NAHJ members win back their rights


Congratulations to the board of directors of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists for restoring the membership’s right to choose its leadership.

And I, for one, want to say thank you to everyone who took time out of your busy lives to make sure the board knew your commitment to the association and its success.

I especially want to thank the “committee” that worked behind the scenes to rally the membership, led by former NAHJ VP Marilyn Garateix. Former board members Frenchie Robles, Nora Lopez and Diana Fuentes, and former president Veronica Villafañe were also heavily involved. There were others who have chosen to remain behind the scenes, but please know we all owe you a debt of gratitude as well.

I also want to thank the board members whose motives were undoubtedly in the best interests of the association. One in particular [I will not name him out of professional courtesy] had no desire to run for office again but was willing to continue serving under the circumstances. I served with many of these board members (not all, and not for long). My disagreement with them on this issue should not be interpreted as a condemnation of their character.

The election is now scheduled for September, a month after the virtual conference. Specific dates have not been set, but please watch for their announcement.

Three types of volunteers are needed:

NAHJ is looking for volunteers to serve on the election committee to vet candidates and oversee the election. “Interested volunteers may email nahj@nahj.org.”

NAHJ is also looking for volunteers to serve on a bylaws committee to review the association’s governing document and recommend changes and updates. The board made the argument that the bylaws are outdated. This is their chance to make the case and our chance to weigh in (any bylaws changes have to be approved by members). “Interested volunteers may email nahj@nahj.org.”

Finally, and this is the hardest part, NAHJ needs candidates who are willing to serve on the board.

A sense of complacency has overtaken NAHJ and its members when it comes to service, for a host of reasons. We have not seen a contested race for the presidency since 2012. Most positions attract only one candidate per cycle. Is it any wonder no one seemed to think members would mind if the election were postponed for a year?

But that’s where you, the members, stepped in and stepped up this year. And now it’s time to channel that energy and direct it toward the future of NAHJ. The association needs a board that reflects the diversity of Latinos in journalism. We need reporters and upper level managers. We need writers and photographers. We need “news” journalists, entertainment and sports writers, and opinion writers. We need people of all racial and national backgrounds.

NAHJ needs people who are going to stand up for our members and stare down those who would diminish our profession, our professionalism, and most of all, our people.

NAHJ needs you.

So please consider running for the national board. Consider becoming active in your chapter, too.

Make no mistake: It’s work. Don’t do it to enhance your resume. Do it to enhance your contribution to the cause.

It’s very easy, especially this year, to leave that work to others, to retreat into the demands of your personal life and career. I know that pressure. It’s kept me on the sidelines for most of a decade. But the fight rages on, and it needs fighters committed to changing the media landscape to better reflect the Latino experience in America, which means more Latinos in newsrooms and board rooms, and coverage that treats us with the respect to which all people are entitled.

Be a part of that fight in your newsroom. Be a part of that fight in your chapter (don’t have a chapter? Start one!). Be a part of that fight in your region and on the national board.

I’m looking forward to fighting by your side.

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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