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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