On their first day on the job, the new leaders of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists voted 6-5 Saturday to reverse the previous board's much-criticized policy barring tweeting during NAHJ board meetings.
Rebecca Aguilar of Dallas, the newly elected vice president for online, made the motion to reverse a policy that became widely known only this week after the board Tuesday asked a student journalist to stop live tweeting the board's deliberations. Nadia Khan, who was reporting for the student convention news project, was told that she could stay but not live tweet. She left.
The issue exploded into cyberspace and outside the confines of the NAHJ meeting space.
On Saturday at a board meeting of the Asian American Journalists Association, AAJA National President Doris Truong was asked if live tweeting was permitted. "Of course we allow live tweeting," Truong responded. "We're not in China." NAHJ and AAJA, along with the Native American Journalists Association and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, were meeting in Las Vegas Saturday as part of the Unity Journalists convention.
In other business on the morning after a hard-fought NAHJ election, in which Hugo Balta, a coordinating producer at ESPN, successfully challenged board member Russell Contreras for the NAHJ presidency, the board resolved a tie in the secretary's race by extending the voting in that contest for two weeks. The contestants are Sergio Quintana and Chris Ramirez.
In addition, Balta said, the association plans to explore holding its 2013 convention in Anaheim, Calif., in conjunction with the already-scheduled joint meeting of the Radio Television Digital News Association and the Society of Professional Journalists, perhaps adding CCNMA: Latino Journalists of California. The board was already considering a proposal from Albuquerque, N.M.
Then-NAHJ President Michele Salcedo told members Thursday that the 1,259-member association 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."
"If you have tweets . . . sent out at every point of the discussion, it doesn't necessarily encapsulate the decisions that have been made," Salcedo said. "It is misinformation because it is not complete."
In a debate that lasted at least 40 minutes, Salcedo argued strongly for keeping the policy, Balta told Journal-isms. "She was very vocal on all the items. . . . I was really, really proud of the board meeting." The debate on tweeting "was given the time it needed. You can see that the board struggled with the pros and cons of having such a policy repealed. Some of the concerns were the sensitivity of the things we were speaking of," and "communications not being as clear and open for misinterpretation."
In the end, Aguilar's motion won the support of Balta; Mekahlo Medina, the new vice president/broadcast; Nicole Chavez, student representative; Miguel Angel Rosa, Region 1 director; Roberto Pazos, Region 4 director, and Aguilar, Balta said. Opposing were Chris Ramirez, Region 3 director; new treasurer Blanca Torres; Mariela Murdocco, Spanish language at-large officer; Dr. Federico Subervi, academic officer; and Ivette Davila-Richards, Region 2 director, Balta said.
Contreras, the former vice president/print and chief financial officer, did not attend the all-day meeting, which included training for board members, Balta said, but Balta said he told both the Associated Press reporter and Nick Valencia of CNN in Atlanta, , president of NAHJ's Atlanta chapter who ran for vice president-broadcast, that he wanted their participation. "The association needs Russell to continue to be a leader in any capacity possible," Balta said. "I hope he will take my invitation."
In her farewell remarks, Salcedo denounced an election campaign that included "disrespect and unfounded smears on public pages of Facebook." Balta told Journal-isms that members' reliance on social media was a function of an ineffective NAHJ website. "Because it wasn't effective, social media blew up," Balta said. The challenge, he said, is to improve the website and use social media to draw members to it.
The new president said he had received "a lot of support" from sponsors and members since the announcement of his victory Friday night, all eager to get to know and help him and the new board. He also said he wanted to see whether the association could afford to hire a staffer dedicated to fundraising.
Although there were 614 eligible voters, only 252 voted in the presidential race, fewer than the 261 who voted in 2010. Balta said the association needed better communication with members about voting and to make it easier for members to cast ballots. Although members could vote online since July 16, there are too many distractions at the conference, he said.
Rhonda LeValdo, chosen by fellow board members two years ago as president of the Native American Journalists Association, will serve a third term in the job, NAJA board members voted on Saturday. LeValdo teaches video production, news production and news writing at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan.
Elected to the board without opposition were Mary Hudetz, west regional desk editor at the Associated Press and a member of the Crow tribe; Mark Dreadfulwater, media specialist at the Cherokee Phoenix in Tulsa, Okla., Cherokee; Rebecca Landsberry, Muscogee Nation news editor in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Communications Department in Okmulgee, Okla., a Muscogee Creek; and Tetona Dunlap, a reporter and photographer at the Times-News in Twin Falls, Idaho, who is Eastern Shoshone.
Hudetz was chosen vice president; Neyom Friday, who covers Native American entertainment from her base in Florida, who is Arapaho Creek, secretary; and Tristan Ahtone, a host and reporter for Wyoming Public Radio in Laramie, a Kiowa, treasurer.
NAJA is the smallest of the major journalist of color groups, with about 280 members, according to LeValdo. Its membership has declined, and in November Darla Leslie, who had defeated LeValdo for the presidency, resigned, saying on Facebook, "I believe NAJA is on the verge of financial ruin. My resignation is a reflection of the inability, in my opinion, of our Board of Directors to take immediate action to remedy this situation." LeValdo, who was vice president, returned to the presidency.
LeValdo said her priorities for the new term would be to increase membership, improve communication with members, offer more training for tribal newspapers that are not online and fundraising, in part to provide such training.
NAJA chose Phoenix as the site for its 2013 convention, LeValdo said.
The Asian American Journalists Association is hoping to forestall ending 2012 with a $129,991 deficit prompted in part by less-than-anticipated revenue, treasurer Rene Astudillo told the AAJA advisory board on Saturday.
Much depends on how much money the association nets from the Unity conference, Astudillo told Journal-isms. The association, which counts 1,675 members, projected 650 paid AAJA registrants, but there were only a little over 500.
Moreover, Astudillo said, expected levels of sponsorships for two signature AAJA programs, JCamp, which provides journalism training for high school students, and the Executive Leadership Program, which trains professionals, did not materialize.
On the other hand, AAJA raised $12,000 through its Silent Auction at the Unity convention, and its Power of One fundraising campaign, launched in 2008, continues. The association also raised $12,600 through a live auction of dinners donated by guest speaker Suvir Saran, chef and cookbook author, at Friday's awards banquet.
In other business, Tom Huang, Sunday and enterprise editor at the Dallas Morning News, said the model for annual conventions, the chief fund-raising vehicle for most of the journalist of color organizations, needs "reinventing." He is heading a committee that is brainstorming new ideas, such as capping attendance as a way to increase the value for those who register early; partnering with other organizations, including universities; shortening the length of the conference; and reorganizing panels into specialized tracks.
AAJA plans to be in New York for its 2013 convention. National President Doris Truong praised the quality of the Unity convention.
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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (www.mije.org). Reprinted on The Root by permission.