Pulling NAHJ Back From the Brink

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) is on the brink: NAHJ reported in December a $240 million dollar deficit for the year.  All of the full-time staff is being laid off. Officers declared the Orlando 2011 convention will be the last "stand alone" conference with future gatherings a partnership with other trade groups such as the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA).

NAHJ must get its fiscal house in order because the need for a vibrant and relentless organization tasked with advocating for Latino journalists, holding newsrooms that don't fully integrate diversity accountable, and as crucially, educating and professionalizing the journalists of the future is no greater than now.  I met some of these up and coming reporters and blog about them in: "The Taming of the Social Space" and "Blogging, Journalism, & the Law".

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The 2010 Census Results:

The federal government's once-in-a-decade snapshot of the country confirms the skyrocketing growth of Latinos.  Yet Hispanics are largely politically and socially disenfranchised.  They need to be educated in active civic participation and informed of events that impact their families, community, state, country, and world.

Diversity in newsrooms at the highest and decision-making levels is woefully lacking:

Despite more representative newsrooms making solid editorial and business sense, in addition to being the right thing to do, change has come slow.  The news website The Root quoted me after a panel I pitched and chaired, "Now a Blogger, Always a Reporter" which looked at the relationship between blogging and journalism with Fox News Latino chief Francisco Cortés, Sr., Media Moves founder and publisher Verónica Villafañe, and ESPN.com social media and Fox News Latino sports columnist María Burns Ortiz: "Viviana Hurtado, a former reporter for ABC News, said she had started a blog called "The Wise Latina Club" because she was dismayed that Sonia Sotomayor, after her nomination to the Supreme Court in 2009, was subjected to questions that would not be asked of non-Latinas.  Not enough Latino news executives were in positions to prod reporters to call out those who stepped over the line, she said."

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Bridging the divide between the "Intern" and the "Veteran" Generation:

Undoubtedly, new media has afforded exciting ways and opportunities to tell stories that inform and strengthen our communities.  Consuming and producing information in the 24 hour information culture is in the DNA of the so-called "Intern Generation"--you know, the teens and twenty-something whizzes.  Yet they need to not just learn, but evangelize the old-fashioned reporting ethics and principles of the "Veteran Generation."  Our future depends on this.

The annual convention, like workshops held yearlong throughout the country, features panels that are chock full of information, ranging from Mexican journalists who spoke about the high cost of reporting on the drug violence to "Geeking Out": sessions that looked at enhancing reporting with the most cutting edge apps, technology, and social media.  I participated in "¿Nuevas tecnologías: ventanas o barreras en la sala de noticia?"/"New Media: Window of Opportunity or Obstacle in the Newsroom?" which looked at the pressures of new technology on those who work as journalists with Univisión digital advisor Bruno López, Impremedia's Head of Multi-platform News and Information Hilda García, and NBC's Chris Peña who leads the forthcoming NBC website in English targeting Latinos.

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NAHJ mirrors its membership: some are trying to find their footing, others master this brave new world, all are Latino, a minority whose accelerated growth will soon complicate the distinction between "Hispanic" and mainstream.  United, we are the future of this organization and of our country.

Question: How do you get your information?  If not from newspapers or television, how?