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The August 2012 conference of Unity Journalists in Las Vegas (Courtesy of Unity News)

Unity Is Dead, Co-Founders Say

The two men credited with the idea for the coalition of journalists-of-color associations say the Unity organization that sprang from their efforts is dead.

"UNITY? There is no UNITY," said Will Sutton of the National Association of Black Journalists. "There hasn't been a UNITY since NABJ, quite reasonably, left the coalition formerly known as UNITY: Journalists of Color. It simply was a matter of time that the whole thing would fall apart without NABJ, my native journalism organization. . . ."

Juan Gonzalez of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists said, "Unity as an organization is effectively dead, though it remains strong as an ideal. The reality is the alliance was mortally crippled from the moment NABJ left a few years ago. . . ."

And DeWayne Wickham, who as NABJ president convened the boards of the four journalists-of-color organizations in 1988, messaged Journal-isms, "I think Unity has lost its way and its raison d'etre. What remains of it is no more the Unity we conceived than an Elvis impersonator is The King of Rock and Roll."

The NAHJ board of directors left the coalition now known as Unity: Journalists for Diversity this week, following the 2011 departure of NABJ. Both associations cited financial and governance issues.

Remaining are the Asian American Journalists Association, the Native American Journalists Association and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, which was invited to join after NABJ left. The surviving associations do not appear ready to throw in the towel.

David Steinberg of NLGJA, the newly elected Unity president, said in a statement after NAHJ's departure, "Our commitment to the mission UNITY was founded on will not waver. We have an opportunity now to make our alliance stronger and more reflective of the unique environment our industry and our organizations work in today."

Paul Cheung, national president of AAJA, said, "I continue to believe in the mission of UNITY and I am working diligently with the remaining alliance partners to improve its governance and financial structure." But AAJA members writing on the association's Facebook page wondered why AAJA should remain in the alliance, urged a membership vote on staying or leaving and wanted to know what role AAJA leaders played in prompting NAHJ and NABJ's departure.

Mary Hudetz, president of the Native American Journalists Association, the fourth of the original Unity partners, messaged Journal-isms Friday, "NAJA will work with AAJA and NLGJA to develop a future for UNITY. I know a lot of people have expressed concern about the alliance's future this week with news of NAHJ's departure, but the reality is the UNITY mission for diversity and fairness in news is more relevant than ever and should continue. I believe coalitions, not only partnerships, are the best chance for change in promoting diversity, so we (NAJA) will make every effort to join in seeing that UNITY continues -- and even expands again in the future.

"Of course, many others at NAJA and I were saddened to see NAHJ formally part ways. But I know it was a decision the NAHJ board members believed was in the best interest of their organization at this time, and I respect that."

Mark Trahant of NAJA, one of those who in 1988 agreed on the concept of a Unity convention, was likewise optimistic. "The goal of UNITY remains as important as ever. We just need a new strategy," he said by email. "I think there are lots of ways to make the idea of UNITY work again.

"One idea I have is to shift from an organization based on the membership of four organizations to a member-based organization. I would then try to work for a next convention that is, once agaIn, the largest journalism organization of any kind. This would mean that the individual members of all five organizations, not the organizations, would decide the future of UNITY. To me, the success of UNITY was about bringing people together as a force for change. But that does not have to be through organizations. It can be by working together as groups of individuals who might also happen to be members of other journalism organizations. To borrow from a great memory, we need UNITY to become a sovereign entity."

Journal-isms also asked Sutton and Gonzalez, who as reporters for Philadelphia newspapers began discussions in 1986 that led to Unity, what the coalition should do next.

Sutton's message continued, "When the coalition leaders who remained, and those who joined after NABJ's departure, decided to move away from our long-standing focus on journalists of color they killed the concept, the idea, the commitment and decades of work.

"There is no UNITY. I was done with UNITY last year after the previous convention when it became clear that they were not going to course-correct and get back to our roots.

