By Toni Randolph
Black Alumni Network
SAN DIEGO – NABJ exceeded its projections for registration for the 2010 convention in San Diego. Treasurer Gregory Lee said as of July 29 there were more than 1,099 paid registrations before the 35th convention began – slightly higher than the 1,050 paid attendees the organization had projected. [Total attendance at press time was 1,650, said officials.]
And Lee said numerous people registered on site, but they were not included in the current tally.
"The marketing team did an excellent push,” Lee said.
NABJ extended the pre-registration deadline by about two weeks last month because of the slow pace of registration. But the extension was only for members who had reservations at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, the headquarters hotel for the convention. Lee said that was done to encourage people to stay in the official hotel.
That move may have worked. The hotel which is also hosting a conference of fun-loving "Red Hat Ladies,” is sold out. Lee said NABJ has exceeded its hotel obligation of 2,850 room nights by 150, and more rooms were needed. Lee said NABJ signed a contract with the nearby Embassy Suites Hotel for 20 rooms and those rooms sold out as well.
About a week before the convention, which began Wednesday, July 28, about a dozen registrations and hotel reservations were bartered and traded on the NABJ Listserv, the association’s electronic bulletin board. Members who could not come to San Diego at the last minute transferred their registrations, and other women and men made last-minute arrangements for hotel roommates.
"I feel much better than last year,” Lee said. Last year, NABJ did not meet its hotel obligation and the shortfall cost the association about $150,000 in 2009.
Lee said the organization can’t afford two consecutive years of failure and he was optimistic that the chances of that are low: "Preliminary reports look like we did pretty good.”
The treasurer believes there is an 80-percent likelihood that NABJ will end up in the black.
Sherrod, race and media ethics
Shirley Sherrod, the agriculture official who was forced out of her job after right-wing blogger posted a distorted video clip in an attempt to paint her as a racist, accepted an invitation to speak at the July 29 forum here.
During the panel discussion "Context and Consequences,” Sherrod, former director of the rural development in Georgia for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said her experience provided a fresh opportunity for a candid discussion of race issues in America.
After BigGovernment.com blogger Andrew Breitbart’s 2 ½ minute video of Sherrod appeared to show her telling a regional NAACP audience that she withheld help from a white farm couple 24 years ago, Sherrod was forced to resign by the USDA. She was also condemned by the NAACP.
Soon it was revealed that her full speech from four months ago presented an opposite story: Sherrod told an anecdote to illustrate why blacks must refrain from engaging in bigotry and discrimination. The white, elderly Georgia farm couple that was the subject of the story also told CNN that Sherrod worked energetically to save their property.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack apologized for the hasty dismissal and offered Sherrod a new job. President Obama also apologized personally to Sherrod.
Breitbart meanwhile was unrepentant. Convention coordinators Elise Durham and Ryan Williams of NABJ also extended him an invitation to answer questions at the forum, said spokeswoman Aprill O. Turner. Brietbart initially accepted, then withdrew.
At the forum, Sherrod promised to sue Breitbart for libel. As students who paid attention in media law classes should recall, if it can be proven that Breitbart edited that clip with malice and presented a deliberately false impression of the plaintiff, he may be liable for monetary damages. It remains to be seen if Sherrod will make good on her promise. Breaking news about Breitbart.Wayne Dawkins, J-’80, in Virginia contributed to this report.