UNITY Elects David Steinberg as President

UNITY_logoStatement from UNITY:

McLEAN, Va. — UNITY: Journalists for Diversity is pleased to announce the election of David Steinberg as its president.

“I appreciate the support of the UNITY board and plan to announce, as early as next week, specific proposals to reform UNITY to make it more efficient, cost effective, and responsive to its alliance members and partners,” Steinberg said.

UNITY is an alliance of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA).

“I’m confident that David’s experience working across a broad base of stakeholders will make UNITY even stronger and will strengthen the journalism industry as a whole,” said UNITY Vice President Doris Truong, who has been the organization’s acting president since late April. “It was encouraging to see a contested race because that shows the passion and commitment of the candidates to UNITY’s mission.”

AAJA President Paul Cheung said: “I am looking forward to working with David on how best to grow and shape UNITY’s future. This is the time for us to step up, roll up our sleeves and get down to work!”

Mary Hudetz, president of NAJA, was the nominations chair for the election. Janet Cho, a business reporter for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, was also a candidate for the presidency.

“This election presented a difficult choice between two very qualified candidates ready to serve and lead UNITY as it heads in a new direction,” Hudetz said. “I congratulate David and look forward to working with him in the coming year.”

Cho, a former AAJA vice president for print, also congratulated Steinberg as he prepares to lead the coalition of journalism associations.

“Congratulations to David, and thank you to the board members who voted,” Cho said. “The next few months will be critical ones for reassuring our alliance group members and others in the media industry that UNITY remains relevant and necessary. David will need all of our collective support.”

Steinberg, a two-term NLGJA president, is the copy desk chief/stylebook editor at the San Francisco Chronicle. He has served as UNITY’s treasurer since Jan. 1.

“David was one of the best presidents NLGJA had,” NLGJA President Jen Christensen said. “He is a man of integrity and vision, and we have great confidence that he can lead UNITY in the right direction.”

Steinberg was elected to complete a presidential term that expires Dec. 31, 2014. The vote will be ratified by the board at an upcoming meeting, which will be scheduled as early as next week.

“What UNITY needs to succeed in today’s environment is the fundamental support of all journalism diversity organizations,” Steinberg said. “We must restore the sense of partnership and shared values that UNITY was founded and built on, and overcome differences that distract us. That will be my overarching goal as UNITY president.”

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About UNITY: Journalists for Diversity

UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, an alliance of four journalism organizations representing more than 4,000 journalists, is the nation’s most diverse journalism organization. A coalition of the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Native American Journalists Association and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, UNITY is a strategic alliance advocating fair and accurate news coverage about people of color and LGBT issues and aggressively challenges news organizations to increase diversity in whom they employ at all levels of their companies.

2012 NLGJA Annual Scholarship Award Winners

Washington, DC- The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) announced the winners of its two annual scholarship awards.

nlgjaBoth scholarships – worth $3,000 each – are awarded each year to deserving students who are dedicated to furthering NLGJA’s mission of fostering fair and accurate coverage of LGBT issues. “Recognizing and encouraging the next generation of LGBT journalists is one of the most important things NLGJA does as an organization.” said Michael Triplett, NLGJA President, “The scholarship winners demonstrate that our profession can be vital and important, while also representing the diverse communities we cover.”

The 2012 award recipient of the Leroy F. Aarons Scholarship is Christopher Carbone. Carbone graduated from Rutgers University in 2000 and dove right into journalism with his early work published in the New York Press and The New York Blade. Carbone will attend Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in the fall.

The third annual recipient of the Kay Longcope Scholarship Award is John-Carlos Estrada. Estrada graduated from The George Washington University in 2009 with a degree in International Affairs focused on Latin America. He will attend Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in the fall.

The Leroy F. Aarons Scholarship was established in 2006 through a gift by CNN. Named in memory of Leroy F. Aarons, founder of NLGJA and a founding member of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, the Leroy F. Aarons Scholarship was established to support the education of a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender student pursuing a journalism career.

The Kay Longcope Scholarship Award seeks to further the role of diversity in the education of our next generation of newsroom leaders by providing tuition assistance to a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender student of color who plans a career in journalism. Longcope was co-founder of The Texas Triangle, a statewide newsweekly focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, and is generally regarded as the first out reporter at the Boston Globe. The pioneering Longcope started writing for the Globe in 1970 and was there for more than 20 years, including a tenure as the paper’s religion editor.

