My name is Joanna Hernandez, and I want to welcome you to UNITY 2012, the most diverse gathering of journalists in the world.
And I have a surprise for all of you. One of UNITY’s founders, Will Sutton, has flown here last-minute to celebrate with us, and we’d like to recognize him at this time.
We have a special award of affection and appreciation for him and fellow UNITY co-founder Juan Gonzalez for the bold and daring vision they had as competing City Hall reporters in Philadelphia to create this alliance of minority journalists and other underrepresented groups.
UNITY journalists, please join me in welcoming Will Sutton to the stage.
Will, we will forever be grateful for the organization you and Juan created. Tonight, I present you with a plaque, which reads: With affection and appreciation; for your lifelong devotion, passion and perseverance; to championing newsroom diversity and leadership; and for your bold and daring vision in co-founding UNITY: Journalists of Color.
Everyone in this room thanks you for your vision in creating UNITY. You will always be remembered as leaders in the fight for diversity and inclusion. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.
This is the quadrennial convention of UNITY Journalists, a strategic alliance of the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Native American Journalists Association and, for the first time, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.
In UNITY, we come together to advocate for fair and accurate news coverage about people of color and the LGBT community. And we challenge the news industry to staff its organizations to reflect the nation’s diversity.
There are so many people to thank for supporting our convention, I can’t possibly name them all in three minutes, but a tremendous amount of thanks to our major sponsors — Gannett, Time Warner and Comcast/NBC Universal among them. We appreciate that these times are tough, and words cannot express our gratitude.
And a humungous thank you to The Washington Post. Its support of UNITY and of all our alliance partners has been nothing short of phenomenal. Thank you so much for supporting my presidency as well as that of AAJA President Doris Truong, who until recently was my colleague on the Post’s Multiplatform Desk.
And most of all, a great, big special thanks to you — the members of NAJA, NAHJ, AAJA and NLGJA and those who support us — for coming to this amazing convention.
Thank you students and the newly hired journalists, who saved their dimes and quarters to pay their way here and are bunking four to a room;
Thank you mid-career and seasoned journalists, who took vacation and furlough time to be here;
Thank you entrepreneurial journalists and freelancers, who have already thought of at least five ways to turn this trip into a paid assignment.
Thank you journalists in the academic world for teaching the next generation to be on the front lines, online, writing, blogging, tweeting, producing, shooting video and providing audio — all for one story — and staying current with the always changing media landscape.
Thank you NABJ members, whom we welcome with open arms as members of
the UNITY family.
And thank you top media executives who are here when you could have been — let’s face it — at the Olympics — but made the important decision to spend three days with us.
That all of you are here is a reminder of the importance of our shared cause of newsroom diversity and inclusivity.
I’d also like to address another group of journalists, the unemployed and under-employed. To you, I say: hang in there. Keep the faith. Don’t lose hope. It will get better.
I speak from experience. Four years ago, at UNITY 2008, I, too, was unemployed. I know how hard it is to put on your best face when you are struggling inside.
But you are here, creating your future. And who knows where the next four years will take you? Little did I know that I would be here standing here one day.
And I’ve left the newsroom once again — but this time on my own terms and for meaningful work: helping the next generation of reporters and editors at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
Standing here in front of all of you today is emotional for me for other reasons as well. Being UNITY president has been a journey I will never forget. It was filled with many ups — such as NLGJA joining the alliance — and downs, when founding partner the National Association of Black Journalists made the decision to leave.
Let me take a moment to talk about that: When I became president, a storm was brewing in UNITY. NABJ had many concerns about the structure of UNITY, and despite all our efforts, we could not come to an understanding.
That was very painful for me and for many board members on all sides.
But through it all, the UNITY board has had one focus, and that is our joint cause. UNITY’s alliances agree more than ever that it is more powerful to combine our voices, and that standing together is mightier than standing alone.
Recently, NABJ informed us that its reunification commission has decided not to return to UNITY at this time. My hope is that at some point, talks will begin anew, and NABJ will rejoin this family and help shape the future of UNITY in our quest to create more diverse newsrooms and a path toward a better and brighter future.
It is still a tough time for us in those newsrooms. We are under-represented in all areas. Let’s vow to work together to change that. Use your time at UNITY 2012 to get inspired, become empowered and enhance your positions as journalists by honing your skills.
Make the most of these next three days. Engage, connect, embrace — use this time to network, connect with old friends and make new ones; be merry and embrace the future; laugh and enjoy the beautiful Mandalay Bay.
I am so happy to see you all, so proud to be your UNITY president, thank you for the opportunity to serve.