UNITY: Journalists for Diversity has announced it will hold its third regional conference for a gathering on the campus of the University of Alabama on Oct. 16.

The regional event titled “Empowering the Southern Narrative” will bring journalists around the country to Tuscaloosa for an event centered on media literacy, social media, entrepreneurial journalism and discussions on poverty. The summit also will feature a town hall meeting on the reporting during the Civil Rights Movement.

Jennifer Chang

Jennifer Chang

Scheduled speakers include Jennifer Crandall, Artist-in-Residence at Alabama Media Group; Jennifer Chang, deputy growth editor at Quartz; Willoughby Mariano, award-winning investigative reporter at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution; and Matt Leavall, Project Director at Alabama Innovation Engine.

UNITY president Russell Contreras said the coalition wanted to come to Alabama because of its links to the Civil Rights Movement and because the area is seeing a large demographic shift.

“This is the New South and journalists must understand this transformation,” Contreras said. “We are happy to come to such an important region a
nd hope this sparks more journalism organizations to visit.”

UNITY board member and programming chair Tomoko Hosaka said the event also aims to help journalists discover new tools.

“News gathering and storytelling are being transformed like never before by technology,” Hosaka said. “We hope to elevate journalists’ skills so they can tell their own communities’ stories in innovative ways.”

Wilson Lowrey, professor of journalism and the school’s Journalism Department chair, said the university was happy to welcome UNITY to campus and believes the area needs to have an honest discussion on media diversity.

“The South is becoming increasingly complex, demographically, culturally and economically,” Lowrey said. “It’s critical that the way we tell stories about our region reflect that complexity.”

Contreras said UNITY, a coalition of minority journalists, is moving toward an active and impactful mission, rather than an organization that is seen as just holding a conference every four years.

UNITY hosted its first ever regional summit in May, attracting more than 70 people for an event on the homeland of the Oglala Lakota. The gathering, held at the new Allen Youth Center, pulled in journalists from eight different states and around 30 children from American Horse School.

The group then held its second regional gathering Sept. 11-12 in Detroit featuring a town hall meeting on Arab Americans and media summit at Wayne State University. The events attracted more than 150 people.

The board of directors for UNITY is scheduled to meet in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on Oct. 17 to review its long-term strategic plan for the organization.


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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