NAHJ elections: There should be no debate

The debate over whether the Board of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists should cancel this year’s election and extend the current term of Board members by another year should have begun and ended with two words.

It’s illegal.

But they acted in good faith.

It’s illegal.

But they truly felt it was in the best interest of the association.

It’s illegal.

But continuity is important. We’re in an unprecedented crisis that demands bold action.

It’s illegal.

All the reasons the Board chose to take this action are valid (at least, all the reasons I have heard from the Board and its supporters). They demand to be addressed. But the solutions we implement have to be legal.

This is gonna be good!

This Board has done an admirable job of providing programming year-round for those who are in journalism and those seeking to join our beleaguered profession. Its newest initiative, Palabra, is a novel way to offer original content to news organizations while both highlighting and providing opportunity to our freelance members.

NAHJ President Hugo Balta and the rest of the Board are going above and beyond in trying to keep this association relevant and useful during a time of, let’s be honest, relative apathy from the membership. During the last election, numerous positions were either uncontested or, worse, did not draw a single nominee. With all due respect, shame on us. So this Board had reason to believe no one would object if they reluctantly continued in their positions for another year. With all due respect, shame on them.

Member apathy does not justify member disenfranchisement. Period.

The Board has rightly recognized a remarkable challenge ahead. The next convention will be virtual. Putting it together will take a new commitment to planning, organizing, gathering resources, and in the midst of it all, trying to figure out how to raise funds for the association. Who has time for an election while all that is going on? The concern is understandable. The solution still has to be legal.

To face this unprecedented challenge, the NAHJ Board should have drawn on the power of its membership.

NAHJ members have answered that call to action before, numerous times. Some of us have been around long enough to remember raising more than $50,000 from members in a single night. We somehow managed to secure votes from hundreds and hundreds of members, even the apathetic ones, because the bylaws demanded it. Failing in our duty was not an option. We got it done.

We, the members of NAHJ, can do that again.

But instead of drawing on the power of our members, the Board usurped that power. It’s not too late to repair that mistake. The bylaws demand it, and no Board is above the bylaws.

If you are an NAHJ member, founding member, lifetime member or Hall of Fame inductee and have not done so already, click on this link to sign a petition calling on the NAHJ Board to uphold its bylaws and restore the election. But remember that’s only the first step. NAHJ needs its members to step up and face this challenge. And we will. We always have.

After this article was published April 27, NAHJ announced it would revisit this illegal decision. On May 5, the board reaffirmed the illegal decision usurping the power of members to elect the association’s leadership.

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

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