Several hundred journalists are expected to gather in Fort Lauderdale next week for the annual conference of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Speakers will range from Juan Gonzalez, the co-host of Democracy Now- heard here on WMNF, to the author of a book on baseball star Roberto Clemente, who died tragically delivering aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua, and many of the discussions will center on how to cover the Latino community more effectively. One item of note this year is an interview via satellite with Ricardo Alarcón, president of Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power and a member of the Communist Party Politburo. But a group of Florida Journalists wont be attending the meeting, and have raised concerns that the grassroots, Spanish language media have been left out of the planning and participation in the conference.
Pedro A Gonzalez is the president of the Florida Association of Hispanic Journalists, a group that was created in 1984, the same year as the national association, but the overlap between the two groups members has been limited.

ACT “We sent a letter and participated in planning the meetings…and we proposed to them that we need to expand because we are going to receive thousands of journalists..put them in contact with communites..now that we are in this struggle it’s a good idea to keep them in contact with people of Florida..�

Gonzalez says that over the past few months, his group offered several times to participate in the planning of the conference, but he never got an answer. The board of the Florida organization, which on its website says it has a membership of over 300 journalists, voted not to participate in the national conference. On June 9th, the Florida organization sent out a press release welcoming visiting Hispanic journalists to Florida, and calling the National group an “oreo cookie organization.� Rafael Olmeda is the vice president of print of the NAHJ, and the assistant city editor at the South Florida sun sentinel.

ACT-Olmeda “People try to participate in the convention and didn’t get what they want..�

ACT-Olmeda “Its something to disagree..�

High on Gonzalez list of concerns is that many of the grassroots, Spanish language media organizations here in Florida are not members of the national association of Hispanic Journalists. He wanted to create a format where they could participate in the conference even if they weren’t members.

ACT “If you really want to know, you have to get in touch wit the thousands of journalists that are inside the communities..don’t just be an org that has a cocktails and plays golf�

Gonzalez also says the national organization has turned its back on its Latino heritage.

ACT “You go to these meetings they are in English, they don’t know Spanish..�

ACT “These guys just wanted to stay quite..they do their meetings in English and are..�

ACT “A domino tournament, golf..this is childrens play…we need to have more responsibility�

Olmeda says that a few years ago, he put on 2 conferences for spanish language media, and the members of FAHJ didn’t attend. According to the NAHJ website, at least 3 of the sessions will have translations available. Olmeda says that last year all of the sessions had headphones with translators, but they couldn’t manage to do it this year. However it is a goal. Never the less, he says that having the conference take place predominantly in English is appropriate.

ACT-Olmeda “The majority has taken place in English…the majority that a convention I don’t find that odd�

ACT-Olmeda “There is something to that this is a long standing challenge for NAHJ..our audience for the convention is not just for us..its for us to educate as well..so if I put on a convention..who is gonna hear me? they wont listen..�

Intertwined with the issue of the inclusion of the grassroots Spanish language is the recent immigration protests and national debate. AS acknowledged in the program for the upcoming NAHJ conference, many mainstream medias outlets were taken by surprise by the millions of Latinos who took to the streets, while Spanish language media was plugged in, and often took part in coordinating and promoting the protests. Gonzalez said he’s disappointed that the NAHJ didn’t take a stand in the past few months against the “discrimination and persecution of the anti-immigrant movement.�.

ACT “If you want a club to play golf, that’s fine, but this is a political org. if Latinos have probelms..you help..’

but Olmeda says that’s unrealistic.

ACT-Olmeda “Its like a journalist calling for end to death penalty..you cant..you can feel it, but you can't do it..�

The NAHJ has been increasingly sensitive to charges of bias since they came under fire in 2004, when during a conference, they cheered louder for a speech by John Kerry than one by President Bush. But Gonzalez rejects the notion of impartial journalism.

ACT “Nobody is really impartial..your family..accent..different salary..you feel it..’

Olmeda says he believes there is a gap between smaller community based Spanish language media outlets, which still see advocacy as their role, versus those who have absorbed the American ideals of objective journalism.

ACT-Olmeda ‘Were journalists our job is to treat people fairly..make people into humans not vermin..our job is to make sure than our issues are covered fully and fairly..we don’t mind people talking, we do mind language that dehumanizes people. We mind pen disrespect and human beings..were not gonna call for congress to pass a law, you wont see NAHJ put out a solution that’s not our role..individuals might do that well do our best, but you wont see us take a stand we cover it�

The website for the Florida Association of Hispanic journalists is www.fahj.org The agenda for the national association of Hispanic journalists can be found at their website, www.nahj.org

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