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A Tribute to Dori Maynard

Dori Maynard, a journalist and champion for diversity in media died this week, and journalists across the country are mourning. They are mourning the loss of a woman who devoted her life to ensuring all voices were heard.

Photo Courtesy: Jackson DeMos, USC Annenberg School

Photo Courtesy: Jackson DeMos, USC Annenberg School

Maynard was the president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, named after her father, Robert C. Maynard, who was former publisher of the Oakland Tribune. He and his wife, Nancy Hicks Maynard, Tribune co-publisher, were the first African Americans to own a major metropolitan daily in the United States.

Journalism seemed to be in her blood. On her mother Liz Rosen’s side of the family, Maynard’s grandfather, Edward Patrick Flynn, was executive editor of the New York Post. Beyond telling stories, Maynard advocated better stories be told by reaching out to underserved communities. She pushed for journalists to make stronger efforts to include more diverse voices in their news coverage.

Maynard was also actively involved in the Society of Professional Journalists, and served on the board for the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

Her friends and colleagues throughout SPJ and SDX are deeply saddened by her death.

“This news comes as a complete shock. How can Dori be gone? What a loss for our profession,” said SDX President Robert Leger.

“She accomplished a lot in a too-short lifetime. I admired her and was proud to serve with her on the SDX board,” said Irwin Gratz, former SPJ President and SDX board Vice President.

“Dori was one of those people who showed up and by showing up made a difference. When I thought she might be too busy, or too involved, or too far away to attend a Foundation board meeting, Dori showed up. I will remember Dori for her passion for diversity in our profession, for her diligence in making a difference, for her advocacy as a human being,” said Steve Geimann, also a former SPJ President and current SDX board member.

George Daniels, Assistant Dean of the College of Communication and Information Sciences at the University of Alabama, met Dori when he was a SPJ Diversity Fellow. Later while serving as the SPJ Diversity Committee Chairman he would invite Dori to be part of the many discussions that came before the committee.

“Though she was based in California, it was nothing for her to get on a plane and fly all the way across the country to engage in an important diversity-related meeting and she gave tirelessly to the efforts to ensure that our media outlets were true to their pledges to make their newsroom staff look like the communities that are becoming more and more diverse,” Daniels said.

Longtime friend Sally Lehrman, a SDX board member, former SPJ Board Member and SPJ Diversity committee member and former chair, admired Dori’s commitment to change.

“Dori’s warmth and passion for her work blended so beautifully in a woman who knew how to talk straight and press for change — and at the same time, listen carefully and thoughtfully to others who had a completely different perspective. She had such a big heart,” Lehrman said.

Rebecca Tallent, journalism professor and SPJ Diversity committee member says Dori left quite an impression on her.

“Dori taught me what it meant to really be tenacious, and how to use that trait in the difficult art of diversity,” Tallent said.

“Whenever I would see her, I would mentally paraphrase the line from the end of the trial in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’: Stand up children, a great person is passing by,” Tallent said, ”Lord Almighty – how that woman will be missed.”

Sandra Gonzalez

Sandra Gonzalez

Sandra Gonzalez is former SPJ Diversity Committee Chair, and is a general assignment reporter at KSNV-TV in Las Vegas.

@SandraGonzalez2

sandragonzalezthereporter@gmail.com

Historic Journalism Conference With Addition of NAHJ

This is going to be one mega-journalism conference! It’s nothing new for journalism organizations to join together for one big convention, but this year history is being made with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists joining forces with the Society of Professional Journalists and the Radio Television Digital News Association. NAHJ has never joined forces with SPJ and RTDNA before, for a mega-conference but this year they are all part of the Excellence in Journalism Conference in Anaheim, California.

Journalists learning investigative techniques at NAHJ Conference

Financially speaking, this is a dream come true for me. I am a long time member of NAHJ, but a newer member of SPJ and devoted to both. Since I’m on a budget and in a new job where it’s also not easy to get time off to attend both, this year I get to be at both, all under the same roof along with about 1,400 other journalists. Even better, a journalism conference being held in Orange County, where I was raised and went to college.

As SPJ’s Diversity Chairman, I’m really impressed because three major journalism organizations will be together where diversity can’t be missed, and journalists will be able to see what an important role it plays in our communities and in our coverage.

