Q&A about the search for UNITY’s new name:
In response to questions from members about how UNITY will choose its new name, we have compiled the following:
1. Why is UNITY looking for a new name?
The UNITY board voted on Oct. 7 to create a UNITY Name Task Force to respond to our members’ concerns about how our previous name, “UNITY Journalists of Color,” was changed without their input at our April Board meeting. The board unanimously voted to examine our name in an effort to find something that better reflected our expanded mission statement, set the number of members on the task force (and agreed to include a member of NABJ), but left it up to the task force to determine how to get input from members on the name.
2. What is UNITY’s new mission statement?
“UNITY Journalists, Inc. is a strategic alliance advocating fair and accurate news coverage about diversity — especially race, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation – and aggressively challenging the industry to staff its organizations at all levels to reflect the nation’s diversity.”
3. Who is on the UNITY Name Task Force?
The Task Force is comprised of seven members:
- Joanna Hernandez, career services director at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, is our UNITY President.
- Walt Swanston, a veteran journalist and diversity professional, is our Interim UNITY Executive Director.
- Janet Cho, a business reporter for The Plain Dealer, chairs the Task Force and represents the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA).
- Jen Christensen, a reporter/producer at CNN.com in Atlanta, represents the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA).
- Peter Ortiz, a regulatory and compliance reporter for Ignites, a NYC trade publication, represents the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ).
- Michaela Saunders, a web editor and freelance journalist in Topeka, Kansas, represents the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA).
- Benét Wilson, a Baltimore-based freelance aviation/travel journalist and blogger, represents the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ).
4. How were the Task Force members chosen?
Each alliance group has one representative on the Task Force, and members were chosen based on a previously expressed strong interest in UNITY’s name. We couldn’t accept everyone who raised their hand to be on the Task Force, because we didn’t want any one group to be overrepresented.
5. How will you determine the new name?
We created an email account – UNITYname@gmail.com – and invited suggestions from anyone, regardless of affiliation, UNITY member or not, who has an idea for what UNITY should be called. All of the names submitted through Nov. 11 will be considered by the Task Force.
After Nov. 11, the Task Force will pick its Top 3 to 5 candidates and offer them to the members for their vote. Current members of the four alliance groups will receive a ballot from their alliance office and have three or four weeks to return the ballots. We plan to announce the new name before the end of the year.
6. But doesn’t the UNITY Board have to make this decision?
The Board will ultimately vote on the Task Force’s recommendation. After the members have decided by popular vote what name they like the most, and before Joanna Hernandez announces it to our members on Dec. 31, the Task Force will make a recommendation to the UNITY Board to adopt this name.
Although we respect and appreciate the guidance provided in our bylaws, we also recognize that the bylaws don’t govern every aspect of how we carry out our responsibilities. For example, the bylaws do not require us to open our UNITY Board meetings to outsiders, but as journalists we do so for the sake of transparency and sunshine. Our bylaws do not require us to respond to members questions on social media or other public forums, but as representatives of our alliance groups, we recognize our obligation to be both accessible and accountable. Also, several of our UNITY founders and former leaders have explicitly urged us to get members’ input on any changes to our name, and we are confident that they would support this process.
7. Is this an attempt to bring back the name “UNITY Journalists of Color”?
No. This process is driven by the desire to get members’ input on what we should be called because they did not get a say in the previous name-change. None of the Task Force members was asked for his or her opinion on our name before being invited to participate. Some members have said publicly that they love our previous name, but others have expressed different views.
Each of us as members of ethnic and racial minorities or because of our sexual orientation can point to examples where others gave us names we found inaccurate and unfair. This is an opportunity for us to decide what we will call ourselves.
8. Will NABJ members get to vote?
No. Although picking the right name is important to our efforts to reunify with NABJ, we ultimately decided that the current UNITY alliance members are the only ones eligible to vote on this matter. That’s why we really wanted to have a well-respected, credible NABJ representative help us make sure our final choices would also be acceptable to NABJ. We are thrilled that Benét Wilson has agreed to help us find the perfect name.