"I really, truly appreciated being recognized at the August 2012 joint convention where NABJ President Gregory Lee Jr. and other NABJ members attended and participated but without an official partnership role, but I refused to accept anything with a new name. Thankfully, my good friend and long-time AAJA and UNITY colleague Janet Cho worked to provide me with an option. She knew what I would say, and I chose to accept the award later with UNITY: Journalists of Color Inc. on it.

"It breaks my heart, but it is what it is because of a lack of commitment and respect for the focus and because of the lack of commitment to adjust the relationships among the original core four groups in recent years.

Told that NABJ and NAHJ are considering a joint convention in 2016, Sutton added, "That would be a good thing, and I support it and would love to see it. It wouldn't be UNITY, but it would be a back-to-the-future moment, getting us back to 1986 in Philly when the NABJ and NAHJ boards of directors met. What a throw-back that would be!"

Sutton is now Grambling State University director of public relations and communications and is a media consultant. He and Gonzalez have been presidents of their respective associations.

Gonzalez, a columnist at the Daily News in New York, continued, "What has happened clearly saddens me. Unity as an organization is effectively dead, though it remains strong as an ideal. The reality is the alliance was mortally crippled from the moment NABJ left a few years ago.

"Unfortunately, the Unity board never moved in a timely fashion to address legitimate concerns about governance and structure that NABJ had initially raised, nor did it seek to actively woo NABJ to return. The Unity board then compounded those problems by its decision to rapidly admit NLGJA without first addressing the existing governance and structural issues, without a plan for how the group's mission would change with its altered membership, and most importantly, without a clear strategy for how any of our associations will survive in this rapidly changing media industry.

"An organizational alliance, like any good marriage, needs constant nurturing. It needs partners willing to put the interests of their mates above their own. When the desire to do so wanes, separation or divorce becomes inevitable. But the memories of the good times remain. So, hopefully, do the lessons learned that will make any future alliance that much stronger."

"According to 2012 Census data, 17 percent of the total US population or 53 million people are of Hispanic origin, representing the largest ethnic/racial minority in the country.

"The study will be the Commission's first systematic examination of the Hispanic television market. . ."

It was open to speculation whether the FCC would also study Hispanic employment at media outlets. Hispanic ownership of broadcast outlets, however, should be a challenging enough topic. The two largest Hispanic-oriented television networks, Univision and Telemundo, are not owned by Hispanics.

According to the FCC's 2012 "Report on Ownership of Commercial Broadcast Stations," "Hispanic/Latino persons collectively or individually held a majority of the voting interests in 513 broadcast stations, comprised of 39 full power commercial television stations (2.9 percent) of 1,348 stations; 151 low power television stations, including Class A stations (9.1 percent) of 1,662 stations; 172 commercial AM radio stations (4.5 percent) of 3,830 stations; and 151 commercial FM radio stations (2.7 percent) of 5,611 stations."

Meanwhile, "The Federal Communications Commission is set to raise the 25 percent investment limit on foreign investment in U.S. radio and TV stations," Katy Bachman reported Friday for Adweek. "Acting chairwoman Mignon Clyburn put the item on the commission's agenda for its Nov. 14 meeting.

"Had the decades-old 25 percent ownership been eased in the 80s, Rupert Murdoch wouldn't have had to jump through hoops and become a U.S. citizen to purchase the stations that eventually formed the basis of the Fox network. Groups like Univision Communications might also have had an easier time structuring investment.

"Over the years, support for easing the rule has come from all sectors of the business, but particularly from minority groups, as a way to help minority broadcasters that often find it difficult to find capital and new investors."

Bachman also wrote, "Several groups that had lobbied for the rule to be changed praised the action, including the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, the Coalition for Broadcast Investment, the National Association of Media Brokers and the National Association of Broadcasters.

" 'This is a textbook example of a deregulatory initiative that benefits underserved communities,' said David Honig, MMTC president."

The 2012 report also said: "Racial minorities collectively or individually held a majority of the voting interests in 559 broadcast stations, 30 full power commercial television stations (2.2 percent) of 1,348 stations; 96 low power television stations, including Class A stations (5.8 percent) of 1,662 stations; 237 commercial AM radio stations (6.2 percent) of 3,830 stations; and 196 commercial FM radio stations (3.5 percent) of 5,611 stations.

