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Unity Leader Saddened by Name-Change Vote

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Supporters Portray Alliance as Returning to Its "Roots"

Unity Board Members' Statements on Vote to Change Name

Author Says Don't Forget Dick Clark's Philly Segregation

L.A. Times Delayed Publishing Afghan Photos 72 Hours

Winner Says Pulitzer Is Endorsement of Diversity

More than Dozen of Color Seek Washington Post Buyout

Black, Latino Support for Obama at Same Level as in '08

Short Takes

Camille Beredjick, left, and Yimou Lee work in the student newsroom at the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association convention last year in Philadelphia. (Credit:

Supporters Portray Alliance as Returning to Its "Roots"

Joanna Hernandez, the president of Unity: Journalists of Color, Inc., said Wednesday "I got teary-eyed. I was immensely sad" when the coalition voted Monday to drop "of Color" from its name. "I did urge them not to take a vote now," she told Journal-isms.

As president, Hernandez has no vote unless there is a tie, however, and the Unity Joanna Hernandezboard members voted 11 to 4, with one abstention, to change the name of the coalition to accede to the wishes of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, its newest member.

"It just happened," Hernandez said of the motion to change the name. It was not on the agenda at the board's meeting in Las Vegas, site of its August convention, nor was it a recommendation of its strategic plan task force, whose co-chairs, Tom Arviso Jr. and Janet Cho, recommended "that we wait to get feedback from members at the UNITY Convention and then vote according to what the members wanted," Cho told Journal-isms by email.

"I'm still digesting it. . . . I wish it wasn't so rushed through. I tried to stop that," Hernandez said, adding that she was told by Jennifer Rutledge, a consultant well versed in Robert's Rules of Order, that the motion by Sharon Chan, immediate national past president of the Asian American Journalists Association, seconded by Michele Salcedo, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, had to be put to a vote.

Hernandez said she opposed the motion because "I was really concerned about reunification" with the National Association of Black Journalists, which left Unity last year. She said she had spoken periodically with NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr., who told her that changing the name would make it more difficult for NABJ to return.

"I want NABJ back so badly to help us shape the future of Unity," Hernandez said by telephone. "That's what really bothers me. The name change was not meant to exclude. . . . I loved 'Unity: Journalists of Color.' That's the organization I joined." The decision to change the name was taken before a discussion of possible names or a chance for representatives to consult their memberships, she said.

"I wasn't the only one that was upset. If the name change was going to happen, I really wanted to have membership input," and that could have even taken place at the August convention. ". . . It was done quickly."

Lee told Journal-isms by email Tuesday that "UNITY dropping the portion of its name representing the core principle of its founding is most unfortunate. UNITY can change its name, UNITY can change its logo, this is just [makeup] covering the problems that still remain. The reasons NABJ left UNITY still exist.

"The decision by our alliance partners to drop the phrase 'Journalists of Color' should cause us to mourn the loss of this very historic mission."

Meanwhile, a second news release about the Unity decision was posted on a Tumblr page and on the NAJA site Wednesday. Unlike the original issued by Hernandez on Tuesday, this one asserted that the name change "represents "a return to the organization’s roots.

"The coalition began in 1986 as the dream of a few individuals dedicated to advancing diversity in America’s newsrooms. The group was known as UNITY '94 and UNITY '99 to coincide with convention years, and the name was officially changed to UNITY: Journalists of Color."

However, the organization's "roots" are the journalist of color associations, and Unity '94 and Unity '99 were convention organizing vehicles, not structured and staffed organizations. Some early organizers, such as Sidmel Estes, a past NABJ president, have maintained that the organization was never intended to be permanent.

Hernandez said she did not know the second release had been posted. "It's coming from the alliance presidents," she told Journal-isms. "They are Unity." The presidents of NAHJ, AAJA, NAJA and NLGJA all voted for the name change.

Statements from board members representing the remaining original Unity partners follow. Dissenters were more expansive in their emails than supporters, though they were fewer in number.

Unity Board Members' Statements on Vote to Change Name

Tom Arviso Jr., Native American Journalists Association

Tom Arviso Jr. Arviso is publisher and CEO, Navajo Times and Navajo Times Publishing Co., Inc., in Window Rock, Ariz.

I was one of the four board members that voted no on the motion to change UNITY - Journalists of Color to UNITY Journalists.

My reason and what I presented to the entire board was that I felt this proposal to change the name of UNITY was so important to all of us as UNITY members that I felt it was in the best interest of all the Alliance members to have an opportunity to voice their support or non-support for a name change. I felt that we had enough time before the UNITY conference in August for us as board members to go back to our members and seek their input on this issue. Then, we could further discuss the proposed name change at the UNITY conference where we would will all be together as one united group.

