UNITY shutting down at end of March

By MarketsAssociated Press

An umbrella organization for minority journalists announced Wednesday that it would be shutting down next month.

UNITY, Journalists for Diversity, announced Wednesday it could not see a financially sustainable path for its future, and would cease operations on March 30.

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"This is a heart-breaking decision, but we've decided that the best way to move forward is to work within our respective groups and build on the incredibly strong bond we have built together," UNITY President Neal Justin said. The board vote to dissolve the organization was unanimous.

UNITY was founded in 1994 to bring together the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Native American Journalists Association and the National Association of Black Journalists. Each group maintained its own annual conference, but every four years, they came together for a shared UNITY convention.

That first UNITY convention brought 6,000 journalists together in Atlanta in 1994 in what UNITY called the largest known gathering of journalists in U.S. history. The 1994 convention was followed by others in Seattle in 1999, Washington, D.C. in 2004 and Chicago in 2008.

NABJ and NAHJ withdrew from UNITY in 2011 and 2013, following a revenue sharing dispute. Those two organizations had a joint conference in 2016 and are planning a second for 2020.

UNITY then dropped its original name of Unity: Journalists of Color Inc. and, with the addition of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, eventually became UNITY: Journalists for Diversity.

That organization said in a news release that it has struggled to carve out a financially sustainable path following the NABJ and NAHJ departures. NABJ represents the largest number of minority journalists and NAHJ represents the nation's fastest growing demographic.

"Without a national convention every four years ... and with so many strong programs going after the same shrinking pool of funders, it just doesn't seem feasible to continue," Justin said.

The dissolution of UNITY comes as the journalism industry was criticized for its diversity and coverage of communities of color. A study examining the nation 50 years after the release of the landmark 1968 Kerner Report calls out media organizations for their coverage of communities of color, saying they need to diversify and hire more black and Latino journalists.