Boycott of Florida Would Cost NABJ $1M

The black journalists' group considered changing its upcoming convention location to protest George Zimmerman's acquittal.

Post-Zimmerman-verdict protests July 14 in New York City (Stan Honda/Getty Images)
Post-Zimmerman-verdict protests July 14 in New York City (Stan Honda/Getty Images)

Association Wants Martin, Zimmerman Families in Orlando

Even though some members of the National Association of Black Journalists are so upset by the not-guilty verdict delivered George Zimmerman that they urged NABJ to pull out of Florida for the convention scheduled in two weeks, such a pullout would cost the association more than $1 million, NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr. told Journal-isms on Monday.

In an emailed message to members, Lee wrote, “NABJ’s convention team anticipated a verdict would be reached before the convention. The team had already extended an invitation to the [Trayvon] Martin family to participate in a panel. The team also extended an invitation to journalists covering the trial as well as political commentators and community leaders. We also plan to extend an invitation to the Zimmerman family as well. We as black journalists have a role here; we must examine this story and the ramifications of the tragedy of Trayvon Martin’s death, as well as the ramifications of the verdict in the Zimmerman trial, from all sides. . . .”

The Zimmerman verdict has dominated black conversation since it was announced Saturday night. The Pew Research Center reported Monday, “The final days of the trial of George Zimmerman, which concluded July 13 with a verdict of not guilty, attracted relatively modest public interest overall. In a weekend survey, 26% say they were following news about the trial very closely. . . .”

It added, “However, the story has consistently attracted far more interest among blacks than whites — and that remained the case in the trial’s final days. Blacks are more than twice as likely as whites to say they tracked news about the Zimmerman trial very closely (56% vs. 20%).

“Moreover, fully 67% of blacks say they watched at least some live coverage of the Zimmerman trial, compared with 38% of whites. About one-in-five blacks (21%) say they watched ‘almost all’ of the trial coverage; just 5% of whites reported watching almost all of it. . . .”

Nevertheless, “Despite breaking late on a weekend evening, the verdict in the murder trial of George Zimmerman attracted an audience of more than 10 million viewers to cable news networks, a huge total for a Saturday night,” Bill Carter reported for the New York Times.

“Preliminary ratings showed that for the hour from 10 to 11 p.m. when the verdict came in, Fox News and CNN both attracted well over 3 million viewers, while MSNBC trailed badly with only about 1.3 million. . . .”

While calls for a boycott of Florida were not widespread, entertainer Stevie Wonder pledged not to play in Florida until the “Stand Your Ground” law is abolished, Randee Dwan reported for NBC News.

Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele wrote Monday for the Root, “If it grows in Florida, was made in Florida or makes money in Florida, then it is eligible to be included in a list of products and businesses that some Trayvon Martin supporters will boycott as a way to protest the not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman second-degree-murder trial.” She asked readers to participate in a poll on the issue.

Some NABJ members using social media called on NABJ to cancel its convention, scheduled July 31-Aug. 4 in Orlando. A radio member acknowledged, “I know it’s too late for #NABJ to cancel their Orlando convention, but I urge everyone going to spend as little as possible.” A Chicago member retorted that black and brown workers would be hurt most.

Many cash-strapped NABJ members were already passing up the convention.

“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.

“If NABJ decided to pull out of the convention in Orlando, it would cost the association over $1 million when you consider the hotel would revert back to the original terms of the contract signed in December 2006,” Lee wrote in an email.

“This would include the 4,399 room nights we reserved at least at the $220 rate plus at least half of the food and beverage guarantees NABJ signed in the agreement. It would be impractical for NABJ to move out of the state with the other commitments we have to stage an event with our sponsors and more importantly the expenses already incurred by the membership to attend the convention.