"After that, based on what we heard and learned from our members, then we could justify a vote on whether to change or not change the UNITY name. And, if we did decide to change the name, what would the members like to change it to. I felt it was important to include the input of all of the Alliance members in this matter and that we did not need to rush this decision.

I also felt it was important to respect and acknowledge all of the sincere hard work that was put forth from our prior UNITY leaders and board members, and the decisions that were made by them. One of those decisions was to make the name, UNITY - Journalists of Color. This name was reflective and respectful of who we are, and still are. I was proud of the name UNITY - Journalists of Color and I know that many of the NAJA members were proud of that name as well.

I also felt the UNITY Journalists of Color was all inclusive of all its alliance members, past and present, including NABJ and NGLJA. A few of us board members felt that way but we were outnumbered by those who thought differently.

We, as UNITY board members, did have a long, healthy and lively discussion on the proposed name change. I admit that I was disappointed at the outcome of the board vote but I also respect the decision that was made by the entire board and I will honor it.

So, we now have a new logo, a new name and we will have a great UNITY conference for all journalists this August at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. I am excited and looking forward to it.

Janet Cho, Asian American Journalists Association

Janet ChoCho is a business reporter at the Plain Dealer in Cleveland and past national vice president for print of AAJA.

My "no" vote was as much an objection to the way the name was changed as it was a desire to keep the name "Journalists of Color."

I believe a decision of that magnitude can't and shouldn't be made by 16 board members without consulting the members we represent, our former UNITY officers, longtime friends and supporters and yes, our founding partner NABJ. Former UNITY leaders I spoke to urged us to postpone any decision on the name until after we'd asked our members what they thought, and to me the August UNITY convention was a perfect opportunity to discuss the pros and cons and hear directly from our constituents.

I was also offended by accusations that the name "Journalists of Color" was homophobic and hostile to LGBT journalists, because UNITY has always welcomed everyone — regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation — who shares our desire for greater diversity in the news media and better, more inclusive coverage of issues affecting minorities and other underrepresented groups. The latest ASNE census report that we've lost more than 1,728 minority journalists in the past decade and that journalists of color are leaving the profession at twice the rate of our non-minority colleagues underscores how critical and urgent our mission is.

Since welcoming NLGJA to the UNITY alliance last fall, we have changed our mission statement, our bylaws and our strategic plan to reflect the concerns of our newest partner. But changing the name feels too much like we abandoned our historic and hard-fought roots.

Rhonda LeValdo-Gayton, Native American Journalists Association

Rhonda LeValdo-GaytonLeValdo-Gayton teaches media communications at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan., and is president of the Native American Journalists Association.

I think it reflects all the alliance groups represented, inclusion is always good!

Peter Ortiz, National Association of Hispanic Journalists

Peter OrtizOrtiz is a reporter for a Financial Times-owned online publication, Ignites, and covers the regulatory and compliance beat focusing on the mutual fund industry.

I'm proud to have been part of an organization that made history by unifying Latino, Black, Asian American and Native American journalists. UNITY: Journalists of Color, made the industry take notice that we would stand together to fight for diversity. NLGJA knew of our legacy and the struggle journalists of color faced when they became a part of this historic and one-of-a-kind union. And I have always and still support NLGJA's mission on behalf of gay and lesbian journalists. Their struggle became our struggle.

As journalists of color we understand as well as anyone what it means to be excluded and we embrace other groups that have experienced similar struggles. In this spirit, I welcomed NLGJA when they joined our board expecting that they would honor and respect what our founders created and join our fight as I would join their fight. NLGJA came on board as an equal partner with the same rights as the other alliance groups and soon learned that, UNITY: Journalists of Color in no way excluded them or their members. This was true going back to the beginning when we have always welcomed gay and lesbian journalists to our conventions. The NLGJA board expressed concerns that having "Journalists of Color" as part of our identity conveyed a sense of homophobia or exclusion. They soon acknowledged that these perceptions did not reflect their experience as a UNITY partner. I had hoped they would go to their members and share their experience as a partner in UNITY: Journalists of Color. When false perceptions persist, you don't allow them to fester. You attack them with the truth, no matter how difficult it is for your members to accept.

When NLGJA joined UNITY: Journalists of Color, they became part of our family and I fully embraced them as equal partners. But joining our family means respecting its roots, respecting why we became a family in the first place, and respecting how the issues we face are as real today as they were when we joined together. I truly hoped NLGJA members would have appreciated this sense of family with journalists of color under the banner of UNITY: Journalists of Color. I'm sad we will no longer be meeting under a name that means so much.

