Some big news was made last night at the NLGJA convention in Philadelphia when President David Steinberg announced the board has approved him to officially continue talks about NLGJA joining UNITY, an alliance  of “journalists of color” that includes the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and the Native American Journalists Association.  Here is a bit of the story, written by student project participants Fenit Nirappil, Camille Beredjick and Nic Koppert.

“The missions of Unity and the NLGJA are completely overlapping. We are both in favor of media diversity in a shrinking media market,” said David Steinberg, NLGJA’s president.

Steinberg revealed details of Unity’s invitation to the NLGJA Student Project before announcing it to members Friday evening at the national convention in Philadelphia. He said many details must still be discussed and that the board wants to hear from members.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to show we have the same issues and are going through the same things,” said Susan Green, a member of NLGJA’s Board of Directors. At the convention, Green said she joined the organization after meeting NLGJA members at a Unity conference who encouraged her to come out in the newsroom.

A decision will be made within weeks because convention planning must begin far in advance, Steinberg said. That leaves some worried about the fast pace of NLGJA’s decision.

“My fear is that because this decision has to be made quickly, not every voice in this organization will be heard,” Karen Bailis, an NLGJA lifetime member and Newsday editor.
The announcement came after confusion over why details of NLGJA’s 2012 convention plans had not been released.

If the NLGJA joins Unity, the national convention will be replaced by the joint conference of Unity organizations in Las Vegas in August 2012.

“It needs to benefit NLGJA financially and programmatically,” Steinberg said. The board is currently researching how joining Unity would affect the organization financially, compared to hosting a separate convention. Unity divides revenue among its partners using a complex formula.

The announcement received immediate reaction in the larger media world, with quick mentions in Poynter’s Romenesko+ and Richard Prince’s Journal-isms.

For a good run-down on NLGJA’s history with UNITY, check out a 2008 article by Wesley Lowrey for UNITY News. Another nice summary is by Hatzel Vela for NLGJA’s 2004 student project.  NLGJA’s “founding father” Roy Aarons sought participation and membership in UNITY since the alliance’s founding.

A decision on whether NLGJA accepts the invitation and having it approved by the UNITY board will likely happen quickly, given pressure to plan for NLGJA’s 2012 convention. UNITY will host its convention–which is held every four years–in Las Vegas in 2012.  The convention will be the first without the National Association of Black Journalists, which withdrew from the alliance earlier this year and which has already announced its own stand-alone convention for 2012.

So what do you think about the invitation?