Archive for June, 2012

Commission verifies NABJ decision to exit UNITY
June 21, 2012

The National Association of Black Journalists should not go back to the Unity coalition “at this time,” a commission appointed by NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr. recommended Tuesday, and Juan Gonzalez of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, a Unity founder, told Journal-isms that the commission made the right decision.

“There comes a time when you must admit, even those of us who labored for years to create and preserve this unique alliance of journalists of color, that things have radically changed, that UNITY has lost its way, Gonzalez said in a statement.

Keith Reed, the NABJ treasurer who led the commission, voiced the same sentiment in an interview at the NABJ convention, which opened officially Wednesday in New Orleans.

After NABJ left the Unity coalition last year over financial and governance issues, leaving behind the national associations of Hispanic, Asian American and Native American journalists, the remaining Unity partners invited the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association to join and changed the name from “Unity: Journalists of Color, Inc.” to “Unity Journalists.”

Admission of NLGJA “was not the basis of our decision,” Reed said. “Unity had already begun to move away from its roots.”

The coalition began as a vehicle for “co-located conventions” of the partner associations, Reed said. “What it was doing was raising a lot of money,” moving toward merging organizations and “in many instances competing with one another for revenue.”

Unity was never intended to be an organization with an executive director and a full-time staff, he said.

Reed said the commission’s recommendation did not require NABJ board action and applied only to what the thinking is “right now.” Other members of the commission — Rochelle Riley, Zuri Berry, Herbert Sample, Joe Davidson and Sidmel Estes — had their own reasons for their decisions, he said.

In October, Unity President Joanna Hernandez named John Yearwood, who was one of the final NABJ representatives to Unity and opposed the NABJ pullout, as chair of a 10-member Unity President’s Reunification Commission, a counterpart to the NABJ panel appointed by Lee.

Yearwood, who is at the NABJ convention, said his commission could not advise the Unity president until it had a proposal from NABJ, which, as of now, will not be forthcoming.

Juan Gonzalez, who is credited with originating the Unity concept and was silent when the coalition accepted the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, said Tuesday that the National Association of Black Journalists was right to leave the coalition.

By accepting NLGJA and dropping “Journalists of Color” from its name, Unity “revealed . . . little understanding of the sacrifices and struggles made by so many journalists of color who preceded us.”

Gonzalez, a former president of NAHJ, took a position contrary to that of the current NAHJ leadership. On the Unity board, NAHJ President Michele Salcedo seconded the motion to drop “Journalists of Color” from the Unity name. The motion passed 11-4 with one abstention.

Here is Gonzalez’s statement:

When NABJ’s board of directors voted to leave UNITY a year ago, I argued publicly against the split.

“Leadership on both sides, I said then, should have been more responsive to legitimate governance and financial issues raised by NABJ. Like my longtime friends and colleagues, Will Sutton and Joe Davidson, and like hundreds of other journalists of color within the alliance, I was deeply troubled that the current leaderships of the various organizations failed to find a way to resolve their differences.

But before the schism could be properly assessed and perhaps rectified, the UNITY board turned its attention instead to incorporating another group, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, into the alliance. By doing so in such rapid fashion, UNITY leaders effectively discarded the core mission that made the group such a powerful voice in American journalism since its founding conference in Atlanta in 1994. They revealed, moreover, little understanding of the sacrifices and struggles made by so many journalists of color who preceded us.

Our four organizations were all the product of two centuries of unfinished business within our nation and our media system — the fight against all vestiges of racial and ethnic segregation and discrimination.

Saying this in no way belittles or marginalizes similar efforts to oppose other types of discrimination, whether based on gender, sexual orientation, age, or physical disabilities.

But racial and ethnic bias has proven to be the most persistent, most divisive, most intractable of social inequities. The great moral authority of UNITY was its role as the key organization advocating better coverage of race and equal opportunity for journalists of color. Its power came from being organized and led solely by journalists of color. So when UNITY rushed to incorporate NLGJA before properly addressing the departure of NABJ — the largest and most influential group within the alliance — it sent a clear signal, whether intended or not, that racial and ethnic equality was no longer its main mission.

The leaders of UNITY, many of them my friends, will no doubt argue differently. But the same logic that says NLGJA belongs in UNITY holds true as well for Women in Communications, for the Association of Women Journalists, for the [South] Asian Journalists Association, etc.

Back in 1827, in the inaugural issue of America’s first black newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, editors Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm declared: “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.” So, too, did UNITY “plead the cause” of journalists and communities of color in noble fashion from 1994 to 2011. Then, a grand alliance lost its way in a well-intended but nonetheless misguided search for numbers over purpose.

So I extend my best wishes to the members of NABJ for a successful convention this week. Events of the past year have unfortunately proven you made the right decision. The pursuit of racial and ethnic equality in the media continues. All of our organizations, both those that currently exist and those yet to be created, are only vehicles toward that end. And when one of those organizations takes a different road, sometimes it is best to part.

As the NABJ convention starts today in New Orleans, diversity in journalism takes a big hit
June 20, 2012

By Steve Myers
African-Americans were disproportionately hit in last week’s layoffs at The Times-Picayune, meaning the newspaper serving the majority-black city will become less diverse unless the difference is made up with new hires.

