivered the statement with such passion. After that, there was just a great overwhelming outpouring of support." Aguilar, a freelance broadcaster in Dallas, is a board member of NAHJ and of the Fort Worth SPJ chapter, was an SPJ "diversity fellow," and is a new member of SPJ's Diversity Committee.

The resolution, introduced by the SPJ Diversity Committee at the Excellence in Journalism convention in New Orleans, was originally rejected by the Resolutions Committee. Its members recommended that objections be brought to the stylebook committee of the Associated Press, Albarado said.

That did not sit well with members who argued that not all news organizations use the AP stylebook. Jeremy Steele, a member of the Diversity Committee who is director of media relations for the John Truscott Group in Lansing, Mich., tweaked the language into something more acceptable, said Albarado, who would follow Fred Brown and Robert Leger as an SPJ president of Latino heritage, Alborado said Thursday.

The motion passed on a voice vote.

"I hope that it makes a statement about sensitivity to language. It has an effect on the people it refers to," Albarado said. "I hope it shows people that journalists are concerned about being accurate when they refer to people, plus I hope it helps shape the discussion."

The resolution reads:

"WHEREAS, the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics urges all journalists to be 'honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information' and;

"WHEREAS, mainstream news reports are increasingly using the politically charged phrase 'illegal immigrant' and the more offensive and bureaucratic 'illegal alien' to describe undocumented immigrants, particularly Latinos and;

"WHEREAS, a fundamental principle embedded in our U.S. Constitution is that everyone (including non-citizens) is considered innocent of any crime until proven guilty in a court of law and;

"WHEREAS, this constitutional doctrine, often described as 'innocent-until-proven-guilty,' applies not just to U.S. Citizens but to everyone in the United States and;

"WHEREAS, only the court system, not reporters and editors, can decide when a person has committed an illegal act and;

"WHEREAS, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists is also concerned with the increasing use of pejorative and potentially inaccurate terms to describe the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the United States;

"THEREFORE, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists convention of delegates: urges journalists and style guide editors to stop the use of illegal alien and encourage continuous discussion and re-evaluation of the use of illegal immigrant in news stories."

Obama's Comments on Grumblin' Lead to More of It

President Obama's apparently last-minute decision to tell the Congressional Black Caucus Saturday night to "stop complainin', stop grumblin', stop cryin' " prompted a backlash among some who felt Obama was inappropriately scolding African Americans, and sparked a debate over whether the Associated Press was correct in rendering that sentence with the "g's" dropped on the key words.

The next-to-last paragraph of Obama's speech, apparently not in the prepared remarks, was, "I expect all of you to march with me and press on. Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. We’ve got work to do, CBC," according to the White House transcript.

"On Monday, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) expressed concern about the president's tone," Cynthia Gordy wrote on theRoot.com. " 'I don't know who he was talking to because we're certainly not complaining,' she said on CBS' 'The Early Show.' In fact, she noted, the CBC had long been pursuing a robust jobs initiative. Waters further pointed out that the president doesn't address other key voter blocs, such as Hispanic and gay and lesbian groups, quite the same way.

". . . With the president's speech repeatedly summarized as 'a fiery summons' that 'told blacks … to quit crying and complaining,' as an Associated Press article put it, the enthusiastic in-person response quickly gave way to displeased takes on Obama's condescending attitude toward African Americans. From the extra bass and preacher-like inflection in his voice, to those provocative closing sentences, observers demanded to know: What did he mean?"

On Sunday morning's "Up with Chris Hayes" on MSNBC, "the panel discussed the contrast between the way Politico reported President Obama’s speech and the Associated Press‘ reporting," Tommy Christopher reported Sunday for Mediaite. "Unlike Politico, who used the official transcription to pull quotes, the AP’s article reflected the President’s folksier delivery by quotin’ him without the dropped g’s. Karen Hunter called the AP’s treatment racist, John McWhorter disagreed, and Hayes got a laugh by saying, 'I can go both ways on this.' " Hunter is an MSNBC contributor and McWhorter, a linguist, is contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.

