I want to assure you that NABJ's board members
and I have discussed the very concerns that you have raised about our
negotiations with UNITY: Journalists of Color since we released a
statement on Tuesday. I want to take a moment to address some of them as well
as the message released Tuesday by UNITY.
UNITY’s president told
the board of directors that memo was written two weeks ago, and that it is not
a response to our message. Yet, it contains outdated information about an NABJ
proposal that was tabled in 2010. NABJ's board has worked tirelessly on a compromise
in 2011 and submitted another proposal that would give all alliance partners a
higher percentage of the convention proceeds, and the Native American
Journalists Association would be given an extra appropriation.
Keep in mind, this is a
fluid situation. UNITY's president came to my home in Jackson last week to
discuss our concerns, proposals, and UNITY's future. The meeting was
productive. However, change can be a tough pill to swallow. As journalists, we
feel and see the growing pains of change everyday. Let's not forget last year's
NABJ convention theme - NABJ@35: The POWER of Change. Positive change often
leads to a greater return on our investment (ROI). That's the goal of your NABJ
leadership every day. That's what we expect from UNITY.
Although a lot has
already been addressed by others, I want to touch on a few points that I
believe are important for you to know.
What is UNITY?
First, I believe that we
are faced with a fundamental difference of opinion about UNITY’s purpose and
identity. The following sentences in the UNITY message should be cause for
concern among all alliance members.
"The current state of
the economy, however, is not, and cannot be a rationale to undermine the
concepts that have forged UNITY into the largest organization of journalists in
The principles and
mission of UNITY are far more important than any individual person or
UNITY is an alliance
without chapters or individual memberships. Without NAJA, NABJ, AAJA, and NAHJ,
there is no UNITY. Has UNITY been elevated to the status of a "parent”
organization? That view is completely inconsistent with NABJ’s
The ideal that UNITY’s
mission is far more important than any individual organization does not square
Why Now? It’s Your
All of the alliance
partners should expect a substantial ROI on the nearly $1 million that the 2008
convention netted for UNITY. UNITY pays its executive director a six-figure
salary whether she is planning a convention or not. As a result of our
inquiries into UNITY's finances, NABJ learned UNITY has or had approximately
$200,000 in restricted funds that must be used for advocacy during a time when
diversity has taken constant hits.
Where did it go?
This is proof that UNITY
can and has raised funds beyond the quadrennial convention, and there's room
for adjustments in the convention revenue formula that will not decimate UNITY
or any alliance partner.
UNITY does not engage in
any substantial programming beyond the convention. When NABJ helped form
UNITY, it did not do so with the need for a "parenting” organization. Our
founders did not envision deferring NABJ’s mission to that of others.
As much as we all enjoy
the excitement of collaborating around a UNITY convention, the other side
of the coin is that when the convention is over, NABJ is quickly back engaged
in an enormous regimen of executing and sustaining comprehensive programs and services
that benefit our members and the industry as a whole.
Things To Consider
Convention planning can
be assumed by professional planners and a part-time executive director on a
semi-part-time or modified basis. UNITY’s assertion that it takes 16 months
to two years to convene a convention is inconsistent with industry norms.
In fact, we all convene our own individual conventions with less
In justifying the large
sums to UNITY, it is suggested that UNITY has a right to all on-site and all
non-designated registrations. That would be equivalent to saying that your
meeting planner or staff is entitled to your registrations because those folks
did not come because of you.
statements cloud the real issues. The reality is that some alliance
partners want more UNITY conventions as they face economic hardships. Our
membership survey indicated NABJ members do not want a UNITY convention more
frequently. Each organization must challenge itself to rise above its existing
UNITY’s message also
stated NABJ is seeking a UNITY convention chair. Actually, the immediate past
president already appointed an NABJ member (who is also a UNITY board member)
as UNITY convention chair. She has planned four NABJ conventions. She is more
than qualified to assist the UNITY executive director and board with the
responsibilities. Is this an indication UNITY's president has officially
rescinded that appointment?
I’d like to reiterate
that NABJ’s board has not taken a vote on its future in UNITY, Inc. or the
UNITY convention. We know many of our sponsors and partners enjoy the benefits
of traveling to one convention every four years. While it is economical and
efficient to meet all groups under one common venue, these same partners and
sponsors do not subscribe to a belief that minority journalists of color must
do something different than majority organizations in order to receive their
support. NABJ's sponsors are committed to NABJ and the programs it continues to
So where do we go from
here? As your president, I will continue to work with the UNITY leadership to
settle our differences and look out for your best interest.
The contents of this
email are intended only for the members of NABJ and should not be published, posted, or
reproduced without the written consent of the NABJ president.
Yours in service,
Kathy Y. Times