A suggestion for the #UNITYJournalists alliance partners


Congratulations on another UNITY convention receiving high marks from those who attended. I’m sorry I missed it, and I vow to be with you at your next convention.

About that…

What’s say we do this again in 2014? Hear me out. I know this idea has been floated and rejected before, but that was a different time. A lot has changed in the three years since that decision was made, within UNITY and within our profession. We’ve lost one ally and gained another.

I suggest (it’s just a suggestion coming from a lowly member) that each alliance board weighs the pros and cons of coming together under the UNITY banner in 2014 and votes on it this fall. The votes will give the UNITY board direction to begin planning when its new leadership takes office in January.

Realistically, if you do this, NABJ will not be in the mix. You would have to plan the conference with the assumption that our former (and future?) ally will not participate. I submit to you that this won’t pose much of a problem because we’re starting with their presumed absence (unlike the Las Vegas convention).

As another blogger suggested, UNITY would probably need to hire an event planner rather than (or in addition to) an executive director to make it happen on such an abbreviated timetable.

Yes, it would take a lot of work to pull this off, but it’s the same amount of work you would be expending on planning individual or combined conventions in 2014.

Think about it. I think you have a chance to do something great here. I’d love to be a part of it. And I suspect I’m not alone.

UNITY should welcome NABJ members to Las Vegas

Some of the discussion about what will happen now that NABJ has pulled out of the UNITY: Journalists of Color coalition centers around whether NABJ members will be welcome at the UNITY conference in Las Vegas next year. One answer that was floated around (not an official UNITY answer, but an educated presumption) was that NABJers could pay the non-member registration fee to attend UNITY or join one of the remaining groups (NAHJ, AAJA, NAJA) to get the membership registration rate.

This is just a suggestion: NABJ members should not have to join another association to get the membership rate at UNITY 2012.

NABJ members who choose to attend UNITY 2012 will either be doing so in addition to the NABJ convention that year or instead of it. While I would encourage NABJ members to support their association by attending NABJ 2012, I would also encourage them to support UNITY.

A strong NABJ membership showing at UNITY 2012 is a concrete way to show that support. UNITY should do whatever it can to encourage it.

Would NABJ members attend two conventions? It wouldn’t be unprecedented. I know Black and Latino NLGJA members who make room for two conventions a year (and I’m sure there are those in NAJA and AAJA who do so as well: I just don’t know them).

The bottom line is that this is no time to nickel and dime NABJ members who might want to attend UNITY 2012.

We are still allies.

Dis UNITY: NABJ split avoidable, regrettable… reversible?

Like many others, I have been watching the unraveling of the UNITY coalition with increasing dismay over the last few weeks. I was concerned about weighing in too heavily because I thought my uninvited observations might not be articulated or received in a constructive manner. With yesterday’s action by the NABJ board to pull out of the UNITY coalition, I can’t imagine my views could have made matters much worse. So here goes nothing.

The withdrawal of NABJ from UNITY was avoidable. Borrowing a line from Bill Clinton’s first inauguration speech, I wrote recently that there was nothing wrong with the UNITY coalition that could not be fixed by what was right with the UNITY coalition. This alliance survived tougher existential questions in the past. Its formation overcame more obstacles than its undoing. It should not have come to this. NABJ could have made just as strong a statement passing a resolution declaring that it will withdraw from UNITY after the 2012 conference.  Such a move would have sent the same message without putting the former partners in the position of staging a competing conference.

The withdrawal of NABJ from UNITY is regrettable. When we formed this coalition, we did not add the strengths of NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA and NAJA. We multiplied them. But what NABJ warned against, it has now made a reality through its action: NABJ and UNITY will now be in direct competition for dwindling sponsorship dollars. Not that we should let our media sponsors dictate our direction, but they were urging us to work together more frequently, not less. Now news organizations that planned to attend UNITY’s convention in 2012 (looked FORWARD to it, from a financial perspective) will either have to attend two conferences or choose one. From that standpoint, there won’t be many winners in 2012.

Another reason I find the split regrettable is that, in my opinion (and I hope I’m wrong), it diminishes our moral authority to preach diversity to the profession when we show an inability to work through our differences and achieve a consensus.

The withdrawal of NABJ from UNITY is reversible. UNITY should extend membership registration rates to NABJ members who sign up for the UNITY convention in 2012.

It should turn this crisis into an opportunity to rebuild UNITY from the bottom up. Create a new framework for the alliance that includes rotating 2-partner conventions and a more focused mission. NABJ should be a part of that discussion.

NABJ may no longer be a UNITY partner, but it will always be an ally.

Don’t let it end like this.