The National Association of Hispanic Journalists voted overwhelmingly in favor of leaving Unity: Journalists for Diversity on Monday. Of the 18 board members, 13 voted to leave, two voted against, and three were not in attendance.
“It’s a bittersweet decision,” president Hugo Balta said. “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.”
Unity, which calls itself “a strategic alliance advocating fair and accurate news coverage about people of color and LGBT issues,” now only has ties to the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association.
“We are saddened by the loss of a key member of the UNITY alliance but will continue to work with NAHJ and its members in the fight to increase diversity in newsrooms and news coverage,” Unity president David Steinberg told TheWrap.
The Hispanic journalists’ concerns echoed those of the National Association of Black Journalists, which left the organization in 2011, citing problems with its accounting and governance.
Balta told TheWrap that those issues were heightened in the fallout from 2012’s Unity convention.
NAHJ was paid just over $90,000 of the proceeds, only to be informed that Unity had accidentally overpaid it and would need nearly $12,000 back. An audit concluded several months later showed the amount owed to be far less — just $4,535.
Though Unity’s newly elected president promised there would be positive changes, NAHJ lost confidence in its ability to respond to member organization’s concerns after little changed when NABJ left.
“We don’t want to be part of an organization that is not better in regards of protecting its image and that of its alliance,” Balta told TheWrap before the vote.
Steinberg said the remaining members of Unity are dedicated to addressing members’ concerns going forward: “The members of Unity have reaffirmed their commitment to reforming the alliance, as it begins to move forward without NAHJ,” Steinberg said. “The Unity board has been working since the summer on reforms to make Unity more responsive to the needs of its member organizations in a fiscally responsible way while keeping its core mission intact.”
Unity draws all of its funding from the quadrennial conventions, which are, in turn determined by the number of attendees. NAHJ was the second-largest group of Unity’s four remaining member organizations, so its loss will be felt come convention time.
Then again, the next convention is not until 2016 — which leaves Unity time to make good on its promises and possibly bring NAHJ and even NABJ back into its fold. Both organizations have said they would consider talking to Unity about re-joining should things change.
“As I’ve repeatedly stated NAHJ is open to working with Unity and look forward to discussing proposals that meet our mutual association’s mission,” Balta said in the statement. “We wish Unity good luck in their future endeavors.”
In the meantime, Steinberg told TheWrap that Unity will seek out new partnerships with other minority journalists associations — the South Asian Journalists Association, for one — and hopes to work with diversity taskforces housed within other journalist groups to broaden its outreach and purpose.