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NAHJ’s departure from UNITY: Journalists for Diversity; Statement from AAJA National President Paul Cheung

As many of you know, the board of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists recently voted to leave UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, which has been the umbrella of several minority journalism organizations, including AAJA.

In a statement on its website, NAHJ President Hugo Balta explains the organization’s decision:

It’s a bitter sweet decision.The board believes in the concept of UNITY, but feels the organization needs to reform to meet the new challenges minority journalists are facing in an industry that is continuously changing.

AAJA National President Paul Cheung has issued the following response to NAHJ’s decision:

While many of us are understandably reflecting on the future of UNITY, it’s important AAJA leaders and members be patient.
UNITY formed as the news media flourished in the 1990s, amid rising revenues and growing newsrooms. But those days are gone, forever changed by rapidly evolving technology and beset by a catastrophic financial meltdown. Over recent years, newsrooms have struggled. As a result, many lost jobs and some newspapers folded. It’s no surprise UNITY has also struggled. AAJA, fortunately, has weathered those headwinds by fundraising, cutting expenses and making structural changes.

The UNITY we knew in 1994 is  gone. The newsroom you knew in 1994 is also gone. That’s a fact. But the same battles remain, as long as the issue of diversity remains a problem in our industry.

I personally don’t believe retreating to silos will advance our cause for greater diversity. Since July, the alliance presidents have been working on several proposals to fundamentally restructure UNITY — so we can be more nimble, flexible and financially sound. AAJA has taken a key leadership role in coming up with solutions. In the coming weeks, we hope to address these critical issues — including revisiting UNITY’s mission, finances and governance. 

 
Our next UNITY board meeting is in December, and I will update our membership with details so that AAJA can examine what our roles should be in the future.
 
Your feedback will inform our work at the UNITY board meeting. Feel free to email me, your chapter presidents, board representative and AAJA-UNITY board representatives regarding your concerns and thoughts on UNITY.

Change is never easy or painless. And yes, this is very emotional for many of us who have attended UNITY conventions and value UNITY’s mission. These are especially challenging times for the cause of diversity, and we must continue to address those challenges — not only for us, but for the next generation of journalists.

Paul has also encouraged members to give their feedback this form.

In addition, I would like to extend an offer for AAJA Seattle members to contact me, as well as our national board representative Sanjay Bhatt. It is important to me that the concerns of our chapter members are heard.

You can reach me at maisurvey@gmail.com and Sanjay at sbhatt33@gmail.com.

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