Journalism organization spotlight series: NAHJ, AAJA, NABJ and NAJA

by Terrance Smith
Oct 30, 2018 in Journalism Basics

This is the third installment of IJNet's spotlight series on journalism organizations. You can also read the first installment and second installment

In this feature, IJNet examines journalism organizations focused on minority communities in the United States. These include the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), the Asian American Journalism Association (AAJA), the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and the Native American Journalism Association (NAJA).

Open to everyone

One common misconception surrounding these organizations is that they are only open to the minority communities they serve. However, BA Snyder, a spokesperson for NAHJ, said the organization is open to anyone.

"[NAHJ] has an educational value for those who aren't Latino or Hispanic. [We] want people of all races in the organization,” she said. “We want to make sure coverage of Latinos in the news is accurate and fair.”

Conferences offer an opportunity for journalists of all ethnicities to learn about these organizations. NAHJ is working to make their conferences more inclusive internationally, especially to journalists from Latin American countries.

AAJA is also looking to expand internationally. According to National President Yvonne Leow, AAJA’s Asia chapter is one of its fastest-growing. This year, their annual New.Now.Next Conference, known as N3Con, will be held in Hong Kong. The conference will address topics such as blockchain and artificial intelligence, focusing on changing storytelling techniques in the digital era.

There are also NABJ members worldwide, and meeting their needs is a high priority for the organization, said NABJ President Sarah Glover. In April, NABJ formed a partnership with the African Renaissance and Diaspora Network, and is working with them to plan a study tour in Senegal and Gambia.

Advocating for change

In late 2017, researchers from the American Society of News Editors conducted a survey of U.S. newsrooms. They found that people of color comprised only 16.6 percent of newsroom staff. As a result, a large part of NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA and NAJA’s work comes in the form of advocating for increased representation in the newsroom.

"As the population becomes more black and brown, media coverage and newsroom staffing does not adequately reflect these changing demographics,” said Glover. “Nor are newsrooms ably prepared for more change to come in the years ahead."

By advocating for marginalized communities, these organizations aim to increase newsroom representation and prevent discrimination, which contributes to fairer, more accurate coverage.

"As an organization, [NAJA’s] mission is to support and advocate for Native journalists to make sure that the Native experience gets shared,” said Darren Brown, member of the NAJA board of directors. “That means getting talented Native journalists in front of the camera in newsrooms."

Like NAJA, NABJ is interested in getting more minority journalists on newsrooms’ staff. One way is through a career fair during their annual convention, which is one of the largest minority journalism conventions in the country.

When more diverse narratives are presented in the media, no one has to carry the burden of speaking on behalf of an entire community. Brown hopes that increasing representation will relieve some of this burden.

"When it comes to topics such as Washington's football team and Cleveland's baseball team, [many people view] all Indians as one tribe,” Brown said. “Anytime you speak, you're representing your tribe, other tribes and tribes you’ve never even met."

Encouraging the next generation

An effective way to increase newsroom diversity, reduce discrimination and promote more accurate coverage is to offer support early on in minority journalists’ careers.

Building a bridge between journalists already working in the industry and those who are working toward a career in journalism can be challenging, but these organizations have programs that attempt to do just that. Each organization allows students to become members, and offers opportunities for them to connect with current newsroom leaders.

AAJA also recognizes that low representation is not limited to newsrooms, so they also help train the next generation of media entrepreneurs. In November, the organization launched Catalyst, a three-day program filled with workshops, panels and one-on-one sessions geared toward people of color who want to learn how to launch their own media projects.

To promote higher media involvement, Brown occasionally talks to students of Native communities to ensure they understand the significance of being the ones to tell their own stories.  

"If you are not there to advocate for your story, then either your story doesn't get told or someone else tells it,” Brown said.

For more information about NAHJ, AAJA, NABJ and NAJA, visit their websites.

Main image CC-licensed by Pixabay via USA-Reiseblogger.