Coalition for Diversity in Journalism May Lose Hispanic Members

Two years after a black journalism group left Unity: Journalists for Diversity, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists is considering leaving Unity because of its "financial disorganization." 

Generic image (Thinkstock)
Generic image (Thinkstock)

Leaders of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists recommended Monday that the association leave the Unity: Journalists for Diversity coalition, an action that would leave the onetime Unity: Journalists of Color with two of the original four journalist-of-color associations and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association.

In a message to members posted on the NAHJ Web site, the four NAHJ representatives on the Unity board, including President Hugo Balta and Mekahlo Medina, vice president, broadcast, said, “UNITY’s financial disorganization continues to be a frustration.”

They cited what they called a lack of transparency and a revenue-sharing formula that “doesn’t seem fair. UNITY should not be taking the largest share of the net income” when proceeds are split from the Unity convention.

“The current formula is not working for NAHJ,” the statement said.

“We brought in 41% of the registrations and our total share was not at par [with] the percentage of attendees.”

NAHJ is hosting a “virtual town hall meeting” on the Unity issue on Oct. 16 at 6 p.m. Eastern time.

The statement comes less than a week after Unity board members elected David Steinberg of the NLGJA as president on a 6-4 vote. NAHJ’s four board representatives sat out the election.

Regarding NAHJ’s complaint about the revenue split, Steinberg told Journal-isms, “The entire UNITY board, including representatives from NAHJ, approved the financial structure for the 2012 convention, which earmarked money for UNITY’s operational costs. I intend to immediately address UNITY’s operating budget and anticipate we will find cost savings that will allow for additional funding to flow to member organizations in the future.”

Separately, Steinberg issued his own statement earlier Monday listing “immediate steps I plan to take to reform UNITY to make it more efficient, cost effective, and responsive to its alliance members and partners.

“First, UNITY must show greater financial accountability. We can reduce costs and staffing needs by focusing the staff on planning the joint convention and garnering funding for UNITY and the alliance organizations’ work. I believe UNITY can fulfill its advocacy role primarily by supporting — rather than duplicating — the work of the individual alliances.”

He also said, “We need to change how board members are appointed and officers elected,” and that he supports “creating an advisory board made up of representatives of other journalism organizations who share UNITY’s mission and can help us promote media diversity.

“This would be a way to engage and coordinate with groups such as NABJ and SAJA, whose focus is on race, ethnicity and diversity in journalism, and encourage diversity efforts by broader journalism groups as SPJ, ASNE and RTDNA.” The acronyms refer to the National Association of Black Journalists, the South Asian Journalists Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the American Society of News Editors and the Radio Television Digital News Association.

Steinberg did not specify how he would change the appointment and election of board members, but responded when asked to clarify, “UNITY needs to be more responsive to its alliance members. The board worked this summer on proposals for reforming UNITY’s structure and governance, and my proposal for change will be based on these recommendations.”

However, he disagreed with Balta on the fundamental issue of whether each organization should have the same number of votes. “I believe UNITY must maintain its commitment to equal representation among all groups on its board. This structure encourages collaboration and compromise, and it ensures all of UNITY is focused on the greater good,” he said.

Tracie Powell wrote in a piece posted Monday in Columbia Journalism Review, ” ‘While we understand that in its genesis the forming of UNITY was to have an equal number of representatives regardless as to how many members you represent, our industry has changed. The economy has changed,’ said NAHJ President Hugo Balta, a coordinating producer at ESPN. ‘In order to have true representation and influence on the board, representation should be based on the individual association’s membership size. You can’t effect change if you’re always deadlocked.’ “

Monday’s NAHJ statement also said, “Philosophically UNITY makes sense but structurally the organization is not working to further our mission when it comes to increasing the pipeline of Latino journalists in the industry or being an advocate of journalists of color.

“UNITY doesn’t have the resources to be an advocate for our organization and it usually is the last organization to issue statements on issues affecting the industry.”

The statement listed the current revenue split as follows:

“20% — Net income allocated to UNITY

“40% — net income is divided evenly among the 4 alliance partners (10% to each organization.

“40% — The remainder of the net income is allocated by the percentage of paid registrations each organization brings in.”

Unity has said it needs money to run its own office and for deposits and other preparations for the next convention.

