In Rare Vote, NAHJ Rep Wins as Unity Leader

Barbara Ciara/Joanna Hernandez (Washington Post)
Barbara Ciara/Joanna Hernandez (Washington Post)

NABJ's Ciara Sees Effort to Deny Her Group the Top Job

In a contested election that is rare for the board of Unity: Journalists of Color, Joanna Hernandez, a Washington Post multiplatform editor who represents the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, was elected president of Unity on Sunday.


She defeated Barbara Ciara of the National Association of Black Journalists, the current Unity president who was seeking a full term. Ciara told Journal-isms she felt a "gentleman's agreement" was violated: that she would win the seat unopposed.

"Obviously, there were other agendas," said Ciara, an anchor and managing editor at WTKR-TV in Norfolk, Va. She said she was told "there were those who felt that NABJ shouldn't have a second bite at the apple." The vote was 11-6.

Unity, a coalition of the national associations of black, Hispanic, Asian American and Native American journalists, has rotated its leadership among the four groups. Since Unity's first convention in 1994, it has worked hard to overcome the cultural differences among the associations.

Still, it has been a challenge to ensure that each group feels fairly represented despite the varying sizes of their memberships. Within NABJ, the largest of the groups, there have been consistent grumblings that it was not receiving its due, considering its size.

The back story on Sunday's vote began a year ago, when Rafael Olmeda, former president of NAHJ, stepped down as Unity president, citing personal reasons. Ciara, who had been NABJ president, was chosen to complete Olmeda's term, which ends Dec. 31, and Hernandez was picked as Unity vice president. John Yearwood, world editor of the Miami Herald and chair of the Unity nominating committee, and Michaela Saunders, a reporter at the Omaha (Neb.) World Herald and board secretary, confirmed that Ciara said at the time that she did not want to give up the chance to run for a full term as president.

Traditionally, according to Ciara, the heads of the various associations would consult and agree on someone to run for each of the offices.


This year, when the board put out its call for candidates, Hernandez said, "I just took it at face value." She said she knew nothing of a "gentleman's agreement." As one who had been laid off by the New York Times in 2007, she said she believed that Unity needed to "get back to basics" — jobs, increasing diversity in newsrooms and "focusing on communities of color," she said.

"I'd like to go out to the mainstream media and get them recommitted to diversity," she said. "I'll reach out to the online world." She noted that there were contested elections in all the journalist of color elections this year and that this was a healthy development.


Ciara said she was given a heads-up a few weeks ago about a whispering campaign to deny NABJ the presidency.

"I am happy to serve in any capacity" that puts to use what she's been told are her leadership skills, Ciara said, especially as Unity prepares for its 2012 convention in Las Vegas. The convention was one reason that she sought the Unity presidency, Ciara said. No NABJ representative has presided over a Unity conference.


Ciara remains on the Unity board as a director. She said she would consult with NABJ President Kathy Times to find out how she can best serve.

Also elected to the Unity board were Leisa Richardson of NABJ, assistant metro editor of the Indianapolis Star, secretary; Sharon Chan of the Seattle Times, outgoing president of the Asian American Journalists Association, vice president; and Saunders, of the Native American Journalists Association, treasurer.


Fox news analyst Brit Hume said of Juan Williams, above, on "Fox News Sunday," "The standard that was applied to Juan Williams is [manifestly] not being applied to other NPR people."

Fox Finds Others on NPR Who Have Expressed Opinions

Fox News Channel Sunday accused NPR of hypocrisy in firing news analyst Juan Williams for expressing opinions, showing tapes of other NPR news employees expressing their views.


In a celebratory exchange on "Fox News Sunday," host Chris Wallace told Williams, who has signed a three-year contract with Fox reportedly worth $2 million:

"In March, Cokie Roberts wrote a column about Glenn Beck in which she said this: 'Beck is worse than a clown. He's more like a terrorist who believes he has discovered the one true faith and condemns everyone else as a heretic. And that makes him something else as well — a traitor to the American values he professes so loudly to defend.'


