Minority journalists gather in Chicago for UNITY convention

An estimated 10,000 minority journalists will descend on McCormick Place from July 23-27 for the 2008 UNITY convention. It is the nation’s largest gathering of journalists of color and comes at a time when newspapers are hemorrhaging jobs through buy-outs

An estimated 10,000 minority journalists will descend on McCormick Place from July 23-27 for the 2008 UNITY convention. It is the nation’s largest gathering of journalists of color and comes at a time when newspapers are hemorrhaging jobs through buyouts and layoffs.

The convention features workshops and a four-day long career expo with more than 400 recruiters.

In recent months, newspapers across the country–including giants like the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Los Angeles Times and Boston Herald– have laid off hundreds of staff. The National Association of Black Journalists reported that nearly 1,000 reporters lost their jobs in the last two weeks of June alone.

The rising popularity of the Internet as a news source has made it difficult for daily newspapers. Their advertising revenues are at record lows, and many are cutting staff positions and incorporating digital media to stay afloat.

“I think you’re going to be hearing ‘change’ and ‘transformation’ a lot during the convention,” said Karen Lincoln Michel, UNITY president and state bureau chief at the Green Bay Press-Gazette in Wisconsin. “UNITY will offer a lot of ideas on how to navigate that change…We need to work collaboratively to ensure (minority journalists’) longevity in an industry going through incredible change.”

But NABJ feels that minorities are being left behind. The organization released a statement earlier this month blasting the newspaper industry for treating diversity as a “disposable commodity” as it downsizes, and in June established a scholarship fund to help recently laid off Black journalists attend UNITY.

The American Society of Newspaper Editors reported in April that diversity was up slightly in newsrooms–from 13.49 to 13.52 percent in the past year–although newspapers shrank across the board by 4.4 percent, to 52,600.

But the organization also noted that the numbers are not on par with the country’s minority population–34 percent according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“The demographics in America are changing and America’s newsrooms need to reflect that change,” Michel said. “We hope to put the focus back on diversity and drive home the point that diversity in coverage and in staffing of America’s newsrooms is crucial in shaping the future of the industry.”

UNITY is an alliance of the National Association of Black Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and the Native American Journalists Association.

 

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