UNITY name change was a foregone conclusion, but…


They went ahead and did it. UNITY: Journalists of Color is no more. Long live UNITY Journalists.

Truth is, the name change was a foregone conclusion from the moment the UNITY board opted to allow the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association to become a part of the coalition. In embracing that bold change, the alliance expanded its mission in a way that requires reflection and analysis from members of each partner in the group. The president of NABJ (no longer a coalition partner) believes the name change indicates the group has lost focus. I don’t fully agree, but no one can dismiss his critique lightly. Supporters of the name change (I count myself among you in principle) can argue that expanding the mission does not equal a lack of focus.

I liken it to a camera: One lens may work perfectly in a given setting, but the same camera in a different setting requires a different lens. The setting has changed. So UNITY changed the lens.

It’s called adaptation, and every coalition partner must realize by now that if we don’t adapt, we won’t survive. It’s true of our careers. It’s true of our employers. It’s true of our associations. And it’s true of the coalition.

NABJ is in a difficult position now: it must decide whether to rejoin a coalition that responded to its departure by making drastic changes that call attention to the very points of contention that led to the split. If NABJ comes back, it will be to a very different coalition. If NABJ stays away, it does permanent damage to a powerful message it helped craft [that when we join forces, we do not dilute our voices; we magnify them].

NABJ’s return is pivotal to the future of UNITY. Reunification is an imperative for the strength of the message that all coalition members are sending to the profession we love. But for NABJ to come back, its issues must be addressed and resolved.

I believe the name of UNITY had to change. But I also think it should have happened after NABJ’s return as a full partner.

We who preach diversity to the profession are being watched. What message do we send when we say that we cannot resolve our differences?

I wish the best to all who continue working on this situation. I look forward to its resolution.

Published by Olmeda

At-large director on the national board of the Society of Professional Journalists. Former president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and of UNITY: Journalists of Color. An extreme moderate, not committed to political ideology. Stepfather to two wonderful daughters. Father to two wonderful sons. Husband. Rogue karaoke singer. Humanist

6 thoughts on “UNITY name change was a foregone conclusion, but…

  1. As an NABJ member and one who worked on the host committee for the first one in Atlanta, I agree that times change and we must continually adapt. If UNITY is really returning to its roots than I also believe that it will soon cease to be a separate journalist organization unto itself and revert back to being a coalition of journalist organizations. I’m sure that idea won’t sit well with the UNITY Board but in light of that, I think NABJ should remain separate from UNITY, but still work with the organization on issues that affect us all in the industry. I see and feel no real need for NABJ to rejoin UNITY in the foreseeable future. I wish all of the organizations well.

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  2. The idea may not sit well with the board, but remember that the board has an obligation to act in the best interest of the organization. So if the interest of the coalition conflicts with the interest of the individual members, there’s gonna be a problem. Which is what has taken place.
    So where do we go from here? Can the coalition be saved while adhering to the current structure?
    Suggestion: bring the five presidents together for a confab, with Joanna on hand for perspective. Come up with a new organizational proposal, one that respects all five groups and refines the mission and limits of the coalition. Bring the proposal to each board for an up or down vote: a yes redefines UNITY. A no accepts the status quo and seeks to make the best of it. And each group can decide whether it wants to live with the outcome.
    Yes, that would be humbling for the UNITY Board. But if the lesson here is that UNITY exists for the alliance partners and not the other way around, then this would be an effective way of sending that message.
    For me, the bottom line remains the same: we must save UNITY. The problems that separate us are not as great as the principles that unite us. And UNITY without NABJ is simply not UNITY. We need you back.
    My two cents.

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