A Look at Unity 2012 in Las Vegas

Unity 2012

Unity 2012

What a historic UNITY Convention it was in Las Vegas! This was my fourth UNITY, but definitely my most memorable. First of all, I have to say I missed my friends from the National Association of Black Journalists. There was electricity in the air at this UNITY 2012, but NABJ’s absence was felt since they parted ways last year.

Opening night was emotional. On stage, UNITY President Joanna Hernandez said to NABJ that UNITY would “welcome you back with open arms.” While NABJ was for the most part invisible, the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association was warmly welcomed into the fold. The UNITY family however dropped the extended part of the name “Journalists of Color”.

To kick off UNITY, a plenary of journalists representing each journalism association talked about the challenges of diversity in the media from the past, present, and future of our changing industry. One guest, sports columnist LZ Granderson, both a member of NABJ and NLGJA ended up getting into a heated debate  after the event with NABJ’s President and Vice President. Granderson had told the crowd about being both gay and black that “diversity is more than skin.”

LZ Granderson and NABJ leaders

The public disagreement was just one example of the passion and the pain still stirring after the changes of UNITY following the split of NABJ and addition of NGLJA.

While UNITY has morphed in the past year, social media has changed the flavor of UNITY this time around, “tweeting” in particular. Controversy was the talk of the convention when a student UNITY reporter was told she could not “tweet” at a National Association of Hispanic Journalists board meeting. The incident made big news at the convention, putting NAHJ in the spotlight and a “tweeting” policy that was spoken but not written.

NAHJ had already been experiencing high emotion during a heated election that at times was explosive on social media especially in the presidential race. Elections results were released Friday night at the NAHJ Gala, naming Hugo Balta as the new NAHJ President. Also, SPJ Diversity Committee Vice Chairman Rebecca Aguilar was elected NAHJ Vice President of Online.

New NAHJ President, Hugo Balta

At Balta’s very first board meeting, a motion made by Aguilar to repeal the the “No Tweet” policy was passed in a 6-5 vote.

UNITY has changed as the media industry has changed trying to keep up with the public’s hunger to communicate on the web. One thing hasn’t changed though: the need to keep the pressure on for diversity in those newsrooms. I was glad to see companies were hiring, and I hope the healing process continues within UNITY, and that soon NABJ will return.

Sandra Gonzalez is a freelance digital journalist based in New Orleans, LA.  She’s also a member of the SPJ Diversity Committee and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

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  • Pingback: The SPJ Garden Center » Blog Archive » Membership drive guest blog: And now a word from SPJ Diversity Committee chair Bonnie Davis Newman

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  • Michael Koretzky

    There are only three arguments for joining SPJ that I’ve ever heard…

    1. It’ll help you get a job.
    2. It’s the right and noble thing to do.
    3. It’s abou the training and programs.

    The first one isn’t true: Most SPJers aren’t hiring editors.

    The second is a guilt trip: We need your money to lobby for our industry.

    The third is the only greedy reason we can control, yet we spend the least amount of time on it. Our training programs are staid and static. We avoid verve. We don’t fail big. We fail small.

    If we want more members, we need to take more risks. After years of denial, SPJ has finally admitted it ceded tech to ONA, investigation to IR, broadcast to RTDNA, and diversity to NAHJ and NABJ. So now we strive to partner with those groups by doing their accounting and co-hosting conventions. It’s a solid and sensible plan that will attract zero new members.

    What are we doing that tingles journalists’ toes? Answer that question, and you have new members.

  • http://www.robyndavissekula.com Robyn Davis Sekula

    I think you make some great points, succinctly. Thank you. I especially like the idea of “tingling their toes.”

  • http://www.robyndavissekula.com Robyn Davis Sekula

    I love this idea. I think it could be particularly beneficial for students. As a pro member, serving as a very casual even mentor to students has recharged me.

  • http://www.robyndavissekula.com Robyn Davis Sekula

    A thank you is HUGE for doing a good job on something. It means a lot to me, I know. I write thank you notes to my board for going above and beyond. I like the thoughts you shared that it’s not the same for everyone – some need very little, while others want a lot more.

  • http://sarahjnichols.com/ Sarah Nichols

    Important topic — I’m a relatively new member and joined partly due to my interest in building relationships with local pros and connecting the high school journalists I teach/advise with more resources from the industry. Students are hungry for opportunities to meet and learn from professionals. The outreach and support I receive from my local chapter will go a long way in proving the value of my SPJ membership and can plant seeds now for the soon-to-be college and pro journalists (your next round of future members!) who are currently thriving in a high school media setting and looking to see what’s out there for networking and professional development.


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