HANANIA: UNITY Pushes for diversity in mainstream media, but not in their own ranks, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, July 24, 2008

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UNITY pushes for diversity in mainstream media, but not their own
By Ray Hanania —
UNITY: “Journalists of Color” are gathering in Chicago this week promoting a limited constructed definition of “diversity” that represents only a small percentage of “journalists of color.” The group was founded by Black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American journalists some 20 years ago and they have done a great job of keeping other “journalists of color” out of their leadership ranks and out of a major presence during this year’s quadrennial convention. They haven’t let any other group “of color” into their inner sanctum since.

UNITY is pandering to the non-UNITY colored journalists, including olive-skinned Arab American journalists, in much the same way as the mainstream White media panders to UNITY’s “founding” members. I guess after working for “the man,” you learn things and start practicing both the good and the bad.

Of course, UNITY has some token panel discussions on Arab American issues buried deep in their thick agenda of alleged diversity exploration, the fact is that UNITY is more of an oxymoron than it is an effective voice for “journalists of color.” UNITY is a voice for Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Native American journalists and that’s it.

The mainstream media doesn’t care because the last thing they want is for more journalists to demand a place at “the table” and expand the rainbow. And honestly, I don’t believe that’s what UNITY really wants either. I think UNITY is less about “journalists of color” and more about “journalists of clout color.” They have a certain number of seats at the journalism table and they don’t want to make room for more journalists.

How else do you explain their refusal to work with Arab American journalism organizations, for example, by respecting them? I can imagine that’s how the mainstream media must have treated the first African American journalist who tried to demand a place at “the table,”  to be given the first seat in the theater of “journalism diversity.” I bet the mainstream media hated that person as much as they are now disparaging me when the issue comes up. (No one likes the person who stands up for civil rights until the issue is won.)

Of course, there are groups supporting diversity from the mainstream media, like the Tribune Foundation. They can’t help Arab American journalists much as our group doesn’t have a 501 (c) 3 designation. So, diversity does come down to money, not principle, I guess?

But later today, The Tribune Foundation will release a study they funded for UNTIY on the Washington Press Corp which reiterates what it discovered the last time they studied diversity in the journalism clique in the nation’s capitol. There isn’t much diversity for “journalists of color” or even UNITY’s definition of “journalists of clout color.” Then, the Tribune Foundation study deterined that less than 10.5 percent of the reporters, correspondents, columnists, editors and bureau chiefs in the Washington daily newspaper press corps are “journalists of color” – 60 out of 574.

I bet they didn’t include Arab Americans who live in limbo. Blacks consider Arabs White and Whites consider Arabs Black. That tension between Blacks and Arabs is also a possible source behind the refusal of UNITY to address Arab American concerns more seriously.

Long before Sept. 11, 2001, Arab Americans have been discriminated in this country by the mainstream media. Since, that discrimination has only increased and more and more Arab American journalists are being either pushed from jobs or pressured into minimizing their “Arab identity” to the point were several over the past few years have actually been forced out of their journalism jobs.

You won’t hear UNITY talk about those problems. I’ll bet every Arab American journalist pushed from a job has been replaced by a “journalist of clout color.”

But you will hear UNITY talk about how to cover Arab Americans, a panel suggestion made by the National Arab American Journalists Association (NAAJA) that thankfully one UNITY member cares about. The panel was advocated by the Asian American Journalists Association which has shown a real concern for the plight of Arab American journalists, which spins off of an internal presence of a significant number of Muslims in the Asian community. (Okay, one of the big problems is that mainstream and “journalists of color” interchange words that are not interchangable like “Muslims” and “Arabs” but that’s okay when they do it out of compassion not discrimination.)

So we won’t be at UNITY. Ironically, UNITY is trying to compensate by increasing from one to two the number of panels addressing Arab American related issues — they want to dilute the term “Arab” and convert it into the broader “Middle Eastern” category. And, they have at least one function at one of our Arab American restaurants.

Too bad there are not more Arab American journalists participating at UNITY. There could have been. But maybe that’s too much diversity for UNITY to swallow.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, author and “journalist of non-clout color”. He can be reached at www.TheMediaOasis.com and by email at rayhanania@comcast.net.)

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com