"Ownership of majority interests by racial group was as follows:

"American Indian/Alaska Natives owned 64 broadcast stations.

"Asians owned 187 broadcast stations.

"Black/African Americans owned 231 broadcast stations.

"Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islanders owned 31 broadcast stations.

"Whites collectively or individually held a majority of the voting interests in 9,610 broadcast stations, comprised of 935 full power commercial television stations (69.4 percent) of 1,348 stations; 1,248 low power television stations, including Class A stations (75.1 percent) of 1,662 stations; 2,960 commercial AM radio stations (77.3 percent) of 3,830 stations; and 4,467 commercial FM radio stations (79.6 percent) of 5,611 stations. . . ."

Denise Bridges, director of newsroom operations and staff development at the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., and a veteran of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, is one of 32 people being let go by the newspaper, Bridges said Friday.

"This is the end of my journalism career. After a glorious kick-start in 1977 thanks to the Summer Program for Minority Journalists, six newspapers, five states, two media associations and one wire service, I doubt I'll be working for any more news organizations," Bridges said by email. "I may go into communications, teaching or even operations. I've managed the newsroom budget here at The Virginian-Pilot for five years, so I've gained some nifty skills."

Bridges worked with Robert and Nancy Maynard at the Oakland Tribune, which the Maynards owned from 1983 to 1992.

"After two years at The Associated Press, I had the wonderful experience of working for Bob & Nancy at the Oakland Tribune," Bridges wrote when Nancy Maynard died in 2008. "I remember Bob strolling through the newsroom with his sleeves rolled up, his tie loosened, and his glasses precariously perched on the end of his nose. I remember Nancy coming through quite pregnant with their son Alex, and later going to law school."

"I can state unequivocally that had it not been for this program — which Bob and Nancy both quit their jobs to start — I would not be a working journalist today. In fact, there are very few minority journalists who in some way haven't been influenced by the work of the Maynard Institute. For a season there, throughout most of the '70s and '80s, just about the only way for a person of color to get a newspaper job was by way of the Institute for Journalism Education (its name before Bob died in 1993)."

"After months of rumors and Univision's denial that Rafael Pineda was retiring, the company announced today that December 20th will be the long-running anchor’s last newscast," Veronica Villafañe reported Thursday for her Media Moves site.

"Rafael has been WXTV-41's main anchor since 1972. He is the longest-serving television news anchor in the New York area and is considered to be an institution in the industry.

"The Emmy award-winning anchor has established a reputation of credibility and integrity and has contributed to leading 'Noticias 41' to first place in local ratings. . . ."

Among nonwhite users of Facebook, a greater percentage use the service for news than is true for whites [PDF], and they are more likely to share news stories with others than are whites, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.

The center's Facebook News Survey, conducted Aug. 21 to Sept. 2, found that nonwhites represented 37 percent of the 1,429 news consumers and 37 percent of the 507 Facebook "likers" but 49 percent of the 155 Facebook "sharers."

By contrast, white non-Hispanics were 63 percent of the news consumers and 63 percent of the "likers" but only 51 percent of the "sharers."

Of the Facebook news consumers, nonwhites were 37 percent of the total but 29 percent of other Facebook users. Whites were 63 percent of the total Facebook news consumers but 71 percent of other Facebook users.

Pew Research Center: The Role of News on Facebook

Mary Sanchez, Kansas City Star: Is Facebook becoming a permissive parent? (Oct. 18)

"After an Obamacare helpline operator was fired for speaking to Sean Hannity on his radio show earlier this week, the Fox News host has offered to pay her salary and help her find a new job," Merrill Knox reported for TVNewser Friday.

"Appearing on 'Hannity' last night, Earline Davis said she was escorted out of the building for speaking with the media. In their initial conversation, Hannity disclosed that she was on the radio and asked if that was okay with her. She told Hannity last night that she was not aware of a company policy preventing her from speaking with the media. . . ."

Meanwhile, Farah Ahmad and Sarah Iverson, in a report for the Center for American Progress, noted that women of color will make up 53 percent of the population by 2050 and still face significant inequalities.

