16 people took a stand


It’s not a party, being a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. It’s a lot of hard work. A lot of sleepless nights. A lot of second-guessing and a lot of being second-guessed. It’s a lot of arguing and disagreeing and consensus building, a lot of hard fought wins and painful losses. It’s a fight for principle and for passion, with very few predictable outcomes and a boatload of unpredictable challenges.

Now I’m hearing a lot about “change,” the need for it, and who would be best at providing it.

Forgive my skepticism: no one needs to “vote for change.” Change is happening in our industry whether we like it or not. It threatened like a hurricane forecast for more than a decade, and we ignored the warning signs until it was too late. The storm struck us all, hard, and it’s not over yet. In this climate, a call for change is hollow, and fighting over the title of change-agent is pointless.

Change is upon us. We don’t need you to promise it. We need you to tell us how you’re best suited to lead us through these changes. You don’t need to tear your opponent down. I don’t want to vote against him, against her. I want to vote FOR you. So talk me into it.

When I joined the board of NAHJ in 2000, 16 people took a stand, committing ourselves to a mission that was greater than ourselves. Each deserves a medal for what was endured in the years that followed. One of them was Michele Salcedo.

When I effectively left the board of NAHJ in 2008, 16 people took a stand, committing themselves to a mission that was greater than themselves. Each deserves a medal for what was endured in the years that followed. One of them was Hugo Balta.

Hugo and Michele would be fools to promise anything other than change. Change isn’t the point. Guiding NAHJ THROUGH change is the point. On that issue, decide who you trust to guide our organization through that change.

Elections force choices, and sometimes those choices are difficult. I am proud that in this election, I voted “for.” I am sorry I could not vote for everyone, but elections don’t allow us that luxury.

I made my choice, and I made it known. When I asked people to vote for Michele Salcedo, I deliberately did not portray it as a vote against Hugo Balta, because it’s not. Hugo came through for NAHJ when we needed him, joining the board by appointment at a time we were bleeding board members due to resignations and layoffs. And he stood out immediately: in the brief time I worked with him, I was grateful that he was there, willing to be one of the 16 people who took a stand for the mission of NAHJ.

Yes, I have worked with board members who have done less than was expected of them. And I dare say I have been that board member more than I’d like to admit (sometimes taking a stand means standing aside).

But you don’t commit to this mission and pour your heart into it and sacrifice your productivity at work and your time with your family to follow the trends and take the blame for an industry being torn apart by forces no one seems to be able to control — you don’t take on that job and endure it for two years, or four, or eight, without giving a damn about something worth fighting for.

In that, I salute every member of the NAHJ board of directors who preceded me, I raise a glass to those who served with me, and I thank my Maker for those who followed me. And for those who seek to begin their board service this weekend, I am in awe of you.

Because on Sunday morning, 16 people will take a stand. What would it say about me if I were anything but proud of you?

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