Learning lighting at NAHJ Conference 2011

 

While I will be spending time with the 2013 SPJ Diversity Fellows, I can’t help but think what a great opportunity this conference will offer them. They’ll be networking with great journalists from all over the country in all kinds of positions whether it’s in management, news-gathering, or independent freelancing; and be absorbing diversity and journalism before their eyes.

“It’s my hope that during this event there will be an interest on SPJ from NAHJ members, and other Latino journalists that are also in SPJ, will see the benefit of such a partnership and the importance of diversity of its own organizations relevant for future growth,” said NAHJ President Hugo Balta.

Members from RTDNA, SPJ, and NAHJ will be intermingled and able to attend sessions and workshops, and still hold their individual award banquets and events.

“We’re just looking forward to what we think is going to be a really successful event,” said RTDNA Chairman Vincent Duffy.

Linda Ellerbee speaking to crowds at Excellence In Journalism/New Orleans 2011

 

“I think that it’s excellent that we’re having this in the western part of the country because the Hispanic population is so significant there,” Duffy said, “Bringing NAHJ in to participate in the creation of the program and at the creation of events, it sort of keeps the diversity issue front and center throughout the whole planning process and I think it will just add to the convention.”

NAHJ is dedicated to the recognition and the professional advancement of Hispanics in the news industry, as well as fostering and promoting fair treatment of Hispanics by the media.

RTDNA serves the electronic news profession and is dedicated to setting standards for news gathering and reporting. SPJ promotes the free flow of information and works to protect the guarantees of freedom of speech and press. These two organizations have been working together in recent years to bring the Excellence in Journalism Conference to their memberships.

SPJ President Sonny Albarado is very supportive of this year’s addition of NAHJ to EIJ.

“Mentoring SPJ Diversity Leadership participants reconnected me to my own Hispanic roots and strengthened my commitment to improve the diversity of SPJ’s membership and leadership pool. It seems a natural evolution, then, for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists to partner with SPJ and RTDNA at EIJ13 in Anaheim,” Albarado said.

The workshops and sessions are well planned and are tailored for all career levels which is very important to NAHJ President Hugo Balta.

“…training newsroom leaders, behind the camera. decision makers, journalists who are in charge of molding the content, and I think that will help us in expanding the breadth of our programming,” Balta said.

All three organizations are not only looking forward to this new venture but perhaps what the future holds.

The Excellence in Journalism Conference is August 24-26 in Anaheim, CA.

Sandra Gonzalez is SPJ Diversity Committee Chair, Las Vegas SPJ Chapter Secretary, NAHJ member and reporter for KSNV-TV Las Vegas, Nevada.

Journalists visit UNLV: say embrace our own diversity

(Guest Blog by Pashtana Usufzy/UNLV SPJ President)

As president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Society of Professional Journalists, I find myself in charge of planning quite a few events. When the time came to hold our first member meeting of the spring semester, I desperately needed ideas. While clicking on every link on the SPJ website, I ran across a copy of the organization’s mission.

Hoping for ideas, I read through it.

We’d held a meeting on service a few weeks earlier, and a First Amendment discussion seemed a little intense for the first meeting. (“Here’s your pizza and soda. Now, quick, which freedoms are guaranteed by the First Amendment?) I kept scrolling down — “foster excellence … inspire successive generations … encourage diversity in journalism.”

Diversity — now that I could work with.

The topic stood out. UNLV has consistently been ranked as one of the most diverse college campuses in the country. We have students from every walk of life. We represent numerous countries, religions, ethnicities — different genders and sexual orientations. It made sense for our chapter to ask: Where’s the diversity in the local journalism field? What role does that play in the politics of the newsroom, and is our news as inclusive as it should be?

Our board members went to work. We began planning and advertising a discussion on the diversity of our community and our local news market. I invited Antonio Planas of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Chris Saldaña, a local broadcast news personality, to be our speakers.

On the day of, I was nervous. Our meeting didn’t have a huge turnout; I blamed myself for picking a Friday morning meeting date and expecting college kids to be awake. The members who were there, however, wanted to get the meeting going, and our speakers said the students deserved their attention.

We didn’t draw in a classroom full of students, but our speakers made such a tremendous impact upon the students who did attend.

Planas and Saldaña played off of each other so well. They discussed their own experiences as Hispanic journalists covering the news. They talked about missteps by reporters in covering our city’s diverse population, and they told us to embrace our own diversity and bring it to our reporting.