"The Affordable Care Act, or ACA, is an example of what can be done to address the challenges that women of color face," they wrote. "This law has the potential to improve the disproportionately poor health of women of color through better access to affordable health insurance and health services. Improved health can increase the livelihood of women of color as poor health can impact one's ability to work or attain an education and thus affects an individual's and a family's economic security. Healthier people contribute to a robust workforce, which, in turn, strengthens the economy. . . ."

Charles M. Blow, New York Times: Web Sites and Grave Sites

George E. Curry, National Newspaper Publishers Association: Obama's Showdown with 'Teapublicans' is Just Beginning

Rick Horowitz, Huffington Post: Just a Hint of Health Care Hypocrisy? (video)

Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: Watch Out for a 'Post-Racial' Backlash

Charles Ornstein, ProPublica: A Tale of Two Obamacares: Which Is Right?

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Ted Cruz's strange political uprising (Oct. 20)

"If thousands of American tourists suddenly started boycotting idyllic Dominican resorts like Puerto Plata and Punta Cana, they'd get the message down there that racism is bad for business," Juan Gonzalez, columnist for the Daily News in New York, wrote Friday.

Gonzalez was discussing a decision by the top court in the Dominican Republic "that has declared that the children of undocumented Haitian migrants — even those born on Dominican soil decades ago — are no longer entitled to citizenship, throwing into doubt the status of tens of thousands of people here who have never known any other national identity," as Randal C. Archibold wrote Thursday for the New York Times.

The development is also the subject of a segment on this week's NPR show, "Latino USA."

Alicia Anabel Santos wrote this month for Latina, "It was October 1937 when dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered the killing of an estimated 30,000 Haitians living in the country. Many who were black or suspected of being from the neighboring country, and those who were unable to pronounce the word 'perejil' (parsley in Spanish) without an accent, were executed. Many of the murdered had been born in the Dominican Republic. This was Trujillo's attempt at mass ethnic cleansing. The notoriously racist Trujillo wanted to blanquear la raza — 'whiten' the race. . . ."

"News One Now," "the first morning news program in history to focus on news and analysis of politics, entertainment, sports, and culture from an explicitly African American perspective, will premiere on TV One Monday, November 4, 9AM/ET," TVOne announced Thursday.

"Host and managing editor Roland S. Martin, the 2013 National Association of Black Journalists' Journalist of the Year and former host of TV One's long-running, award-winning weekly news program, Washington Watch with Roland Martin, leads News One Now doing what he does best: sifting through the headlines of the day to spotlight matters that greatly impact the African American community. . . ."

"She was most often heard providing news updates on Radio One's D.C. affiliates, which include 93.3 WKYS, Praise 104.1, News Talk 1450, Majic 102.3 FM and Spirit 1340."

Stewart was a onetime resident of Prince George's County, Md. "County Executive Rushern Baker said in a statement that Stewart was a model citizen who always gave back. . . ."

Affirmative action for the wealthy? "George Washington University — which got in trouble last year for misreporting admissions data to bolster its college ranking — is making yet another confession," Marian Wang reported Tuesday for ProPublica. "The university has been misrepresenting its admissions and financial-aid policy for years, touting a 'need-blind' admissions policy while in fact giving preference to wealthier students in the final stages of the admissions process, according to the student newspaper, the GW Hatchet, which first reported on the practice. Meanwhile, hundreds of academically comparable but needier students were put on the waitlist for admission because they lacked the financial resources. . . ."

"Manny Ruiz went from reporting the news to shaping how we receive it," Ruben Navarrette Jr. wrote Wednesday for the Washington Post Writers Group. "The 43-year-old former journalist is now a first-rate media entrepreneur. And where others are busy building their own brands, Ruiz is thinking bigger. He wants to build the brand of the Hispanic community and teach others how to go into business for themselves. He has a soft spot for Hispanic journalists eager to reinvent themselves because they fear traditional media companies may not be long for this world. In just the past few years, the former crime reporter for The Miami Herald has become one of the leaders of the exciting trend of Hispanic digital marketing. One of his biggest accomplishments is called Hispanicize, a live and spicier version of a 'Google hangout' that occurs every April in Miami. . . ."

