Can Russell Contreras restore Philly’s model for diverse journalism?
The UNITY: Journalists for Diversity alliance will kick off 2015 under new Latino leadership. The coalition announced Sunday that Associated Press journalist Russell Contreras was elected president.
Known for covering immigration, law enforcement and minority affairs in the American Southwest, All Digitocracy reported that Contreras starts his new position in January and will focus in repairing damaged relations with former association partners representing Black and Latino journalists.
The UNITY: Journalists for Diversity currently is an alliance of three journalism organizations, that includes the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association.
The coalition however, had its start more than 20 years ago in a conversation between two rival City Hall reporters in Philadelphia. Puerto Rican Juan Gonzalez, a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), and Will Sutton, a member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), who according to the coalition, “were surprised to discover how much they had in common.”
In 1994, they established UNITY: Journalists of Color under a pioneering model aimed at improving the industry’s coverage of communities of color and increasing opportunities for young and prospective journalists of color.
Somewhere along the way the words “of color” was dropped as well as the partnership with The National Association of Black Journalists and The National Association of Hispanic Journalists, citing disputes over governance and loss of direction.
Contreras told All Digitocracy that his plans include producing regional programming events that focus on poverty and/or immigration. However his priority is to shape a strategic plan with both long-term and short-term goals. “UNITY needs to reposition its mission and come up with new revenue sources,” Contreras said. “Raising money through conventions is outdated. …We need to be issue-driven.”