The scholarship funds are administered through a partnership between NLGJA and The Delaware Valley Legacy Fund, a donor-advised fund of the Philadelphia Foundation that works to advance philanthropy through endowment building, fundraising, community outreach and education within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Newsroom survey should include question on sexual orientation / gender identity

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Today the American Society of News Editors released its annual report on the makeup of the country’s newsrooms as it closed out its three-day confab in Washington, D.C.

While the group found a “very slim increase” in newsroom employees last year, for the third consecutive year the percentage of African-American, Asian, Latino, and Native American journalists declined in U.S. newsrooms.

The percentage of minorities in newsrooms totaled 12.79 percent, a decline of .47 percentage points from a year ago, ASNE reported in a news release sent out this morning.

The number of professional journalists rose from an estimated 41,500 in 2009 to 41,600 in 2010, according to ASNE’s most recently completed census of online and traditional newspapers. American daily newspapers lost 13,500 newsroom jobs from 2007 to 2010.

In the most recent ASNE census, minority journalists declined from 5,500 to 5,300.

“At a time when the U.S. Census shows that minorities are 36 percent of the U.S. population, newsrooms are going in the opposite direction. This is an accuracy and credibility issue for our newsrooms,” said Milton Coleman, ASNE president.

“The slight decline in minority newsroom representation may be small, but is part of a disturbing trend that we need to reverse,” said Ronnie Agnew, co-chair of ASNE’s Diversity Committee.

“The U.S. Census numbers clearly tell us that people of color populations are growing while our newsrooms aren’t reflecting that growth. This should be a concern to all who see diversity as an accurate way of telling the story of a new America,” Agnew said.

While ASNE has conducted the census of professional full-time journalists since 1978, there is one group it has never counted: LGBT journalists. It is by far time that it did.

My suspicion would be that LGBT journalists are lacking among the nation’s newsrooms as papers of all sizes have cut their staffs due to declining ad revenues. Certainly, I have personally witnessed numerous LGBT reporters be laid off, take buyouts or head to more lucrative careers in PR or corporate communications over the last five years.

In a brief email exchange today, ASNE Executive Director Richard Karpel said he was unaware of anyone asking the group to survey reporters about being LGBT.

“The question hasn’t come up since I’ve been here. If the question is raised, it will be up to our Diversity Committee to answer,” wrote Karpel, who has worked at ASNE since December of 2009. “They would ask me or a member of the committee, as you have now done.”

For 22 years the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association has been fighting to make newsrooms friendly workplaces for LGBT people and encouraging professional journalists to be out of the closet.

It too has worked to promote greater diversity across the board in the country’s media business, and this year for the first time will be taking part in the Unity Journalists of Color convention this August as a full-fledged member.

As NLGJA continues to work on its mission, it would be great to have some statistical data on working LGBT reporters to help guide it in future years.

Certainly, it wouldn’t be that hard to add the question about sexual orientation and gender identity to ASNE’s survey, which for the first time was conducted on-line this year.

Hopefully, the group’s Diversity Committee will agree and add it to the 2013 questionnaire.

To read the full 2012 report, visit ASNE’s website here.

Roy Aarons is Smiling

I didn’t know Leroy Aarons, credited with being the founding father of NLGJA. He died shortly after I attended my first convention in New York and I never had the chance to meet him.

Yet, in the midst of the discussion over whether NLGJA should accept an invitation to join UNITY, Aaron’s presence was “visible” and his leadership was often evoked. On the historic conference call where the NLGJA board unanimously voted to accept the invitation from UNITY, someone said after the vote “Roy Aarons is smiling today.  We’ve fulfilled his dream.”

While I didn’t know him, I’ve heard a lot about him and read even more.  One of the most consistent threads in his life was his commitment to diversity in journalism.  It’s the reason he left a freelance job in Israel to join the Oakland Tribune at the request of his former colleague at the Washington Post, Robert C. Maynard who had become the first African-American owner of  a major metro paper.  Years earlier, Aarons had been one the founding board members of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education which was committed to encouraging diversity in journalism and training minority journalists.

