By CORINNE LYONS
The executive board of the National Association of Black Journalists voted unanimously Tuesday to delay plans to pick the destination for the 2016 convention.
NABJ has already secured its next five convention sites: Philadelphia, 2011; Orlando, 2013; New Orleans, 2014; and Minneapolis, 2015. The board voted to hold off on selecting the 2016 location until the organization’s financial situation is clearer and the board makes changes to its planning process.
Under the current bylaws, NABJ Tresurer Gregory Lee Jr. said the organization must finalize convention plans five years in advance, but that is “no longer practical.”
After this year’s convention, a committee will be formed to evaluate the current system and present the executive board with a report. The board agreed to have a plan in place by July 31, 2011.
Lee said the change was something that “should have been done three years ago.”
Before the vote Tuesday, Lee, chairman of the ad hoc committee, made a presentation that offered board members several ways for NABJ to save money during conventions. Lee said NABJ needed to use college campuses for meeting space and negotiate with smaller hotel chains. He went on to say that the number of events with meals needed to be reduced, including the Salute to Excellence Awards Gala and the Gospel Brunch.
The ad hoc committee recommended that NABJ partner with other minority organizations — including the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association — to offset costs. Lee said NABJ could partner with one minority group each year, alternating between the different organizations.
The board then discussed the 2012 UNITY convention in Las Vegas. UNITY is a gathering of the members of the aforementioned minority organizations that takes place every four years.
Charles Robinson, Region II Director, said he was concerned that UNITY Journalists of Color and the other partner organizations would attempt to prey on NABJ’s membership size due to the fact that it is the largest of the four.
“Are they trying to pimp us?” Robinson said.
Lee responded: “Pimping is a strong word.”
Robinson later said that he didn’t mean the comment in a negative way, stating that it was a rhetorical analogy. He did emphasize, though, that he feels that NABJ would be shortchanged.
When a UNITY convention is held, Lee said, the first 20 percent of revenue goes to UNITY. Forty percent is split evenly among the four partners and the remaining 40 percent is split proportionately based upon registrations before the convention. Lee pointed out that on-site registrations, which many NABJ members utilize because of scheduling and other considerations, goes to UNITY. That formula was used during the 2008 UNITY convention and was not favorable for NABJ.
“NABJ loses out in the UNITY model,” Lee said.
Lee told the board that he asked UNITY officials for numbers of those who registered on-site during the 2008 convention, but he never received them. Even without having those figures, Lee said NABJ “had the most members there.”
The board discussed Lee’s presentation and then voted to suspend planning until they could work out these issues.