Mark Smith"I reached out to Mark Smith, the AP reporter who wrote the article in question, and asked him what he thought of the discussion," Christopher wrote. "Here’s his response: (via email)

" 'Normally, I lean toward the clean-it-up school of quote transcribing — for everyone. But in this case, the President appeared to be making such a point of dropping Gs, and doing so in a rhythmic fashion, that for me to insert them would run clearly counter to his meaning. I believe I was respecting his intent in this. Certainly disrespect was the last thing I intended.' "

The White House tried to steer the discussion toward the bulk of the speech, not the paragraph at the end.

Kevin Lewis, a White House spokesman, told Journal-isms, "The President's speech was an opportunity to discuss how the American Jobs Act would help the African American community through job training programs, tax cuts to small businesses, and expanding unemployment insurance that would benefit 1.4 million African Americans. He passionately urged the CBC to press on and work together to strengthen the economy."

In U.K., Tabloid Front Shows Lifeless Michael Jackson

U.S. vs. Europe: New York Post, left, and Britain's the Sun."If you haven't already picked up a newspaper today, you might not have seen the leading and haunting image of Michael Jackson laying on his deathbed lifeless and limp," the Huffington Post reported on Wednesday. "Dr. Conrad Murray, his former physician, sat through the first day of his manslaughter trial on Tuesday. Jurors were shown this disturbing photograph and heard a recording of Michael Jackson's eerie voice while he was sedated on the drug that allegedly killed him.

"Debates often arise regarding newspaper front page photographs as editors often adhere to the ideology that readers do not want to see blood with their breakfast. However this morning the image of one of the world's most loved and celebrated pop icons was splashed across various publications, sometimes without any warning that the photo was graphic.

"Rupert Murdoch's The Sun and The New York Post handled the photograph in two different ways. For those who picked up The Sun in the UK, they were immediately confronted with the front page photo of Jackson on his deathbed. The New York Post, on the other hand, ran the photo in a way that some say highlights the difference between European and U.S. newspapers, by placing the photograph in the newspaper and only putting a red headline across the front page stating, 'Warning! Graphic Photo Inside: Michael Jackson On His Deathbed.' "

4 Win Slots in Sports Department Leadership Program

The first four journalists of color have been selected for the Associated Press Sports Editors' new nine-month program to train mid-career women and journalists of color for sports department leadership positions, Michael A. Anastasi, president of APSE and managing editor of the Salt Lake Tribune, told Journal-isms on Wednesday.

Michael A.  Anastasi

They are Ed Guzman, Washington Post; Adena Andrews, ESPN-W; Carrie Cousins of the Roanoke (Va.) Times; and Dennis Freeman of the Beverly Hills (Calif.) Times. They were chosen from about two dozen applicants, Anastasi said.

Anastasi announced the program at the group's convention in June, telling Journal-isms then, "I will be making this the major initiative of my term."

An April report for APSE by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) reported that the percentage of sports editors at websites and newspapers who were women or people of color fell from 11.7 percent in 2008 to 9.42 percent in 2010.

Anastasi told his fellow sports editors in June, "Now, there are those in the industry who will say that diversity is not important, that it’s passé, that in the big picture it’s not what we should be worrying about any longer.

"To those I say this: horse shit.

"It is not only the right thing to do, it’s the vital thing to do. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the urgent thing to do. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s key to our survival. . . ."

He said the APSE program differentiates itself by focusing on the mid-career professional, rather than the student. "We are targeting working journalists, the copy editors, the web editors, the reporters, who are in your newsroom today. We want them to be here, among us who lead, in the future."

Era Ends: New Show to Replace Ailing Gil Noble's "Like It Is"

After 43 years, New York's WABC-TV will replace "Like It Is," hosted by the ailing Gil Noble, with another public affairs program aimed at African Americans, general manager Dave J. Davis said.

Gil Noble

The new program will examine "all the critical issues — jobs, education, housing, politics, transportation, culture — the list will be defined by our viewers’ needs and interests," Davis said in a note Tuesday to the staff.

Interested journalists should contact producer Tracey Bagley, Davis told Journal-isms on Wednesday.

Davis' note read:

"As you know, Gil Noble suffered a severe stroke several months ago. He continues to recuperate, and according to his family, is making progress. We join them in their prayers for a complete recovery.

"Last week I met with Gil’s family and his attorney. They have made the difficult decision that Gil can no longer continue as host of 'Like It Is'. I said I understood, and after so many years of serving the community and hosting such an historic program, Gil deserves the opportunity to completely concentrate on his recovery.