Fairly late in his journalism career and after years of advocating for greater diversity in the newsroom, Aarons had his own “coming out” as a gay journalist by disclosing at the 1989 meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors that he was gay while presenting the first-ever survey of LGBT journalists which found:

most gays and lesbians were closeted in their newsrooms. An overwhelming majority said coverage of gay issues was “at best mediocre.” Fewer than 60 percent had told colleagues about their sexual orientation; fewer than 7 percent felt their working environments were good for gays.

As the story goes, four months after his speech Roy convened six journalists in his dining room to launch NLGJA. He became its first president, modeling its mission after the Maynard Institute’s, and held that post until 1997 and a board member until his death.

One of Roy’s goals while president and as a board member was to be invited to join UNITY. He led the efforts in 1994 and 1998 to join the coalition but ultimately those talks broke down, something Aarons is said to have regretted given his lifelong commitment to working for diversity alongside groups represented by the coalition.  Roy believed that while there were differences between the experience of LGBT journalists and journalists of color, there were similarities in the perceptions of how we did our jobs, what our “agendas” were, and whether we were limited in how we climbed in the newsroom.  Ultimately, Roy believed that working together was a more effective approach to achieving diversity in the newsroom and improving coverage than there was in remaining separate.  That’s why he wanted to join UNITY.

Later this week, I will have the honor of joining the board of UNITY as one of NLGJA’s four representatives along with NLGJA president David Steinberg,  fellow NLGJA vice president Jen Christensen and NLGJA board member Sue Green.  It will be a historic moment not only because of the inclusion of a group LGBT journalists as coalition member but also the addition of a group that is predominately white and male to an organization with “journalists of color” in its name.

While there has been some controversy surrounding the news of NLGJA joining UNITY, the majority of the reaction has been very positive and supportive and many see the inclusion of NLGJA as a step-forward for both the cause of diversifying newsrooms and improving the coverage of diverse communities, including communities of color and the LGBT community. NLGJA’s board members have been warmly received in anticipation of the first board meeting, Maybe most significantly, there has been an outpouring of support from LGBT journalists of color who are members of coalition groups and who see this move as especially affirming of their existence and experience as journalists.

Roy would definitely be proud.

UPDATE: NLGJA Joining UNITY Coalition

Historic news from NLGJA and UNITY this morning.  The NLGJA board has unanimously voted to accept an invitation to join UNITY as a full member.  We will be joining our colleagues at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association as the newest member of UNITY and will participate in the UNITY 2012 Convention in Las Vegas to be held Aug. 1-4.

Here is the letter President David Steinberg sent to NLGJA members this morning:

nlgjaI am pleased to announce that NLGJA has been issued an invitation to join UNITY, the coalition of minority journalism organizations, and that, this weekend, the NLGJA board voted unanimously to become a full member of UNITY.

Representatives from NLGJA and UNITY will be meeting in the coming weeks to craft a memorandum of understanding that will give NLGJA full membership in UNITY and incorporate the group into UNITY’s continuing work for diversity in the news industry. NLGJA will have four members on the UNITY board of directors and will have equal representation on the programming committee for the UNITY 2012 convention, which will be held Aug. 1-4 in Las Vegas in partnership with our UNITY partners, AAJA, NAHJ and NAJA.

The NLGJA board’s decision to join UNITY followed discussion among NLGJA’s members at our convention in Philadelphia last month. Joining UNITY will help NLGJA further its goals of fostering fair and accurate coverage of LGBT issues in the news media and encouraging newsroom diversity.

Joining UNITY will also allow NLGJA members to participate in a broader discussion of diversity issues and engage in dialogue with a wider array of journalists. Through this partnership with UNITY, NLGJA members will be able to participate in additional networking and career development opportunities, will be able to educate other UNITY members about the issues LGBT employees face in the newsroom, and will have an opportunity to learn about issues facing other journalism communities.

Becoming a member of UNITY is an exciting opportunity for NLGJA, and I’ll be sure to keep you informed as we move forward with this partnership. If you have any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions about this process, please get in touch with me.

Joining UNITY was a dream of NLGJA founding-father Roy Aarons who pursued inclusion until his death in 2004. Formal talks between UNITY and NLGJA began earlier this summer and an announcement about  the invitation was made at NLGJA’s convention in Philadelphia.

UPDATE: Here is the official joint statement from UNITY and NLGJA. And a tweet from NLGJA about UNITY’s strategic plan and UNITY’s name.