“I have heard from many members of their conflict because of what happened in the Zimmerman trial. Be we and other black professional organizations” that have conventions in Florida this summer “have the unique opportunity to have our voices heard on this issue. Our organization will engage our membership and the community into the many facets of this story. We would encourage our members to be engaged and take what they have learned during these discussions back to the newsrooms and make a difference there. We will engage with many national leaders to break down the entire case.”

Lee’s note to members said that on Thursday, Aug. 1, Roland S. Martin, honorary convention chair, will host NABJ’s opening plenary session, “NABJ Live.” “Among the topics Martin will tackle during this forum will be the Zimmerman trial, gun violence and the Voting Rights Act.

“Also during this session, we will interview prominent news executives about the coverage and images of what the trial presented. The convention team will customize already scheduled workshops to focus on several aspects of the Zimmerman trial, including the impact of social media.”

Evan S. Benn and Audra D.S. Burch, Miami Herald: Social media, technology drove Zimmerman trial

Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: Sybrina Fulton, please do not look at this picture.

Charles M. Blow, New York Times: The Whole System Failed

Steve Bogira, Chicago Reader: George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin, and reasonable doubt

Herb Boyd, Daily Beast: Not This Again: The Ghost of Past Injustices, From the Draft Riots to Trayvon

James Causey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Now can we talk about unity in our community?

Roger Chesley, Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.: Verdict further shows racial inequality in legal system

Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: Trayvon Martin and the Irony of American Justice

Stanley Crouch, Daily News, New York: Judging the media and Zimmerman

Mary C. Curtis, Washington Post: What chance did Trayvon Martin, the ‘suspect,’ have in court?

Herndon Davis blog: Dear Black and Brown folks please wake the F*ck Up!!

Jarvis DeBerry, | the Times-Picayune: Did George Zimmerman’s prosecutors try to get him off?

Lewis W. Diuguid, Kansas City Star: Social media serves as positive outlet after trial for people in Trayvon Martin slaying

Tammerlin Drummond, Oakland Tribune: Zimmerman verdict shows insanity of Florida gun laws

Editorial, Los Angeles Times: Why try George Zimmerman?

Editorial, Philadelphia Inquirer: Zimmerman’s acquittal shouldn’t lead to riches

Ryan Grim, Huffington Post: The 6 Decisions That Could Have Saved Trayvon Martin’s Life

Emil Guillermo, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund: One Asian American perspective on Zimmerman, Trayvon

Andrew Kirell, Mediaite: Geraldo: ‘You Dress Like A Thug, People Are Going To Treat You Like A Thug… I Stand By That’

Dori Maynard, Maynard Institute for Journalism Education: My first Tout on the value of the wall to wall #zimmerman trial cover

Michael Meyers, Daily News, New York: Seeing racists everywhere

Jack Mirkinson, Huffington Post: Whoopi Goldberg Grills George Zimmerman Lawyers On ‘The View’ (VIDEO)

Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: Zimmerman trial forced us all to confront our biases

David Muhammad, New America Media: How Do I Explain Martin Verdict to My Kids?

David Person, USA Today: Black parents fret over what to tell sons

Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: Zimmerman verdict leaves key question unanswered

Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press: What do we have to do so George Zimmerman and others get it? Not all black boys are dangerous

Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Black boys denied the right to be young

Paul Scicchitano, Newsmax: Armstrong Williams: ‘Act Like Americans’ if Zimmerman Acquitted (July 12)

Matthew Simmermon-Gomes blog: An open letter to whites about the black community and the Trayvon Martin case

David Simon blog: Trayvon

Michael Shaw, HuffPost Media: Reading the Pictures: Multiracial Zimmerman Protest Photos Sign of Change or Wishful Thinking?

Margaret Sullivan, New York Times: Making Sense of a Sensational Case

Cynthia Tucker, the Grio: ‘Reasonable doubt’ for Zimmerman, but rarely for black defendants

Erik Wemple, Washington Post: Zimmerman lawyer to move ‘asap’ against NBC News

DeWayne Wickham, USA Today: How did Zimmerman become victim?

Don Wycliff blog: A singularly bad idea