National Association of Hispanic Journalists President Mekahlo Media also declares that rejoining UNITY: Journalists for Diversity is “out of the question.”
By Ben Bartenstein
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ (NAHJ) national board delayed a membership-wide vote on changing its bylaws until mid-October, after some members voiced concern over the revision’s swiftness and ambiguity, particularly changes that would, if passed, give voting power to members who aren’t necessarily journalists, including those who are paid to influence journalists, public relations professionals, reports Latino Reporter.
A flurry of emails came from members leading up to the meeting expressing displeasure with how the changes were communicated by the national office, which prompted board members to decide to put off making a decision at association’s annual board meeting Thursday in Orlando, Florida.
“Familia, we are working to better communicate the proposed bylaws revision with you and we look forward to our membership meeting to start the conversation,” NAHJ President Mekahlo Medina said Thursday. “We will also have a virtual town hall after the conference. Additionally, we will move the start of the election vote to mid-October.”
The change was prompted by some members’ desire to partner with Hispanicize, an annual gathering of Latino trendsetters and newsmakers in journalism, blogging, marketing, entertainment and tech entrepreneurship. Earlier this year the event attracted 2,100 participants to Miami, Florida. But Medina said the changes to the bylaws are also an opportunity to streamline the organization’s structure by updating it.
The board had originally agreed to update the bylaws in March with the intent to have members ratify it at the upcoming Education In Journalism convention.
Also during Thursday’s meeting, Medina said NAHJ needs to tap into new markets to recruit members and increase revenue, while still respecting the organization’s mission. He especially emphasized the need for Spanish-language training.
Earlier in the meeting, tensions boiled over NAHJ’s approach to recruiting what Medina estimated as 10,000 Spanish-language journalists nationwide. Fewer than 6 percent of NAHJ national convention attendees work in Spanish-language media, Medina said.
“We’re not doing them any justice,” Medina said.
The board considered a burgeoning relationship with Hispanicize, an annual event in Miami that’s popular among Latino bloggers, YouTubers, and social media specialists, as a potential fix in training journalists in Spanish. Hispanicize’s programming for NAHJ would be primarily in Spanish.
But NAHJ Vice President of Digital, Rebecca Aguilar, along with other members, worried that the partnership could send the wrong message to Spanish-language journalists and split NAHJ’s membership.
“I want to bring them home,” Aguilar said. “I don’t want to send them to a foster home.”
In a heated debate, Medina and Aguilar argued over the merits and pitfalls of Hispanicize. Medina said it offered training for Spanish-language journalists that NAHJ couldn’t provide; Aguilar and other board members thought it would draw such journalists away from the organization.
“I don’t want our members to be handed over,” said Rosa Morales, NAHJ Region 6 director. “I think we are here for a reason, and I don’t want that to get lost.”
Other relationships, however, were less contentious and produced optimism from the board.
NAHJ’s partnership with Excellence in Journalism and the Society of Professional Journalists and Radio Television Digital News Association, which began in 2013, continues with this week’s national convention. And a preliminary assessment of 2015 convention sales shows a revenue of $298,950, more than double last year’s total of $139,600. Medina referred to EIJ as “a luxury” that lightens NAHJ’s pre-convention planning responsibilities.
Considering these benefits, the national board unanimously approved, with one abstention, its intention to partner with SPJ for the 2017 and 2019 EIJ conventions. NAHJ’s involvement in those events must be approved by the other organizations before it becomes official.
Medina said he’s also eyeing future joint conventions with the other minority journalism associations, But rejoining UNITY, the umbrella organization for minority journalism groups, is “out of the question,” he said.
Next August, NAHJ will partner with the National Association of Black Journalists for a joint convention in Washington D.C. The organizations will split programming and revenue returns from the event, but will hold separate galas. The board acknowledged that planning for next year will be a significantly larger undertaking than the EIJ conventions.
“It’s gonna be a UNITY type of event,” Medina said. “Not UNITY,” he clarified, to laughs.
Ben Bartenstein is a business reporter for the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minn. He enjoys hunting down the next vegan café gem, running through the backwoods and dreaming up big projects. This piece originally appeared in the Latino Reporter and is republished here with permission from the author. Follow him on Twitter at @.