About 200 colleagues, friends and former students paid tribute Thursday to Lee Thornton, the pioneer broadcaster and University of Maryland professor who died Sept. 25 at 71 of pancreatic cancer. Speaking in Memorial Chapel at the university, Lesli Foster, an anchor at WUSA-TV in Washington, and Mara Schiavocampo, an anchor at MSNBC and NBC, both "Dr. T's" former students, recalled how Thornton toughened them for the real world. When she mentors younger colleagues, Schiavocampo said, "I am as tough on them as Dr. T was tough on me. There is no greater legacy than for her lessons to live on and be passed on," she said. Dr. Gracie Lawson-Borders, dean of the Howard University School of Communications, where Thornton previously taught, read a memorial resolution from the Howard University Board of Trustees. Tribute from the National Association of Black Journalists.

Ray Suarez, a senior correspondent for the "PBS NewsHour" since 1999, said goodbye to viewers Friday in a conversation with co-anchor Judy Woodruff. "It's been my great pleasure to work for one of the greatest audiences in American broadcasting," Suarez said. "Lots of things are waiting out there for me. A lot of great things I've learned here will stand me well in the future." Suarez has not said what his next move will be.

Dan Lothian, who last week left CNN, where he was a White House correspondent, messaged Journal-isms Friday that he resigned because "after almost five years commuting from DC to Boston every week I needed a break." He was formerly CNN Boston bureau chief and correspondent.

Dean Baquet, managing editor of the New York Times; Keija Minor, editor-in-chief of Brides magazine; and Ta-Nehesi Coates, senior editor at the Atlantic, are among those named to Ebony magazine's "2013 Ebony Power 100 list." The honorees are to be celebrated on Nov. 4 at Lincoln Center in New York. Other media figures on the list are Van Jones, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Andre Leon Talley, Paula Madison, Oprah Winfrey, Magic Johnson and Maxine Williams, diversity director at Facebook. List of honorees.

"Edna Machirori, the first black female editor in the Zimbabwean media, earned her journalism degree at the New York Institute of Technology in the 1970s," Richard Horgan wrote Friday for FishbowlNY. "Last night, the 69-year-old trailblazer was back in Manhattan to accept a Lifetime Achievement honor at the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) 2013 Courage in Journalism awards. . . ." 

Aye Aye Win is one of seven Missouri honor medalists to be recognized next week by the Missouri School of Journalism, Julia Bush reported Friday for the Missourian in Columbia. "Aye Aye Win covered her first pro-democracy uprising in Myanmar in 1988. Her journalist father, U Sein Win, had been imprisoned for his support of a free press. She stepped up to take his place while he was in jail. One year later, she joined The Associated Press as a correspondent," Bush wrote. Gregory H. Lee Jr., executive sports editor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and immediate past president of the National Association of Black Journalists, is another winner.

"In his Washington Post column, Fox News contributor George Will downplayed the explicitly racist, segregationist presidential campaigns of Strom Thurmond and George Wallace, referring to them as merely focused on the 'burning issues' of 'regional grievances relating to race' and 'venting class and cultural resentments,' respectfully," Oliver Willis reported Thursday for Media Matters for America.

"Sierra Leone police have arrested a newspaper editor and another journalist for publishing an article comparing President Ernest Bai Koroma to a rat, officials said on Monday, stirring concern over press freedom in the West African country," Reuters reported Monday.

Kenyan journalists came under threat this week from the authorities over their coverage of last month' Westgate mall attack, after video suggesting possible looting by Kenyan forces was broadcast on national television, Josh Kron reported Thursday for the New York Times. "Kenya's criminal-investigations police unit on Thursday summoned three senior Kenyan media figures involved with a popular investigative television news program. . . . "

"A Honduran photographer who formerly worked for deposed president Manuel Zelaya was found murdered last week in Tegucigalpa, three years after the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) requested that the Honduran state guarantee the photographer's 'life and personal integrity,' " Scott Griffen reported Friday for the International Press Institute.

Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (mije.org). Reprinted on The Root by permission.