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Hispanic Journalists Brace for Change

Jun 9, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) will gather to mark its 25th anniversary June 13-16 in San Jose, Calif. The organization, which grew out of the California Chicano News Media Association, held its first National Hispanic Media Professionals conference in 1982 in San Diego.
NAHJ 2007 will convene in the midst of great flux in the industry, with the demise of Knight Ridder and other media consolidations and buyouts. “We believe there will be a fair number of people looking for jobs,” said NAHJ executive director Ivan Roman. “There will also be people with jobs who are trying to figure out how they need to reinvent themselves as journalists, given all the changes in the industry.”
Issues related to immigration, including anti-immigrant backlash and the language used to describe undocumented workers, take the forefront at this year’s NAHJ convention.
In the months leading up to the convention, the May Day immigration rally in Los Angeles that turned into a melee, the events that led to the firing of Don Imus and the rise of hate crimes against immigrants form the context for several panel discussions.
“I think it’s important that we bring to light issues that are important to us and at the same time improve the situation for many Latino journalists,” said NAHJ 2007 co-chair Veronica Villafane. “We can have some serious conversations and not just affect us but other people.”
Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton will appear on the panel
“MacArthur Park and Beyond: Can the LAPD, Immigrant Groups and the Media Ever Trust Each Other Again?” at 10:30 a.m. June 14. Moderated by Ysabel Duron, NAHJ co-chair and KRON TV4 San Francisco weekend anchor, panelists include Fox 11 reporter Christina Gonzalez and KPCC reporter Patricia Nazario — both of whom were attacked in the melee — as well as Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, and Joe Domanick, senior fellow at the USC Annenberg Institute for Justice & Journalism.
The topic of the newsmaker luncheon at noon on June 15 was triggered by the rise in hate crimes against immigrants, including the recent capture of white supremacists with semi-automatic weapons who stated they wanted to “kill Mexicans.” Confirmed speakers for “Boiling Point: Immigration and the Link Between Media, Language and Violence” include Mark Potok, editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project; Catherine Tactaquin, executive director of the National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights; and Roberto Lovato, a New York City-based writer with New American Media and a contributor to the Nation magazine.
“There is an under-reporting of this in mainstream communities, where we are getting reports on immigrant backlash,” said Ms. Duron. “The framework is looking at the ugly language that has an impact on journalists and how Latino journalists report it fairly when they are personally inflamed or hurt by some of the anti-immigrant language and diatribes.”
Immigration issues are also highlighted in the super-session, “!Migracion! Raids, Rights and Responsibilities,” at 10:30 a.m. June 14. This panel looks at the increase of workplace immigration raids and the plight of mixed-status families. “We struggle with how to deal with the many facets of immigration, and we decided to concentrate on one of the most dramatic,” said Mr. Roman. “This is a very big and very personal issue for many people in our organization.”
Another perspective of Hispanics and the media will be discussed at the panel “Missing in Action: The Pattern of Erasing Latinos From History and Coverage,” at 9 a.m. June 16 a.m. The topic was inspired by the controversy over filmmaker Ken Burns’ recently completed 141/2-hour documentary on World War II, which never mentions Hispanics. “Despite being the largest minority in the country, we’re seen from one lens: immigration,” said Ms. Duron. “There’s a huge invisibility of Latinos’ contributions to this country over many, many decades.”
NAHJ is well known for its work sessions aimed at improving members’ skills, and this NAHJ takes dead aim at new media, a topic that has been covered but not emphasized in past years.
“The reality is that we can’t afford to say we’re a TV journalist or a print or radio journalist,” said Ms. Villafane. “We have to say we’re multimedia journalists. It’s a changing media and we really have to be up-to-date to survive in the business.”
Since the convention is appropriately located this year in Silicon Valley, Google and Yahoo will be represented at the convention, and 15 multimedia training sessions will offer chances for members to update their skills in podcasting, video convergence, Flash and digital production, among other topics. “This resonates with every journalist in the country,” said Ms. Duron. “How to reframe who we are as journalists and to make sure that our skills are ready to help us work in this brave new world.”
Though some of this year’s NAHJ convention panels focus on controversial topics and hot-button current events, co-chair Villafane is sanguine about the possibility of fireworks.
“Last year we had Lou Dobbs, and some organizers were afraid he’d be booed, but it was an excellent session,” she said. “You can’t be afraid to think out of the box. We have to think about how we can be more accepted and better represented in society. Journalists are cut out for this job.”
25TH ANNIVERSARY NAHJ CONVENTION
Theme: NAHJ@25: Building Today, Shaping Tomorrow
Where: McEnery Convention Center, San Jose, Calif.
When: June 13-16
Details: nahj.org

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