“The revenue from the convention also is used to support UNITY’s mission — advocating fair and accurate news coverage about diversity and challenging the news media industry to diversify their staffs at all levels, in addition to paying for deposits, staffing and other preparations for the next convention,” Walt Swanston, interim executive director, told Journal-isms.

In an interview last week with Powell for, Steinberg confirmed that Unity was suspending its search for a new executive director. “One idea that has been offered is that we hire someone to run the day-to-day duties in the office — writing grants, reports, and conducting audits and maybe ramp it up two years into the four year cycle by bringing in a consultant or meeting planner to help put together the convention,” he said.

NAHJ leaders’ dissatisfaction with the Unity structure became public during the NAHJ convention in Anaheim, Calif., in August. For half an hour, the NAHJ membership meeting heard Balta speak and take questions about Unity as Mary Hudetz, president of the Native American Journalists Association, and Bob Butler, president of National Association of Black Journalists, watched, along with Doris Truong, then-acting president of the Unity coalition.

Balta and Butler separately disclosed that they had casually discussed the two groups meeting jointly in 2016, a presidential election year. “We need to be there in Washington, D.C.,” Balta told Journal-isms. Unity is also considering meeting that year.

NABJ pulled out of the Unity coalition in 2011, also citing the revenue split and governance issues. Unity then invited NLGJA to join.

The NAHJ representatives signing the message to members were Balta, Yvonne Latty, Medina, Maria Burns Ortiz and Executive Director Anna Lopez Buck.

Unity held its first convention in 1994, when NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA and NAJA co-located their conventions in Atlanta. The coalition was then primarily a vehicle for the members of the four organizations to interact and demonstrate their joint support for their shared goals.

The coalition’s beginnings date to the 1980s, when Juan González, an active member of the NAHJ, and Will Sutton Jr., an active member of NABJ, started comparing notes about their experiences as journalists of color. The two journalists, both in Philadelphia, met in 1986. Separately, in 1988, DeWayne Wickham, then NABJ president, convened the first joint meeting of the boards of NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA and NAJA.

In 1990, Unity was established as a nonprofit organization. In 1998, the name became Unity: Journalists of Color, Inc., which evolved last year to Unity: Journalists for Diversity after NABJ left and NLGJA joined.

Fox Followed Advice to Use Loaded Health-Care Phrases

In May of 2009, conservative pollster Frank Luntz released a memo, ‘The Language of Healthcare 2009: The 10 Rules for Stopping the “Washington Takeover” of Healthcare’,” Joe Strupp and Oliver Willis reported Monday for Media Matters for America. “In that memo, Luntz advised conservatives to use phrases like ‘rationing,’ ‘Washington takeover,’ ‘government run,’ ‘government takeover,’ and ‘bailout’ when addressing health care reform.

“In The ‘Luntzification’ of the U.S. Health Care Debate, Mark D. Harmon of the University of Tennessee’s College of Communication and Information shows the extent to which Luntz’s GOP-friendly language permeated news coverage of health care reform.

“Harmon reviewed transcripts from the six major cable and broadcast networks for uses of ‘sixteen Luntz terms’ — such as ‘rationing,’ ‘bureaucrat,’ ‘Washington takeover,’ ‘government takeover’ — and ’16 more neutral terms describing’ health care reform, including ‘pre-existing conditions,’ ‘lifetime limits,’ ‘profits,’ ‘insurance exchange,’ ‘patient protection’ and ‘affordable care.’ He found that Luntz terms outnumbered neutral terms on Fox News, and also made up ‘a significant percentage’ of the terms used on CNN, MSNBC and on the nightly news broadcasts on ABC, CBS and NBC.

“The research found that Luntz language was used 1,521 times on Fox while neutral language was used 1,122 times on the network. On the other networks, Luntz’s language was used 4,022 times and neutral language invoked 6,323 times. . . . “

Meanwhile, if one needed additional evidence that conservatives prefer “Obamacare” to “Affordable Care Act,” Tim Graham, director of media analysis at the Media Research Center, reported last week on the decision by NPR to limit use of the “Obamacare” term after this columnist contended that it could no longer be considered neutral. The center characterized the question as “pressure.” Graham also reported that the Associated Press “is also bending under Prince’s questioning,” although the AP policy change was already posted when the inquiry was made.

