Anybody else notice how fast UNITY: Journalists for Diversity dropped the National Association of Hispanic Journalists from its description? I can’t blame them for being prepared for Tuesday’s vote, after all, NAHJ’s decision to leave came as no surprise.
NAHJ’s rocky relationship with UNITY is no secret, and follows the National Association of Black Journalists’ abrupt departure two years ago. While NAHJ’s pullout was expected, I didn’t expect it to be so in-your-face as demonstrated in a message that was posted on UNITY’s website almost immediately following the vote. The message expresses disappointment about NAHJ’s withdrawal from the organization, but the tagline at the end of the message is what caught my attention:
UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, an alliance of three journalism organizations, is the nation’s most diverse journalism organization. A coalition of the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association, UNITY is a strategic alliance advocating fair and accurate news coverage about people of color and LGBT issues and aggressively challenges news organizations to increase diversity in whom they employ at all levels of their companies.
Could they at least let the ink dry first on the divorce decree? Maybe UNITY wanted to make it clear that there are three alliance partners now, not four as it has always been (even when NABJ left and was rapidly replaced by the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association).
I’m not sure if it is the reality setting in that this just happened, or whether I’m put off by a level of egotism reflected in the tag line: “The nation’s most diverse journalism organization.” Without the two associations representing the largest number of working journalists in U.S. newsrooms (NABJ) and the association representing the fastest growing U.S. demographic (NAHJ)… “Most diverse,” really? Is that possible?
And then the part about being strategic… Without NABJ and NAHJ? Both NAJA and NLGJA are the two smallest journalism associations and AAJA is one of the quietest. NABJ has always led the way in integrating newsrooms and ushering in change with NAHJ not too far behind. Just how strategic can UNITY be without these two groups?
I guess we’ll find out, or maybe we already have. UNITY’s new president, David Steinberg, has stated that he plans to partner with the American Society of News Editors and the Society of Professional Journalists to help fulfill the organization’s mission of diversifying newsrooms. Yes, because their records in this area are so stellar.
A colleague commented that the journalism associations of color have been so busy squabbling over scraps, trying to get one or two people of color just in the door at newsrooms across the country, that we’re missing the bigger picture: That the lion’s share of newsroom jobs still go to white men and women while journalists of color aren’t even considered. Fact is journalists of color are not in decision-making roles anymore. And even when we were, there was only so much hiring of our own that we could do without sending up red flags. Starting around 2006, those of us who were in management positions — all the gains NABJ and others had made in years past — were wiped out through buy-out packages and layoffs.
It’s not just that mainstream organizations aren’t hiring us at the rate they once did, journalism associations of color are also not doing enough to equip members with the tools and resources to enable members to build their own media companies, that’s what we really ought to be doing.
I don’t know if we’ll ever have UNITY again, and maybe not unity either. But maybe, just maybe, after emotions and egos are put to the side, we can talk about it.