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Background and Frequently Asked Questions on NABJ and UNITY
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National Association of Black Journalists and UNITY

Background and Frequently Asked Questions 

Since 1994, the National Association of Black Journalists has been a strong advocate of the UNITY coalition. The founders, including a former NABJ president, envisioned that journalists of color in America’s newsrooms would come together to share the struggles and accomplishments of our respective organizations.

Over the past 17 years, the alliance has grown into something that exceeded the expectations of all partners associated with this experience. However, a recession and record losses in the news industry have led to a decline in financial support from media companies and affected all of the alliance partners' coffers.

 At the last two conventions, our members made up 52% of the total convention registrants. Two years ago, NABJ asked for specific line-by-line expenditures related to the 2008 convention. To date, NABJ has not received such information. We only received a budget for 2008. UNITY has not passed a budget for 2011, nor is there a projected budget for 2012, or budget projections for the non-UNITY years between 2013 and 2015. This is critical because UNITY has asked for a substantial amount of funding without a sufficient cost analysis that reflects changes in this economic climate.

Given these issues, NABJ is seriously concerned about working with UNITY in its current state.

1) What was the original intention behind UNITY’s creation?

 In 1994, UNITY was established as a not-for-profit alliance of journalists of color.

The alliance includes the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), the

National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic

Journalists (NAHJ), and the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA). The four groups come together every four years for a joint convention coordinated by UNITY.


2) What specific issues is the NABJ Board working currently to address with UNITY?

The NABJ Board has proposed creating a revenue sharing plan that would provide greater support for the individual organizations, while simultaneously working to recommend a new governance structure that includes greater accountability.

Specifically, our concerns regarding UNITY’s current structure include:

  • UNITY currently receives funds from all on-site and non-member registrations at UNITY Conventions. In 2008, this totaled more than $794,000. 
  •  UNITY’s current governance structure gives all alliance members equal votes on the Board. NABJ, which consistently brings the most attendees to UNITY conventions, expects to have a voice more in line with their participation in UNITY events.
  • UNITY has grown beyond its initial purpose of an alliance between the four member organizations, and now competes for financial support as if it were a separate entity. 

3) How many proposals has NABJ sent to UNITY and how did the UNITY board vote?

NABJ has sent three revenue sharing proposals and one governance proposal since December. The UNITY Board tabled the first proposal on December 12, 2010, for more scrutiny. NABJ submitted its final proposal to UNITY on March 12, 2011. The UNITY Board voted down two NABJ Proposals, 12-4, with all representatives except NABJ’s voting against.

The UNITY Board passed two measures, which were presented 12 hours before the vote, by a margin of 12-4, with NABJ representatives voting against.

4) What are NABJ's next steps?

NABJ is weighing several options and discussing them with advisors that include attorneys and convention planners. We are confident we can have a successful NABJ convention if necessary next year.

We will make a determination on our participation in the UNITY 2012 Convention at the next NABJ Board of Directors meeting, scheduled for April 8-9 in Philadelphia.

5) What is the status of the 2012 UNITY convention in Las Vegas?

UNITY is moving forward expecting that four alliance partners will participate.

6) What is the current status of NABJ's membership in the UNITY alliance?

NABJ is still an active member of the alliance.

7) Why not wait until the Philadelphia convention to address these issues?

If the NABJ Board waits until August convention to address this issue with its membership, NABJ would lose a tremendous amount of leverage if its membership feels that it should not attend the 2012 UNITY Convention. It would be difficult for NABJ to secure a convention location 11 months before hosting its own 2012 Convention.

8) What is the potential financial impact of these negotiations on NABJ?

The funding scenario that was voted on and approved by the UNITY board at the March 2011 board meeting is as follows (BASED UPON 2008 FIGURES):

UNITY: $750,000
NABJ: $976,718
NAHJ: $478,010
AAJA: $444,277
NAJA: $173,494

The final proposal that was submitted by NABJ (and ultimately voted down) sought to more equally distribute monies among partner organizations as follows:

UNITY: $381,583
NABJ: $1,222,382
NAHJ: $526,384
AAJA: $476,782
NAJA: $169,940


9) What happens if NABJ pulls out of UNITY 2012?

We are currently reviewing the implications, both financially and logistically, of hosting an NABJ convention separate from the UNITY event in 2012. We are confident that

NABJ will be able to host its own convention and earn much more than it would under the current UNITY formula.

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