Coming off its second successfully regional event this year, UNITY Journalists for Diversity announced Monday more than 150 people attended its two-day gathering Sept. 11-12 in Michigan that featured a town hall meeting on Arab Americans and media summit at Wayne State University.

Around 80 people attended a Sept. 11 town hall meeting on Arab American representation in media at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn where civil rights groups discussed how they battle Islamophobia and discrimination against Arab Americans. In addition, a panel of journalists, led by Michigan State professor and moderator Joe Grimm, discussed ways the media could improve its coverage while pressing for more diversity in the nation’s newsrooms.

Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab American News, said newsrooms’ lack of Arab American reporters was hurting the overall coverage of the community, just as it was with other communities of color.

“We have financial influence. We have cultural influence We have influence in everything,” Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab American News. “But (if) we are not represented in the newsroom…so how can we get fair coverage?”

unitydetroit2UNITY president Russell Contreras wore a kaffiyeh in solidarity with Arab Americans during the panel and said he hoped the town hall would eventual help led to a creation of a national Arab American Journalists Association. “And then you can join UNITY,” he said.

Earlier in the day, 20 students from Wayne State University’s Journalism Institute for Media Diversity attended a workshop on journalism ethics given by Chicago Tribune Standards Editor and UNITY board member Margaret Holt. Another 20 or so watched a special preview on FOX-TV’s upcoming series “Bordertown” and attended a question and answer session with series writer Lalo Alcaraz and syndicated columnist Esther Cepeda.

UNITY’s “Empower the Detroit Story” media summit at Wayne State University on Saturday drew more than 60 attendees for panels focusing on filing Freedom of Information requests, beginning a startup media company, and covering communities battling poverty.

Among those speaking were Megan Luther, training director of the Investigative Reporters and Editors, and Eric Ortiz, CEO of Evrybit. Ortiz posted photos, audio and video of the summit on Evrybit (

Keynote speaker, Detroit News columnist Bankole Thompson, challenged UNITY journalists to help foster better and honest coverage of Detroit, especially when writing about poverty. Thompson also said he was glad to see that UNITY had shifted its focus from national conferences every four years to holding regional conferences in areas of the country facing challenges.

“I’m glad to see that UNITY is on the case,” Thompson said. “And you have all of our support on this noble mission.”unitydetroit3

Alicia Nails, director of school’s the Journalism Institute for Media Diversity, said 19 students from the program attended the conference and sought to make skills and make connections for their careers.

Cartoonist Alcaraz later addressed attendees to the university’s Center of Latino/a and Latin American Studies gala and thanked them for helping students of color in Detroit.

The Detroit gathering was sponsored by the Center of Latino/a and Latin American Studies, Journalism Institute for Media Diversity, the Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Ford Foundation and the Arab American National Museum.

UNITY’s next regional is scheduled for Oct. 16, 2015, at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, Alabama.


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.

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