This is NOT The Year for NABJ, UNITY to be Meeting Separately

The latest newsroom diversity census came out today and it’s no surprise the news is not good– the number of African American journalists declined for the fourth consecutive year.

But, I’m not sure minority journalists are set up to do anything about this — especially in 2012.

African Americans in the newsroom workforce fell from 4.68 percent in 2011 to 4.65 percent.

The data released by the American Society of News Editors, which concluded its annual convention today, show overall the percentage of racial minorities in newsroom at 12.32 percent, down a percentage point from 2010 census.

Ronnie Agnew

My friend and colleague, Ronnie Agnew, now chairman of ASNE’s diversity committee and executive director of Mississippi Public Broadcasting, was quoted in an article on the Poynter Web site saying “Our (minority) numbers are decreasing. I am beyond disappointed.”

Ronnie, I am too.  But, what do we do about it?

Are those of us who advocate for diverse representation in newsroom positioned to make an impact on this problem?

It seems like with this type of situation, an organization like the strategic alliance of UNITY Journalists of Color, Inc. is needed more than ever this year.

But, this summer, we have the National Association of Black Journalists, of which I am a member, meeting separately in New Orleans in June.

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA)  will meet in Las Vegas in August along with their newest member, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.

In talking about these numbers, Agnew called for us to “re-engage the CEOs and make the case that diversity as “a business imperative.”

Can we do that if we as black journalists are separated from the other groups also facing this problem of keeping diversity on the FRONTburner?

I’m not interested in re-visiting or dredging up the reasons the NABJ Board voted a year ago to separate from the UNITY strategic alliance.  It know it was a business decision.

But, we need to look at the strength in numbers and figure out a way to be unified in our efforts to call attention to ways to address the lack of diversity in our nation’s newsrooms.

ASNE has been at the forefront of this effort since it started collecting these data on diversity in 1978.  It’s 2000 parity goal has been pushed to 2020.

But, the nation’s minority journalism organizations in conjunction with groups like the Society of Professional Journalists and Radio-TV Digital News Association, need to have a strategy for challenging those who are hiring to remember to let the storytellers reflect the diversity of the communities in which they tell stories.

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