Michaela Saunders, Native American Journalists Association

Michaela SaundersSaunders is web editor at Washburn University in Topeka, Kan.

I did abstain from the vote on the name change. Personally, I believe the name change better reflects UNITY's mission and goal of increasing newsroom representation of and accurate coverage about under-served communities. But I did not have an opportunity to visit with NAJA members, who I represent at the UNITY table, specifically about the name change.

Doris Truong, Asian American Journalists Association

Doris Truong Truong is national president of AAJA and a multiplatform editor at the Washington Post.

The name change sends a clear signal that we welcome our brothers and sisters in NLGJA. UNITY continues to be an organization that strives for inclusiveness, which is even more clearly reflected now.


Dick Clark's

Author Says Don't Forget Dick Clark's Philly Segregation

"Dick Clark, the ever-youthful television host and tireless entrepreneur who helped bring rock 'n' roll into the mainstream on 'American Bandstand,' and later produced and hosted a vast range of programming from game shows to the year-end countdown from Times Square on 'New Year's Rockin' Eve,' has died," Lynne Elber reported Wednesday for the Associated Press. "He was 82."

Elber noted, "He helped give black artists their due by playing original R&B recordings instead of cover versions by white performers, and he condemned censorship."

Berry Gordy Jr., founder of Motown Records, said, "Dick was always there for me and Motown, even before there was a Motown. He was an entrepreneur, a visionary and a major force in changing pop culture and ultimately influencing integration. It happened first emotionally. Music can do that. He didn't do it from a soap box, he just did it. That’s who he was. American Bandstand was a platform for all artists. For me personally, he helped bring Motown into living rooms across America."

The research of Matt Delmont didn't make the initial obits found in the search engines. Delmont is an assistant professor of American studies at Scripps College and author of "The Nicest Kids in Town: American Bandstand, Rock 'n' Roll, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in 1950s Philadelphia," published this year.

Delmont told Journal-isms by email Wednesday, "For the obituaries on Dick Clark, I hope that the obituary writers will note that Dick Clark was a tremendous businessman and music entrepreneur and that his American Bandstand was one of the most influential television programs of all time. I hope, however, that they will also note that counter to Clark's claims, American Bandstand [continued] to discriminate against black teenagers during the show's years in Philadelphia. And that this history of segregation needs to be remembered as part of his legacy."

Delmont's website says, "American Bandstand, one of the most popular television shows ever, broadcast from Philadelphia in the late fifties, a time when that city had become a battleground for civil rights. Counter to host Dick Clark's claims that he integrated American Bandstand, this book reveals how the first national television program directed at teens discriminated against black youth during its early years and how black teens and civil rights advocates protested this discrimination."

Clark had his own explanation for the racial makeup of the teens who danced on the show. From a 1998 Q&A interview with William Kashatus in Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine:

"Philadelphia, in those days, was the northernmost 'southern' city in the country. Blacks and whites didn't socialize. That's just the way it was. Then, in 1957, at the time we went national, producer Tony Mammarella and I concluded, 'The times they are a-changing,' and so we invited a few black kids on the show. It still wasn't acceptable for them to dance with white kids, so the blacks just danced with each other. We were waiting for the explosion, but it never happened. The wonderful part about our decision to integrate then was that there were no repercussions, no reverberations, no battles at all — it just happened right there on a television screen in front of millions of people. That was a giant step forward.'

" 'We also introduced a lot of black musical talent to white America and I'd imagine that since the show was so highly visible and seen by so many millions of people, the idea of integration simply crept into society. There was no overt statement, no headline grabbing, no trumpets blaring — it just happened. And that was probably the best way for it to occur. I certainly didn't think of myself as a hero or a civil rights activist for integrating the show; it was just the right thing to do....' "

L.A. Times Delayed Publishing Afghan Photos 72 Hours

"Key editors at the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday explained the decision to publish a story and pictures of U.S. soldiers posing with body parts of Afghan suicide bombers, after questions were raised by the White House, the Pentagon and readers," Michael Muskal wrote Wednesday for the Los Angeles Times.

Davan Maharaj

"In a live chat on, Editor Davan Maharaj explained the decision to publish the material, especially the pictures, even though the events occurred two years ago. The publication comes at an especially sensitive time, with the U.S. and its NATO allies seeking to disengage from the Afghanistan war that began in October 2001.

" 'We considered this very carefully' Maharaj said. 'At the end of the day, our job is to publish information that our readers need to make informed decisions. We have a particular duty to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan. On balance, in this case, we felt that the public interest here was served by publishing a limited, but representative sample of these photos, along with a story explaining the circumstances under which they were taken.' "

Maharaj also said that the newspaper weighed the impact of publication on troop safety and that reporter David Zucchino had numerous conversations with the appropriate military officials.

