November 13, 2013

The Asian American Journalists Association recently expressed concerns with Unity’s “strategic direction, its relevance in the industry and Unity’s value for the remaining alliance partners,” according to an e-mail to members on Tuesday.

Paul Cheung, AAJA president and global interactive editor at the Associated Press, told Poynter via phone AAJA’s board met recently with Unity President David Steinberg. Some members feel Unity is critical, he said, and some question the organization’s existence without the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the National Association of Black Journalists.

On Oct. 22, NAHJ voted to leave Unity. NABJ withdrew from the organization in 2011.

“I think people are just questioning the identity of Unity,” Cheung said. “It’s a little bit existential.”

Unity isn’t what it was when it first began, Cheung said. But newsrooms have changed in that time, too.

“So I think the question is, what is that new identity?”

AAJA remains committed to Unity’s mission, Cheung said, “but at the same time, we really need some of these issues to be addressed.”

The AAJA board would like to be part of that discussion, he said, and they’d like to see concrete steps in answering them, not just abstract ones.

“It could be a second act for Unity,” he said.

“I share Paul’s desire to work with AAJA and the other partners to remake UNITY into an effective organization that will promote and advance media diversity,” Steinberg said in an email to Poynter. “We have already taken steps to make that happen, and the board will be working hard over the next few weeks — leading up to our board meeting in December — to settle on the specific, concrete changes to the alliance.”

Here’s the full message from AAJA:


Dear AAJA Members:

The governing board met in San Francisco during the first weekend of November. In addition to normal AAJA business – including planning your 2014 convention in D.C.! – the board representatives had a chance to meet with UNITY President David Steinberg and NABJ President Bob Butler, both of whom are based in San Francisco.

NABJ President Bob Butler told our board that his number one priority remains newsroom diversity. We heartily agree.

We also appreciated the ability to communicate our concerns about UNITY’s future to David Steinberg. In particular, the board spoke about UNITY’s strategic direction, its relevance in the industry and UNITY’s value for the remaining alliance partners. Of course, we also spoke about the need to remain engaged with NAHJ, NABJ and the industry at large. We also discussed financial expectations of the existing relationship.

On a related note, over the weekend the UNITY board adopted a resolution directing the UNITY president to work with the organization’s attorney to end efforts to collect convention proceeds from AAJA.

UNITY’s board is meeting in mid-December. Many of our concerns will be on the agenda. In the interim, your governing board is convening meetings with our AAJA representatives on the UNITY board, as well as continuing discussions with all alliance members, as well as NABJ and NAHJ on future partnerships.

AAJA remains committed to our founding mission of promoting diversity in newsrooms across the country. We are open to working with UNITY to try to address some of the issues that have led to its current predicament. We remain committed to the idea of joining hands with other groups, while also taking a hard look at whether UNITY, as currently run, is the best means of achieving that goal.

We continue to see your feedback as well. Thanks to those who have already used the Google form to provide information. All questions and input should be directed to the Google form.


AAJA Governing Board

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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