UNLV's SPJ Chapter had broadcast news journalist Chris Saldaña and reporter Antonio Planas visit to discuss diversity in the news.

UNLV’s SPJ Chapter had broadcast news journalist Chris Saldaña and reporter Antonio Planas visit to discuss diversity in the news.

They described efforts to make colleagues aware of potentially offensive characterizations of minorities, but they also described how important it is for all groups to participate in the discussion on diversity.

They asked each student: Who are you, and what kind of diversity do you bring to the table?

I’ll admit it: I sometimes have a hard time speaking up in a newsroom full of much more experienced writers. Saldaña and Planas assured me that my opinion could help shed light on an overlooked group. It’s better to speak up, they said, than to be embarrassed by an inaccurate story or have your news organization appear out of touch.

They emphasized that we as journalists must examine the diversity of our environment, especially in a state with such an increasingly diverse population.

As student SPJ leaders, we try to bring the lessons SPJ emphasizes to the attention of our campus. We want members to get a taste of the professional world, but we also hope they’ll discover a bit of the kind of journalist they’d like to be. Our speakers that day helped us accomplish our goal.

Our attendees stayed afterward to discuss how they felt about the panel. Our small group of students could now raise questions, share its views with others.

Most importantly, the discussion could keep going, and that meant more to us than anything.

(Pashtana Usufzy/UNLV SPJ President organized this event earlier this Spring)

 

SPJ Diversity pleased with AP decision on “illegal immigrant” term usage

The SPJ Diversity Committee is pleased with The Associated Press’ decision to change the use of the term “illegal immigrant.”

However, the Diversity Committee has been behind the issue of dropping the term “illegal” for the past few years, spearheaded by former committee member Leo Laurence. And it was in New Orleans at the Excellence in Journalism Conference 2011 when I witnessed former Diversity Fellow and Vice Chairwoman Rebecca Aguilar address the SPJ board about her mother, who came to the United States from Mexico, and the pain it caused when she saw the term “illegal alien” used in the newspaper.

Rebecca Aguilar addresses SPJ Board about using term "illegal alien". Photo by Sandra Gonzalez

Rebecca Aguilar addresses SPJ Board about using term “illegal alien”.
Photo by Sandra Gonzalez

After hearing Aguilar’s impassioned speech, the voting convention delegates passed this resolution on voice vote:

WHEREAS, the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics urges all journalists to be “honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information” and;

WHEREAS, mainstream news reports are increasingly using the politically charged phrase “illegal immigrant” and the more offensive and bureaucratic “illegal alien” to describe undocumented immigrants, particularly Latinos and;

WHEREAS, a fundamental principle embedded in our U.S. Constitution is that everyone (including non-citizens) is considered innocent of any crime until proven guilty in a court of law and;

WHEREAS, this constitutional doctrine, often described as “innocent-until-proven-guilty,” applies not just to U.S. Citizens but to everyone in the United States and;

WHEREAS, only the court system, not reporters and editors, can decide when a person has committed an “illegal” act and;

WHEREAS, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists is also concerned with the increasing use of pejorative and potentially inaccurate terms to describe the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the United States;

THEREFORE, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists convention of delegates: urges journalists and style guide editors to stop the use of illegal alien and encourage continuous discussion and re-evaluation of the use of illegal immigrant in news stories.

Prior to this, it had been rejected by the Resolutions Committee.

The AP is now changing how it will describe people as journalists report stories involving the current immigration issue. According to Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll, here is what is behind the decision:

The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term “illegal immigrant” or the use of “illegal” to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that “illegal” should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.

“Journalists and others can argue that the new style recommendation is less precise than ‘illegal alien’ or ‘illegal immigrant,’ but it’s important to note that a significant portion of country’s population regards those terms as offensive.  It wasn’t that long ago that keepers of journalism style, including The AP, fought dropping ‘Negro’ as a term for black or African-American people,” says SPJ President Sonny Albarado.

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists also says these terms can be dehumanizing  and demeaning.

“AP is right to note that the English language evolves and that our everyday usage contributes to that evolution. I hope journalists and others continue this conversation about immigration and people who come here legally or illegally until we arrive at terminology most of us can agree on,” Albarado says.

We on the SPJ Diversity Committee agree and hope journalists will eliminate these types of terms from their copy as immigration is a huge issue we will be reporting on this year.

Sandra Gonzalez
SPJ Diversity Committee Chairman
KSNV Reporter
Las Vegas

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