In a release about the name change, Unity wrote that members of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, which just recently joined the alliance, said they might not attend this year’s Unity convention if the group didn’t drop “journalists of color” from its name.
NLGJA President David Steinberg told me the statement was not a threat. The bigger issue, he said, was that NLGJA members didn’t think “journalists of color” was inclusive enough.
“We were passing along concerns raised by some of our members and, like some of our alliance partners, expressed the feeling that the more inclusive name would help ensure a more successful and welcoming convention,” Steinberg said via email.
He noted that all of the alliance presidents and at least half of each alliance board delegation voted in favor of the name drop on Monday.
“I’m happy and proud that the Unity board overwhelmingly voted to change the name of the group to Unity Journalists, a more inclusive name that accurately represents the alliance,” Steinberg said. “The vote reflects the recognition that Unity’s mission has expanded to focus on a broad range of diversity issues — while still staying true to its origins.”
Not everyone, however, was happy with the vote. Unity President Joanna Hernandez told Journal-isms’ Richard Prince that she “got teary-eyed” and was “immensely sad” that the board voted to drop “journalists of color.” As president, Hernandez didn’t have a say in the vote.
Gregory Lee, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, called the vote “most unfortunate.”
“UNITY can change its name, Unity can change its logo, this is just makeup covering the problems that still remain,” Lee told Journal-isms’ Prince. “UNITY’s recent change over the weekend signals another official conflict with the association’s mission and incorporation language. They could consider dissolving and re-organize under a new name.”
NABJ withdrew from Unity last April, saying it was no longer financially prudent to be part of the alliance. At the time, NABJ’s withdrawal raised questions about the survival of Unity and the remaining three journalism minority associations that comprised it — the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association.
In September, NLGJA accepted an invitation to join Unity, sparking debate over whether the group’s inclusion had changed the mission of Unity. In a follow-up announcement about the alliance’s name change, Unity said its mission remains unchanged.
NABJ’s Lee says he recently talked with the presidents of NAHJ, AAJA and Unity and believes they’re beginning to understand NABJ’s concerns. Unity’s Hernandez told Prince this week: “I want NABJ back so badly to help us shape the future of Unity.” It’s still unknown whether NABJ will rejoin.