“Other media outlets seemed to bend toward ‘Obamacare’ usage only when Obama decided to use it, which isn’t exactly a formula for media independence,” Graham wrote.

In another development, “A Fox News Channel anchor has apologized for falsely saying that President Barack Obama had offered to pay for the operation of a museum of Muslim culture ‘out of his own pocket’ during the government shutdown,” the Associated Press reported.

“Anchor Anna Kooiman made the remark Saturday on ‘Fox & Friends’ during a discussion about closed facilities. She didn’t cite a source, but a satirical news site called ‘National Report’ had posted a story headlined: ‘Obama Uses Own Money to Open Muslim Museum Amid Government Shutdown.’

“The fake story said that Obama had ‘held a press conference’ to announce he would use his own money to reopen the International Museum of Muslim Cultures in Jackson, Miss.

“Kooiman said Saturday she didn’t think it was fair that World War II veterans faced a closed Washington monument honoring people killed during that conflict. . . .”

Charles M. Blow, New York Times: A Terrible, Tragic Game

Kara Brandeisky, ProPublica: Key Reads on Government Shutdowns

Stanley Crouch, Daily News, New York: The honorable vs. the anarchists

Lewis W. Diuguid, Kansas City Star: Confusing times to be a Republican

Rick Horowitz, Huffington Post: GOP’s Obamacare Strategy: It’s Simple, Really (video)

Colbert I. King, Washington Post: The rise of the New Confederacy

Roland S. Martin, Creators Syndicate: Obama Can’t Bow Down to Pathetic GOP Antics

Pew Research Center: Partisans Dug in on Budget, Health Care Impasse

James Poniewozik, Time: Not “Both Sides,” Now: Why False Equivalence Matters in the Shutdown Showdown

Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press: Cowards in Congress forgot about the people

Bob Ray Sanders, Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas: GOP leaders more like morticians planning their own funeral

Brian Stelter, New York Times: Cruz’s 21-Hour Speech Fueled a Ratings Jump at C-Span2

Paul Thornton, Los Angeles Times: Jimmy Kimmel’s Obamacare stunt: How infallible is public opinion?

Ana Veciana-Suarez, Miami Herald: #DearCongress: You appall me

Plans for Local Versions of NPR’s “Code Switch” on Hold

Plans to expand NPR’s Code Switch to a local and regional level are on hold as network President Gary Knell departs for his new job,” Mike Janssen reported Monday

“A CPB draft business plan for 2014, released last month, said that the corporation ‘is considering building on the success of the NPR Code Switch initiative by extending it to local stations as a regional initiative.’

“The cross-platform production aims to examine issues of race, culture and ethnicity, and spark discussion on social media platforms and NPR’s website. It launched in May with a $1.5 million, two-year grant from CPB.

“Plans to expand beyond its current operations are now in a holding pattern, however, as NPR looks for a new chief executive. ‘We’ve been talking to NPR and PBS about a national-down-to-local diversity initiative,’ said Michael Levy, executive v.p. of corporate and public affairs at CPB. ‘Given that Gary is leaving NPR, we’re still committed to the idea . . . but we’re not sure what form it’s going to take. We’re going to continue to talk with NPR and PBS.’ . . .”

NAHJ Reintroducing Ñ Awards at Chicago Conference

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists plans to honor its 2013 NAHJ Ñ Award winners this weekend at its Region 6 conference in Chicago.

The winners are:

Joe Vazquez, reporter and anchor at KPIX-TV in San Francisco, Broadcast Journalist of the Year.

Feliciano Garcia, coordinating producer for NBC’s “Today Show,” Online Journalist of the Year. Garcia is also creator, producer and host of NBC Latino’s “Cafecito.”

Frances Robles, correspondent for the New York Times, Frank Del Olmo Print Journalist of the Year.

Herman Ulloa, photographer and editor at Univision in Miami, Photojournalist of the Year.

Nicole Chavez, University of Texas at El Paso, Student of the Year.

Asked why the awards were being presented at a regional, rather than national conference, NAHJ President Hugo Balta messaged, “we r reintroducing the awards and for this year we felt combining the Ñ Awards n scholarship presentations would attract more attendees to the conference (an experiment).” NAHJ canceled its annual awards banquet in 2009, when it faced a $300,000 budget shortfall.