By Fenit Nirappil, Camille Beredjick and Nic Koppert
Unity, an alliance of Hispanic, Asian American and Native American journalist associations, has formally asked the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association to join its ranks, reversing its previous opposition to the group’s inclusion.
“The missions of Unity and the NLGJA are completely overlapping. We are both in favor of media diversity in a shrinking media market,” said David Steinberg, NLGJA’s president.
Steinberg revealed details of Unity’s invitation to the NLGJA Student Project before announcing it to members Friday evening at the national convention in Philadelphia. He said many details must still be discussed and that the board wants to hear from members.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to show we have the same issues and are going through the same things,” said Susan Green, a member of NLGJA’s Board of Directors. At the convention, Green said she joined the organization after meeting NLGJA members at a Unity conference who encouraged her to come out in the newsroom.
A decision will be made within weeks because convention planning must begin far in advance, Steinberg said. That leaves some worried about the fast pace of NLGJA’s decision.
“My fear is that because this decision has to be made quickly, not every voice in this organization will be heard,” Karen Bailis, an NLGJA lifetime member and Newsday editor.
The announcement came after confusion over why details of NLGJA’s 2012 convention plans had not been released.
If the NLGJA joins Unity, the national convention will be replaced by the joint conference of Unity organizations in Las Vegas in August 2012.
“It needs to benefit NLGJA financially and programmatically,” Steinberg said. The board is currently researching how joining Unity would affect the organization financially, compared to hosting a separate convention. Unity divides revenue among its partners using a complex formula.
The board is also considering how joining the Unity conference, attended by thousands, may also attract new corporate sponsors to NLGJA.
Unity voted against including NLGJA in 1994 and 1998, and NLGJA did not actively lobby to join this year, the group said. Unity leaders had previously debated whether the predominantly-white NLGJA complemented the coalition’s other minority organizations. In 1998, the full name was changed to be “Unity: Journalists of Color.”
“Michael Tune (NLGJA’s executive director) jokes there’s nothing more colorful than a rainbow,” Steinberg said.
Still, NLGJA is discussing whether a full membership in Unity would bring a name change to the organization.
Unity holds joint conferences every four years. After the National Association of Black Journalists left Unity this year in a dispute over revenue sharing, the remaining organizations are the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association.
In 1998, NABJ cast the sole vote against NLGJA’s inclusion in Unity, which blocked NLGJA from joining at that time.