“The lack of diversity that will be suffered in these newsrooms is unacceptable, and will result in more losses for these companies as consumers will go elsewhere to find news that is truly representative of their community,” said National Association of Black Journalists President Greg Lee in a news release last week.

NABJ opens its annual convention in New Orleans today. The association has offered free registration for its career fair to journalists cut from the Picayune and Advance’s three papers in Alabama.

The Times-Picayune reported that 84 of 173 people in the newsroom were laid off, a loss of 48.5 percent. According to a list I assembled (based on conversations with multiple people in the newsroom) 14 of 26 African-Americans in the newsroom lost their jobs — a 53.8 percent cut. That includes editors, reporters and administrative personnel.

A 5.3 percentage-point difference may not appear to be much, but it erodes the newspaper’s diversity. The Times-Picayune didn’t participate in the latest ASNE census, but according to the list I assembled, the newsroom would have been 15 percent African-American before the layoffs. If no African-Americans are hired into the new operation, it would be 13.5 percent. (Other departments of the company, such as the press room, have more black employees and were cut significantly.)

Even if the company hired no African-Americans to work at the company once it cuts back on print and shifts to the Web, the Picayune’s newsroom still would be more diverse than the industry average of 12.32 percent. (My figures for the Picayune account only for African-Americans; it would be slightly higher when other journalists of color are included.)

The whitening of The Times-Picayune newsroom matches an industry trend; the latest ASNE diversity census showed that minorities lost their jobs at twice the industry average in the past year. That follows two years of disproportionate losses for minorities.

NABJ president remains reticent about UNITY
June 20, 2012

A National Association of Black Journalists commission has decided that the organization will not reunite with Unity. President Greg Lee said NABJ — which is having its annual convention in New Orleans this week — will officially announce the news to its members during a business meeting on Saturday.

“We just felt that Unity lost its way as an advocacy organization,” Lee said by phone. “It’s not the same as it was when we first joined.”

There’s a lack of governance structure within Unity, he said, and it’s no longer financially prudent for NABJ to be part of the alliance. NABJ’s decision to withdraw from Unity in April 2011 stirred mixed reactions from members, some of whom voted to seek reunification.

Lee talked with Unity President Joanna Hernandez about reunifying, but ultimately wanted it to be an internal decision. He created a commission to assess the relationship between the two organizations, and appointed members who were in favor of NABJ’s withdrawal as well as some who were opposed to it.

“They were part of this whole process, and while they understand that it’s a painful thing to do, after examining all the issue and aspects, they now too agree that we should remain out,” Lee said. “They realize things have changed, and I think the membership will agree.”

NABJ convention details
June 19, 2012

Here is the program book for this year’s convention in New Orleans.

KCABJ Newsletter for June 2012
June 19, 2012

KCABJ Academy
Six students this year were accepted into the KCABJ Urban Student Journalism Academy. The orientation was Saturday, June 2 at The Kansas City Star’s Press Pavilion.

The academy started early this year because of a scheduling conflict with the convention of the National Association of Black Journalists in New Orleans. The academy ran from June 4 through June15 at the Metropolitan Community College – Penn Valley.

The students were Selchia Cain, a sophomore at Drake University; Kamariah Al-Amin, a senior at the Afrikan Centered Education Collegium Campus; Breana Jordan, a freshman at Duke University; Miesha Miller, a senior at Raytown High School; Archie L. Wilson, a freshman at Webster University; and Martae Thibeaux, a sophomore at Staley High School.

KCABJ President Glenn E. Rice led the first week of the academy, concentrating on print journalism. The students were required to read The Kansas City Star each day, take current events quizzes and spelling tests.

KCABJ Vice President/Broadcast Robyn King led the students through the broadcast week with guest speakers from the radio and television stations in town as well as newsmakers. Guest speakers during the first week of the academy included Mi-Ai Parrish, publisher and president of The Kansas City Star; Randall Hundley, deputy chief of the Kansas City Police Department; and Steve Green, superintendent of the Kansas City Public Schools.

In a message to KCABJ members, Glenn gave special thanks to KCABJ members Lori Oyler, Pamela Spencer and Amber Mobley for working with the students each day on the re-writes and editing needed on the many stories.

Robyn had the students re-do their print stories for the radio newscast. KCTV-5 was there the students did their TV newscast. Special thanks go to KCTV-5 and to KPRS-FM and Carter Broadcasting for allowing the students to do their broadcast work at those stations.

KCABJ funds the program entirely through its budget, which includes meals for the students and faculty as well as the cost of insurance, which Penn Valley requires.

The 37th annual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists starts June 20 and runs through June 24 in New Orleans. It will include a jobs fair, sessions on New Orleans post-Katrina, and Trayvon Martin and covering a crime story in the digital age.

Of course there will be partying, too.

UNITY 2012 takes place separate from the NABJ convention because of conflicts that surfaced last year over representation and financing. UNITY will be in Las Vegas later this year.

Check out the new, improved, redesigned KCABJ Web site. KCABJ Vice President/Print Ramanda Hicks has worked diligently this year to get the site redesigned and fully functional. It had been spotty before.

Now members can go to the site to find out the latest news about KCABJ and the news industry. Check it out at