Unity Closes Its Board Meetings

Journal-isms: Unity votes to bar members of its own groups from attending board meetings.

President Obama at Unity's 2008 Conference (Unity)
President Obama at Unity's 2008 Conference (Unity)

Coalition Made Little-Known Decision in April

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists reversed itself over the summer after its president ruled that a student journalist could not tweet from its board meetings. But Unity Journalists, the alliance of Hispanic, Asian American, Native American and lesbian and gay journalists, will no longer allowing such a student even to attend its meetings. Nor can members of the Unity groups.

As the Unity board prepared to meet this weekend at Gannett Co. headquarters in McLean, Va., Joanna Hernandez, Unity board president, disclosed that Unity had taken the action earlier this year.

“At the April 2012 UNITY board meeting, the board voted to close board meetings, unless the UNITY board votes to open the meeting. This was done because members of the alliances have a right to hear the outcome of the meeting before it is reported publicly,” Hernandez said by email.

There was no announcement in April of the new policy, which permits only board members, staff and officers of Unity and the alliance groups to attend unless the board votes otherwise. [Hernandez messaged on Saturday morning, “the UNITY board did not vote to open the meeting.”]

Hernandez did not disclose the vote on the April motion, which she said was made by David Steinberg, then-president of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, who headed Unity’s governance committee.

NAHJ faced significant blowback in August when its board asked a reporter for the student convention news operation to stop reporting its board meeting and leave the room. The UNITY News reporter had been assigned to live tweet the board’s discussions, held in Las Vegas at the Unity Journalists conference. Media blogger Jim Romenesko began a report on the eviction with, “This is incredible.”

Then-president Michele Salcedo told members the board was justified in banning reporters from tweeting from its meeting because “we’re not a government entity” and “we’re not required to be open to the public.”

“We are happy to have members present, but having reporters present is a whole different ball of wax,” Salcedo said.