"When we made the decision to publish, the Pentagon asked us to wait 24 additional hours to protect troops depicted in the photographs," Maharaj said. "We agreed to push back our publication date until the Pentagon told us they had taken the necessary precautions. In fact, we waited more than 72 hours after their request."

Still, "George Little, the Pentagon press secretary, suggested that the newspaper’s decision could put U.S. troops at risk. 'The danger is that this material could be used by the enemy to incite violence against U.S. and Afghan service members,' he said in a statement," Craig Whitlock reported for the Washington Post.

Maharaj, a Trinidadian whose great-grandparents came from northern India, was named to the top newsroom job in December. He had been managing editor.

Winner Says Pulitzer Is Endorsement of Diversity

Wesley Morris, the African American film critic for the Boston Globe who Wesley Morris addressed his Boston Globe colleagues Monday, as editor Martin Barwon the Pulitzer Prize for criticism on Monday, said Wednesday that his award speaks to the need "to have everybody in on the conversation."

He noted that black journalists Margo Jefferson of the New York Times won the same award in 1995, and Robin Givhan of the Washington Post received it in 2006.

Morris appeared on NPR's "Tell Me More" with Michel Martin.

Martin asked, "Do you think that this prize — unexpected, well deserved, in our opinion — does this expand the universe of what you think you can do? It's no secret that, you know, our business, in general, is in some difficulty, particularly on the newspaper side, if you don't mind my saying."

Morris replied, "No. It's true."

MARTIN: "Does this change anything? Do you think it expands the universe of what people think is possible?"

MORRIS: "That's a really complicated question. I will say this: You know, Margo Jefferson and Robin Givhan and I are three African American people who've won this prize and I think that we have won it for doing work that is beyond the purview of race, but is not unaware of it and is willing to take it into consideration.

"I think that what it actually says to me — it's something that I've been thinking a lot about with this Trayvon Martin situation — which is that it's really important to have everybody in on the conversation. It's really important to have everybody looking at things and perceiving things and have other people listening to what other people are seeing.

"I mean, I feel really lucky to have this job. I feel really lucky to be a critic of anything. I really value that, but I also sort of understand what I bring to the table as someone who is, you know, several minorities and..." [Morris did not respond to a request to explain "several minorities."]

MARTIN: "OK. All right."

MORRIS: " know, interested in a lot of different things."

More than Dozen of Color Seek Washington Post Buyout

"We have learned today that 32 Guild-covered employees have chosen to accept the company's buyout offer," Fredrick Kunkle, Co-Chair, News of the Washington Post unit of the Newspaper Guild, wrote Wednesday in a memo to colleagues.

"We do not know how many editors have elected to participate in the buyouts, but union reps are hearing that the number probably puts the total close to 50.

"It also appears, as many of you have been hearing, that a high number of the participants are Asian, African-American or Latino. By our count, more than a dozen of these Guild-covered employees are minorities, most of whom are black. We thought we would tell you as soon as we knew the numbers, but we won’t be giving out any names. In what has to be one of the most dismal weeks in recent Post history (blogger resignation, buyout deadline and Pulitzer skunking, in case you're keeping score at home), we certainly wish the best for those who have decided to leave."

The Post is offering a severance payment equal to 3.25 weeks of pay for every year of service, according to the Guild. Staffers had until 5 p.m. Monday to apply for the buyout but have seven days to change their minds.

Moreover, Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli said in a February memo, ". . . In those departments where we do offer the buyout, there will be caps on the number of people who can participate, in order to moderate the impact and preserve our competitiveness in core coverage areas. In addition, we may turn down some volunteers if we feel their departure would impair our journalism."

In addition to concern that a disproportionate number of journalists of color might be leaving, some Post journalists are noting that staffers of color, particularly African Americans, were not assigned in great numbers to the units that were considered "essential," such as the National and Foreign news staffs. Blacks were represented most on the staffs of "non-essential" units, such as Local news.

Black, Latino Support for Obama at Same Level as in '08

Fully 95 percent of blacks back President Obama for reelection — identical to the black vote for Obama in 2008, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reported on Tuesday.

"Hispanic registered voters back Obama by a 67% to 27% margin. The Hispanic vote was 67% Obama, 31% McCain four years ago," it said, referring to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

"These figures also are consistent with a Pew Hispanic Center survey of 557 Latino registered voters in December, in which 68% backed Obama and 23% Romney despite widespread dissatisfaction with Obama’s immigration policies," it continued in a reference to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the likely Republican nominee.

