NABJ president says boycotting Orlando convention would cost more than $1 million

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The Maynard Institute for Journalism Education’s Richard Prince writes that the National Association of Black Journalists would lose more than $1 million if it were to pull out of its Orlando convention, scheduled for July 31-Aug. 4.

Some members of the organizations have called for the group to leave Florida following the trial of George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla. NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr. told Prince in an email that such a move wouldn’t be feasible under the terms of the group’s contract with the hotel. But registrations already seem to be lower than prior conventions.

“We are still processing registrations but from early reports it looks like we will have a more intimate convention along the lines of San Diego or Indianapolis, two of our better conventions.” Lee said in an email. “While the turnout may not be as great as when we are in a top tier city, we look forward to an amazing time in Orlando.”

While NABJ attracted 2,586 registrants last year in New Orleans, the 2010 convention in San Diego had about 1,670 registrants, a spokeswoman said at the time. The Indianapolis convention in 2006 saw about 2,200 people register, but it “was not the income juggernaut that it needs to be for NABJ to have a successful year,” treasurer John Yearwood said then. NABJ ended that year with a deficit.

A boycott, Lee told Journal-isms, would be impractical and costly and fail to take advantage of a “unique opportunity” for black journalists.

Lee wrote in an email to members that the organization anticipated a verdict prior to the convention and “had already extended an invitation to the Martin family to participate in a panel,” as well as journalists covering the trial, political commentators, community leaders and the Zimmerman family, Prince noted.

Many people nationwide are supporting the Florida boycott, including Stevie Wonder. The Grio’s Randee Dawn reports that during a Sunday concert in Quebec, Wonder said he will not visit the Sunshine State after the verdict.

“I decided today that until the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law is abolished in Florida, I will never perform there again,” he told the audience. “As a matter of fact, wherever I find that law exists, I will not perform in that state or in that part of the world.”

A MoveOn.org petition has been started to boycott the state’s tourism industry, stating: “Florida is not a safe place to take your family for vacation as long as Florida law permits a citizen to shoot or kill you for merely looking suspicious, and to do it with impunity.” The petition encourages signees to “boycott Florida tourism until this dangerous law is overturned.”

There also is a Boycott Florida Facebook page, which The Root’s Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele highlighted:

Creators of the “Boycott Florida” Facebook page want state legislators to repeal the “Stand your ground” law that shielded Zimmerman from prosecution. According to the group’s Facebook description, it hopes that “an economic embargo on Florida’s industry will force corporations to use their power, money and influence to stand with us against Stand Your Ground.”

The page’s logo is a Mickey Mouse face behind a red slash.

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