"Gil began his career at Channel 7 in 1967 as a reporter for Eyewitness News. In 1968, he became host of 'Like It Is', and it has been an important part of Channel 7 ever since. Gil has interviewed and profiled everyone from Stokely Carmichael to Sammy Davis, Jr., and he has been a tireless advocate for issues that impact the African-American community for 43 years.

"Channel 7 will continue to serve the African-American community with a program that examines all the critical issues — jobs, education, housing, politics, transportation, culture — the list will be defined by our viewers’ needs and interests.

"Our programming, news, and public affairs departments will be working on a new program, and we will have more information on that in the coming weeks. If you have any suggestions, please let us know. We cannot duplicate Gil Noble or 'Like It Is', but we should always respect his passion for the truth.

"We thank Gil for his work on behalf of the community and the station, and most of all, wish him good health."

The show will be renamed because Noble owns the rights to "Like It Is," Davis said.

[Herb Boyd added Thursday in the New York Amsterdam News:

["On Wednesday, in a phone message from Noble’s wife, Jean, she said they have been able 'to get him out of bed and into a chair.  And, though he has not spoken, I think there is some recognition of me by the way he looks at me and squeezes my hand.'

["She also added that her husband was planning on retiring in September anyway. 

 ["There has been some discussion among Noble’s fans and community activists to plan a tribute for him but not without permission and approval from the family."]

Veteran Latino Watcher Says Don't Trust D.C. Organizations

If you're looking for an honest assessment of Hispanic opinion, "don't rely on Washington Hispanic organizations. So many of them are owned by Walmart, Comcast and AT&T," according to Charlie Ericksen, who founded the Hispanic Link News Service 31 years ago and still serves as its managing editor.

Ericksen, 81, whose Washington-based creation has trained more than 1,000 Hispanic journalists, was part of a panel Wednesday assembled by LatinoWire, "a Business Wire service that provides comprehensive distribution of press releases and multimedia to leading Spanish-language news outlets . . . ."

He told the National Press Club audience in Washington to "go to community organizations if you want a legitimate answer." At one recent event, he said, one had to sit through greetings from five sponsors before hearing President Obama, he said.

Not surprisingly, representatives of some of those organizations, sitting in the audience, took exception.

Kathy Mimberg, senior media relations specialist at the National Council of La Raza, recalled later, "I said NCLR is a non-profit and non-partisan organization and that we do our work with funding from government, corporations and foundations. I objected to Charlie being negative about our corporate sponsors who spoke before President Obama's speech at our Annual Conference luncheon because I said that these were positive, general statements from organizations that want to interact and engage with the Latino community."

Scott Gunderson Rosa, communications director of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, told Journal-isms, "My point in speaking in response to Charlie was simply to clarify that we did not have four or five sponsors speak before the president at our gala on September 14 and that our mission to develop the next generation of Latino leaders is made possible by the financial support we receive from our corporate partners.

"His comments would not apply to CHCI as we do not take positions on policy issues nor do we comment on them. We are a non-partisan organization with all sides represented on our board, from corporations and unions, to non-profit and community leaders.

"Charlie is actually a great friend to CHCI and we have worked together for a long time."

Most of the 85 who attended came for the promise of learning how to reach the fast-growing Hispanic audience through the media they consume. Julio Aliago, news director of Telemundo's Washington affiliate, and Erica Gonzalez, executive editor of El Diario/La Prensa in New York, emphasized that their outlets were geared toward helping immigrants navigate life in the United States.

They urged that news releases be sent in English and Spanish and that no one person ever be portrayed as speaking for the entire Hispanic community. "Get at least two," Aliago said.

Hilda Garcia, vice president of multiplatform news and information for ImpreMedia, noted ImpreMedia's multimedia packages on the Web, including its report on Latino involvement in the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and a state-by-state report on Latinos, based on 2010 census data.

Short Takes

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Comments

Unity Mess

Come on folks! Are we journalists or not? Our core values include complete transparency. If Unity journalists don't believe in that, then that is completely opposite of the core values of NABJ. I have not said anything so far about this mess (and yes, I am a Southern girl and we use terms like "mess") because I am trying to work with my President Greg Lee and many others to "fix this". But this latest revelation that the vote is not going to be disclosed sent me over the edge. And I think we STILL  are not talking about the root causes of what has led to the end of what we started many, many years ago. 

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