With convention attendance down, time to rethink purpose of Unity?

Journal-ismsOriginal Spin | OutQ News
Unity Executive Director Onica Makwakwa is leaving the organization to take a job with a consumer protection group in her native South Africa. She “bore the brunt of criticism for any administrative shortcomings, which became a factor in the pullout of the National Association of Black Journalists last year,” Richard Prince reports.

With convention attendance down at this year’s Unity convention, NABJ’s absence and little interaction among the remaining constituencies, Wall Street Journal columnist Jeff Yang wonders if Unity should be disbanded. An event-planning organization could organize the quadrennial convention more cheaply, he writes:

Meanwhile, the conference could throw participation open to all common-cause journalism organizations that speak for underrepresented communities — following the direction already taken in inviting NLGJA to the table.

Why not invite the National Center for Disability & Journalism to participate, or the International Women’s Media Foundation and the Association for Women Journalists? Why not outreach to New America Media, which represents a network of over 3000 ethnic news enterprises?

Why not see this convention as a kind of quadrennial joint congress of underrepresented groups in journalism, as opposed to an entrenched and restrictive partnership among a fixed coalition of groups?

NABJ’s absence was a big topic of conversation at the convention in Las Vegas. OutQ News writes that ESPN’s LZ Granderson confirmed suspicions of some gay journalists who believe NABJ had opposed bringing the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association into Unity. Unity invited NLGJA several months after NABJ dropped out, citing financial reasons.

According to OutQ News, Granderson said:

“Homophobia has played a role in this tension, race has certainly played a role in this tension, money has played a role in this tension. And ALL of those things need to be talked about and hashed and on the table, not just the ones that are P.C.”

The new board of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists also narrowly voted to rescind its policy against live-tweeting its board meetings, which caused some controversy last week.

At a board meeting of the Asian American Journalists Association, president Doris Truong said tweeting was permitted. “We’re not in China.”

Earlier: Unity president ‘immensely sad’ when alliance voted to drop ‘journalists of color’ from nameAs solvency and solidarity collide with NABJ departure, how will UNITY survive?

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  • Tracie Powell

    Context: The National Association of Black Journalists had the first openly gay president, Tom Morgan. 
    http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071230/NEWS/712300354/-1/rss01

    Respectfully, Mr. Granderson is perfectly within his rights to express his own perceptions, but he shouldn’t at the same time re-write NABJ’s history. I find it difficult to believe that the same organization whose members elected an openly gay president would suddenly have problems admitting NLGJA because said members are now homophobic. It just doesn’t add up. 

    I do agree with Mr. Yang, it is time for UNITY to re-examine it’s business model, which is the very thing NABJ asked for in the first place.