By: Tony Case
National Association of Hispanic Journalists bows to pressure; moves spring convention out of Colorado sp.
BOWING TO PRESSURE from outside parties and inside its ranks, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists has decided to honor a national boycott of Colorado and cancel its spring convention in Denver.
The NAHJ board met in Miami Jan. 9 and voted 13 to 3 to move the meeting to another site, which was not named.
NAHJ president Diane Alverio, who is a reporter at WFSB-TV in Hartford, told the Associated Press that she hoped “some will respect our decision because of how emotional and difficult it was. It’s divided the organization quite a bit.”
Just one week earlier, Alverio had told E&P that it was “not a possibility” the convention site would be changed.
“Sometimes it’s easier and safer to follow the loudest critics, but we’re taking a moral stance in a different way,” she said. “That doesn’t mean we’re wrong.”
Alverio maintained that “As journalists, we feel we should go there and focus attention on the gay and Hispanic journalists’ situation. If this were an assignment, there would be no doubt in anyone’s mind. We would be fighting to go and be in the midst of this debate, because that’s what journalists do. We go to the front lines to try to understand the debate.”
That debate surrounds Colorado’s Amendment 2, which bans anti-discrimination laws for homosexuals. Since Election Day, when voters passed the measure, Colorado has been the target of the so-called politically correct, the Hollywood community and other concerned citizens whose boycott has hurt the state’s profitable tourism and convention business and tarnished its progressive image.
The NAHJ is the latest in a line of associations to cancel meetings in Colorado, including the United States Conference of Mayors and the National Organization of Women.
Of course, few Coloradoans?including those who voted against Amendment 2?agree with the boycott. Community leaders in Aspen, Boulder and Denver have pointed out that their residents did not support the measure.
Despite the boycott, NAHJ leaders had voted in November to remain in the Mile High City, maintaining that canceling the conclave would deplete the group’s finances. Meanwhile, the association moved to quell charges that it is insensitive to homosexuals by including in its convention program a session on civil rights and a debate on Amendment 2.
The NAHJ’s obstinacy angered many of the group’s members, as well as the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, which boycotted the meeting.
The NLGJA withdrew its boycott after the Denver meeting was canceled, however.
In a written statement, NLGJA president Leroy Aarons said: “We understand the difficulty and we are gratified by this decision. We think it’s a victory for a free press and for minority journalists everywhere. To the degree possible, we are prepared to dedicate the efforts of our organization to help the NAHJ make this difficult transition.”
Before the NAHJ’s change of heart, Aarons said that “For any organization of minority journalists to go [to Colorado] and spend money there is, in a way, assisting the perpetuation of this discrimination.”
He added, “It’s fairly clear that discrimination against the sexual minority is probably the last area where that could happen and there not be a massive response, as in other areas of discrimination.”
NAHJ members had duked it out over the convention controversy, not just privately but publicly in such visible forums as the New York Times and New York Newsday.
In a Newsday column titled “Meeting in Denver Is a Rocky Mountain Low,” Rose Marie Arce, an NAHJ member who works as a producer for WCBS-TV in New York, urged her fellow Latinos to sympathize with gays and lesbians. “As another persecuted minority,” she said, “we Latinos cannot stand back and watch.”
Arce blasted the NAHJ for fretting over the $70,000 that it had said it would lose by reneging on an agreement with Denver’s Radisson Hotel, the site of the convention. “That’s what we have in the bank,” she quoted executive director Jose McMurry as saying. “If you make this decision, you close the office.”
“No, you don’t,” Arce fired back. “You tell the Radisson you’ll never do business with them again?anywhere in the world?if they don’t give NAHJ a break. You threaten to have NAHJ’s members editorialize against them and, if you have to lose some money, you lose it rather than let your conscience be ruled by your pocketbook.”
She continued, “NAHJ has no business in Colorado. This isn’t about $70,000. With upward of 1,400 members and some 200 recruiters, that’s at worst around $40 a head ? one less ski-lift ticket. Count me out. Boycott Colorado.”
In a rebuttal letter to the newspaper, NAHJ board member Patricia Duarte, who is editor of La Familia de Hoy magazine in New York, took issue with Arce’s comparison of Hispanics and homosexuals.
“Any sort of discrimination is abominable and should be condemned, but, unquestionably, Hispanic, black and Native American is something you are, as opposed to something you do,” she wrote. “You can choose (or not) to make an issue of your sexual lifestyle, whereas you can’t opt out of your race or ethnicity. I believe that, in the sphere of civil rights, the latter poses a greater disadvantage.”
? (Leroy Adams) [Photo]
? (Diane Alverio) [Photo]