McLean, Va., Sept. 7, 2012

UNITY Journalists is pleased to announce the appointment of Walt Swanston as Interim Executive Director. Swanston will manage and oversee the day-to-day operations of the organization as it conducts a search for a permanent executive director.

“We are extremely delighted that Walt has agreed to rejoin UNITY as Interim Executive Director,” said Joanna Hernandez, UNITY president. “Walt knows us. She was part of UNITY from the very beginning, and I can’t think of a more suitable person to help move our organization forward during this time of transition.”

Swanston is taking over responsibilities from Executive Director Onica Makwakwa, who after six successful years of managing UNITY announced last month that she would be stepping down to join Consumers International and head up their Africa office in South Africa.

A diversity professional with more than 25 years of experience in diversity-focused work in media companies, and a print and broadcast journalist with more than 20 years of experience, Swanston served as the executive director of UNITY: Journalists of Color and spearheaded the fundraising and operational activities of the UNITY ’94 and UNITY ’99 conventions, the first two joint conventions of the Black, Asian, Native American and Hispanic journalism associations.

She also has served as executive director of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), and has directed diversity programs at the Newspaper Association of America Foundation. She also worked as a diversity consultant, designing and delivering training programs for Knight-Ridder Inc., Gannett Company Inc. and dozens of other newspapers and media companies throughout the country.

Swanston also was Director of Diversity Management for National Public Radio (NPR) from 2003 to 2009. Most recently, Swanston was interim Director of Diversity for the American Society of News Editors, where she developed two, two-day sessions, entitled “Leadership in Diversity: New Models for Growing Audience, Talent and Revenue.”

Swanston is a winner of the NABJ Ida B. Wells Award for promoting diversity in the media industry; the Honor Award for Distinguished Service to Journalism from the University of Missouri; a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism; a Lifetime Achievement Award form San Francisco State University School of Journalism; the Robert P. Knight Multicultural Recruitment Award from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, and the Outstanding Service to Scholastic Journalism Award from the Journalism Education Association.

Swanston has been a member of NABJ, the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) and the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) and has served on the Board of Directors of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA).


UNITY Journalists for Diversity is a strategic alliance that:

  1. Advocates fair and accurate coverage about diversity — especially race, nationality, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation.
  2. Aggressively challenges that industry to staff its organizations at all levels to reflect the country’s diversity.

The UNITY board is made up of representatives from the Asian American Journalists Association, the Native American Journalists Association, and NLGJA: The Association of LGBT Journalists.

Share This