The associations representing journalists from the nation’s two largest groups of color — blacks and Hispanics — have signed a memorandum of understanding to hold a joint convention in 2016, Bob Butler, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, and Hugo Balta, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, announced on Thursday.
The two presidents held a news conference at the NABJ convention in Boston, which had attracted 1,984 paid registrants as of Wednesday night and is expected to exceed 2,000 on Thursday. The prospect of a joint 2016 meeting could attract 3,000 journalists in that election year, the presidents said. “I want a [presidential] debate at NABJ-NAHJ 2106,” Butler said at the news conference.
A convention of 3,000 journalists of color would make it the largest such conference since the 2008 Unity: Journalists of Color meeting in Chicago. Some 7,550 attended on its final Sunday, though that figure includes sponsors and others who were not registered.
The 2012 Unity conference, held without NABJ but including NAHJ, the Asian American Journalists Association, the Native American Journalists Association and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, registered 2,385 people, Unity’s executive director said at the time.
The idea of a joint convention between NABJ and NAHJ was broached a year ago at the Hispanic journalists convention in Anaheim, Calif., as Balta made a case to his members for withdrawing from the Unity: Journalists for Diversity coalition. NABJ had already withdrawn, citing governance and financial issues. NAHJ followed later in 2013.
“We need to be there in Washington, D.C.,” Balta told Journal-isms then. Butler said Thursday, however, that the choice of cities would depend on “who’s going to give us the best deal.”
Still to be resolved are such issues as revenue- and cost-sharing between the two groups. Once those are settled and the two organizations contract to hold the convention together, a request for proposals is to be published. Darryl R. Matthews Sr., the NABJ executive director, said he expected the process to be “wrapped up” by the end of the year.
Unity: Journalists for Diversity, which includes AAJA, NAJA and NLGJA, has not announced its plans for 2016.
However, Butler said, the NABJ-NAHJ event should not be compared with Unity. “Unity was an organization. This is two organizations working collaboratively to have a convention.”