NewsFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
UNITY Executive Director
McLEAN, Va. (June 4, 2013)
UNITY: Journalists for Diversity Inc. appreciates the invitation to meet with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the opportunity to express in person our disappointment with how the actions of his office have affected journalists nationwide.
“Although other journalism groups turned down Holder’s invitation, we felt it was important as a historic coalition representing diverse and underrepresented journalists to hear his explanation for the actions we had previously criticized,” said Walt Swanston, interim executive director of UNITY. “After initially hearing that the meeting would be off the record, we especially appreciate his willingness to have a candid and open conversation with us.”
Topics covered during the one-hour meeting included Holder’s explanation of how the Department of Justice obtained records of journalists at The Associated Press. Holder said that in the end, his staff had to weigh national security interests against those of the press.
Holder explained that the guidelines that his office now uses to gather information about media outlet leaks are outdated, and that he hopes to revise those parameters to better reflect the current state and scope of the news media. He said he has promised to submit the new guidelines to President Obama by July 12, but is not sure how soon they will be implemented.
Holder and his staff acknowledged the criticism about how they handled the investigation and its aftermath, including failing to include journalists of color among those first invited to hear his explanations. He said that he and his staff are looking for ways to have more interaction with the working press, to better understand how we do our jobs and to improve their relationship with working journalists, and we are encouraged by that approach.
Holder said he is open to journalists weighing in on how best to update those guidelines and encourages members of the media to send comments and suggestions to his office by the end of June. Anyone wishing to submit comments may send them to Ms. Nanda Chitre, deputy director, Office of Public Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org. or to Margaret Richardson, Counselor to Attorney General, Executive Branch Relations, U.S. Department of Justice, at Margaret.Richardson@usdoj.gov.
Swanston attended Monday’s meeting with Hugo Balta, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and Anna Lopez Buck, executive director of NAHJ. The Native American Journalists Association, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and the Asian American Journalists Association declined Holder’s invitation to participate because the meeting was “off-the-record.” Click below to view their statements.
UNITY Journalists for Diversity is a strategic alliance that:
- Advocates fair and accurate coverage about diversity — especially race, nationality, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation.
- 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.