The Pew survey was released a day before a CBS News/New York Times poll found that Romney has closed the gap with Obama among registered voters, putting Romney in a dead heat with the president for the White House.

Obama and Romney each received support from 46 percent of registered voters when asked who they would vote for if the election were held today.

Short Takes

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Make the UNITY Name Change Vote Inclusive or Rescind It

UNITY you now need to send that name change vote to the conventioneers or rescind it. Why not ask paying journalists to vote instead of fast tracking such a historic branding for the newbie organization?

UNITY of what?  Acquiescence??  

How many of today's naysaying UNITY board members can honestly say they can recall the blood, sweat and pain suffered by journalists of color here, who only want visibility and equality under the First Amendment of the nation where they practice their craft. Some still don't have it!  

 How many voting members really care? This name change doesn't make any sense without most voices included.  And "Teary eyed???" UNITY board members, your sadness only reflects that you know this decision was wrong.  

Let's practice democracy. What say you, Unity Attendee?  I attend and I say keep the name that promotes visibility for journalists of color and add a new tag phrase for the new organization. "Journalists of Color and..."  Then let the newbies decide on the "and."

Remember, if the National Association of Black Journalists pulled out of UNITY, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association may one day do the same.  Be smarter. Ask yourselves now, "Then what?"  And "Why?"


Author Says Don't Forget Dick Clark's Philly Segregation


The answer to Dick Clark's segregated program was Douglas "Jocko" Henderson. Jocko was a DJ (Philly, NY and several big markets) who had a dance program on New York's WNET/WNTA(Chn 13), which aired from Newark, NJ. This was the only place to see faces of color.

Jocko has been called the “Father of  Rap.” His Rocket Ship show patter went like this:

Eee-tiddly-ock. This is the jock. And I'm back on the scene with the record machine, saying ooh-pop-a-doo, how do you do?

The Ace from Space died in 2000 at the age of 82.


Unity Name Change: Bullied and Disrespected

Peter Ortiz of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists beautifully summed up the disunity in Unity caused by the NLGJA's insistence on dropping "of color" from its named.  Peter wrote: "When NLGJA joined UNITY: Journalists of Color, they became part of our family and I fully embraced them as equal partners. But joining our family means respecting its roots, respecting why we became a family in the first place, and respecting how the issues we face are as real today as they were when we joined together.

The name change boiled down to lack of respect. NLGJA is blinded by its own ambition to leverage, bend and co-opt an already proven organization to serve its own political and social agenda. I guarantee you. Certainly emasculation. Disrespecting Unity's origins is just the beginning. Plain and simple NLGJA is a bully and I'm puzzled as to why the other orgs let it be. How different is this name change from the powerful bullying history behind Toby vs Kunta Kinte or John not Juan, Joseph not Jose or Peter rather than Pedro. Just go ahead and kill who we are because who we are doesn't matter to someone else? I'm not feeling NLGJA.

UNITY name change was a foregone conclusion, but...

It was a foregone conclusion that UNITY would have to change its name once NLGJA became a partner. I would have liked to see NABJ included in the discussion after a reunification. Making such a momentous decision before resolving the NABJ rift is going to make reunification more difficult. I hope it hasn't made it impossible. Good luck to all working on ReUNITY.


name change

I ask how can an organization (NLGJA) that has done nothing to help push the goals of UNITY demand a name change? They have not spent one penny, not spent one second of organizing, or done one second of work to further the gains of the original UNITY group. They should be ashamed of themselves, and the voting members of the Unity board should also be ashamed to have been pushed around by (NLGJA).  

Unity Journalists who don't care what members think

Two words: petition!

Peter Ortiz's remarks about UNITY's name change

Well said, Peter Ortiz.  As someone who attended UNITY '94 on his own dime and was enriched by the gathering of so many talented journalists in one place and time, I really am saddened by this squabbling and infighting when the larger issue of getting people of color into journalism and keeping them there is being overlooked.

NLGJA really has clumsily overplayed their hand and as the new kids on the block, they should have enough respect for the organization they joined to realize how insensitive their insistence "journalists of color" be purged would be received.   Within NABJ this decision has only emboldened the contingent that never wanted to be part of UNITY in the first place and has no desire to reconcile the differences between NABJ and the other groups.

What's almost funny is how with this autocratic decision handed down from on high by the UNITY board to its members, they have emulated the mistake of the NABJ board in 2011 when they did the same thing in their decision to withdraw from the coalition. 

When these board members think they should call the shots and the membership should simply roll over and accept it they lose the trust of their members. 


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