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Message from UNITY President

david4I am truly honored by the support of the board of UNITY: Journalists for Diversity in electing me president. UNITY is at a turning point. For it to go forward and meet the needs of its member organizations, UNITY needs to make organizational changes while keeping its core mission intact. These are the immediate steps I plan to take to reform UNITY to make it more efficient, cost effective, and responsive to its alliance members and partners.

First, UNITY must show greater financial accountability. We can reduce costs and staffing needs by focusing the staff on planning the joint convention and garnering funding for UNITY and the alliance organizations’ work. I believe UNITY can fulfill its advocacy role primarily by supporting — rather than duplicating — the work of the individual alliances. This will allow UNITY to reduce staffing costs during non-convention years, when it will primarily be facilitating joint funding opportunities for alliance members. A good example is the Diversity in the Heartland project funded by the Ford Foundation and carried out by AAJA and  NLGJA.

UNITY’s board structure must be reformed so the alliance groups have the primary role in setting UNITY’s agenda. To ensure that each group has a more direct role in determining UNITY’s direction, we need to change how board members are appointed and officers elected. I believe UNITY must maintain its commitment to equal representation among all groups on its board. This structure encourages collaboration and compromise, and it ensures all of UNITY is focused on the greater good.

Implementing these changes will help reform how UNITY operates in non-convention years and set the framework to address how UNITY alliance members can share the costs and revenue for future joint conventions.

I also support creating an advisory board made up of representatives of other journalism organizations who share UNITY’s mission and can help us promote media diversity. This would be a way to engage and coordinate with groups such as NABJ and SAJA, whose focus is on race, ethnicity and diversity in journalism, and encourage diversity efforts by broader journalism groups as SPJ, ASNE and RTDNA . By working together through UNITY, we can speak with a louder voice to promote causes that advance — and challenge obstacles that threaten — media diversity.

What has made UNITY unique and effective throughout its history has been that it brings together different groups with a shared mission and allows journalists to work together to help each other. It is essential for all of us to recommit to that mission and work together to develop a UNITY model that is more receptive to how our organizations, and industry, thrive in the current fiscal environment.

These changes cannot happen overnight. UNITY board members drafted several bylaw changes this summer, and I will continue to work to find additional solutions that work for all of our alliance associations and present them for a vote of the UNITY board in the coming months.

I believe in UNITY’s mission and in UNITY’s potential. While we may change aspects of UNITY’s structure, our fundamental commitment to the mission of advancing the vision of a more diverse media, both in coverage and staffing, will never waver.  But UNITY is at a pivotal moment. I know we face challenges, but each of our groups has faced and overcome obstacles. Now it is UNITY’s turn to address the financial and governance concerns that are holding us back.

UNITY will only succeed if it has the support of all those who support journalism diversity.   Make your voice heard and help determine the future of UNITY. Reach out to your alliance president and your other representatives on the UNITY board. And send me your thoughts, questions and suggestions.

Yours in service,
David A. Steinberg
President, UNITY: Journalists for Diversity
E-mail: david.steinberg.unity@gmail.com
Twitter: @UnityPresident
Phone: UNITY-79707 (864-897-9707)

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