Unity attendance down after divorce with NABJ

The Root | The New York Times | Journal-isms

Attendance at the Unity convention in Las Vegas is down substantially after its split with the National Association of Black Journalists, reports Richard Prince: "over 2,000" compared with 7,550 in 2008. More than one-third of the attendees in 2008 were NABJ members.

NABJ drew 2,386 registrants to its convention in New Orleans, Prince reports.

At times on Wednesday, convention speakers pretended NABJ did not exist, and they continued to call the gathering the world's or the nation's largest meeting of journalists. At other times, they expressed hopes that NABJ would return to Unity, which first met in 1994. Mentions of the newest partner, [the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association], drew applause from NLGJA members.

NABJ withdrew from Unity in 2011 due to financial issues. The split between the two groups deepened after Unity changed its name from "Unity: Journalists of Color" to "Unity Journalists" after a request from the NLGJA. The New York Times' Tanzina Vega captured a range of opinions on the split and Unity's focus.

Some of the tension over the inclusion of gay journalists’ group stems from the lack of racial and ethnic diversity among its members, a fact recognized by Mr. Steinberg, who said the group was trying to increase diversity in its ranks. “I know the perception among some folks of color is that N.L.G.J.A. is an organization run by a bunch of white guys,” said [Michelle] Johnson of Boston University. But she added, “there are white guys that are in the organization who have also faced discrimination in the newsroom.”

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists, also a member of Unity, is dealing with its own turmoil. The organization kicked a journalist from the convention's student reporting service out of its board meeting.

Nadia Khan, the reporter who was kicked out, wrote that NAHJ President Michele Salcedo told her that the board banned "credentialed press coverage," including Twitter and Facebook, in 2010. Salcedo defended the policy, telling members "we're not a government entity" and "we're not required to be open to the public," Prince reports.

"If you have tweets . . . sent out at every point of the discussion, it doesn't necessarily encapsulate the decisions that have been made," Salcedo said. "It is misinformation because it is not complete. "Once we make a decision, we do communicate that. We are responsible to the members. We are not a publicly held corporation."

The response from USA Today's Marisol Bello: "We're a nonprofit organization made up of journalists. You don't represent an organization of baseball players. Everything we're about is about openness and learning about what's going on." The most heated discussion at the meeting regarded this year's negative campaigns for the organization's leadership roles.

Earlier: Unity hopes to reunite with NABJ but fails to actively address concernsAs solvency and solidarity collide with NABJ departure, how will UNITY survive? | NABJ commission decides not to rejoin Unity

  • Steve Myers

    Steve Myers was the managing editor of Poynter.org until August 2012, when he became the deputy managing editor and senior staff writer for The Lens, a nonprofit investigative news site in New Orleans.


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