"That's Cokie Roberts in a column. And then there's Cokie reaction on 'This Week,' the ABC show, to a Supreme Court ruling on partial-birth abortion."

In a video clip, Roberts says, "I'm just saying that, you know, women would be protected from regret later in life. There are a lots of moral decisions people make all through their lives where they regret them. And the idea that the court is going to stop that for women is something that I think is just offensive."


Continued Wallace, "Somehow NPR didn't seem to think those opinions were objectionable. . . . "

He went on, "Brit, we also have the case of Nina Totenberg, who's not an analyst, but NPR's legal affairs correspondent. Besides a few years ago wishing that the late Sen. Jesse Helms would get AIDS for —


"BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS ANALYST: Or his grandchildren.

"WALLACE: Or his grandchild for opposing AIDS government research. We also have just in the last month her reaction — remember, she covers the court — to the court's ruling on Citizens United, a decision that said that corporations could get more involved in political campaigns.


"Let's watch."


"NINA TOTENBERG, NPR COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, really, this is the next scandal. It's the scandal in the making. They don't have to disclose anything. And eventually, this is the kind of thing that led to Watergate."



"WALLACE: And again, this is a reporter who covers the court."

An NPR spokeswoman did not respond when asked for comment. However, Alicia Shepard, the NPR ombudsman, said on the public radio show "On Point" Monday that she had begun to receive complaints about Totenberg and that having NPR newspeople in the role of news analysts "just doesn't seem to work. I hope they phase out the role," she said.


NPR has not responded to questions about whether Williams will be replaced.

Meanwhile, Vivian Schiller, NPR's chief executive, said she was sorry for how Williams' dismissal was handled — but not for firing him, David Bauder reported Monday for the Associated Press.


"Schiller sent an apology to National Public Radio staff members on Sunday night and wrote to managers at NPR stations. Her dismissal of Williams for saying on Fox News Channel that he gets nervous when he sees people on a plane with clothing that identifies them as Muslim became a 'public relations disaster,' NPR's ombudsman said."

The National Association of Black Journalists addressed the diversity issue.

"Whether you side with Williams' right to speak his opinion or National Public Radio's decision to part ways with the veteran, his firing creates a void at the network. Williams' was one of the few African American male voices heard on NPR," it said in a statement.


"That is the area that remains a key concern for the National Association of Black Journalists. Our leadership met with NPR executives in 2009 after releasing an open letter criticizing the network's lack of diversity in management. We took this opportunity to call NPR for a progress report.

"The network has made some progress since last fall's meeting. At the time, the network had one African American vice president. Today, there are three.


"Since our meeting, NPR has hired an NABJ member — an African American male. He is a national correspondent for NPR's digital platform. An NPR spokesman says another black male hire is in the works, but it is too soon to disclose details.

"Should NPR get a passing grade for this progress report? NABJ truly believes diversity is good for business, and we won't rest until NPR's on-air and management reflects the diversity of America."


Asked what role Keith Woods, vice president of diversity in news and operations, played in the Williams situation and the questions about diversity that followed, spokeswoman Anna Christopher said, "Keith is a member of the executive committee, and so of course is engaged in all major issues at NPR."

Network Crews Covering Haitian Cholera Outreak

"Over the weekend, word spread that an outbreak of cholera has sprung up on Haiti, the island nation that was devastated by an earthquake nine months ago," Alex Weprin wrote Monday for TVNewser.


"While the pictures may not be as dramatic as the ones viewers saw during the earthquake, the disease has the potential to kill or seriously affect thousands of people.

"The TV news organizations have dispatched a number of correspondents and producers to the area to cover the outbreak.


"CNN has chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta in Haiti (he left the U.S. on his birthday) joined by his senior producer Danielle Dellorto.

"CBS News has its medical correspondent, Dr. Jon LaPook on the island, where he will give his first report on the 'CBS Evening News' tonight.


"ABC News medical editor Dr. Richard Besser is in the country covering the outbreak, and filed a report for 'Good Morning America' this morning. Video of that report, after the jump.

"NBC News’ chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman was in St. Marc, which Snyderman calls 'the epicenter of the cholera epidemic.' "