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CEO summit revives moribund minority task force.

Eighteen months after key members threatened to walk out because of ineffectiveness, the Task Force for Minorities in the Newspaper Business organized an unprecedented meeting between the leaders of the four largest minority journalists groups and 28 top newspaper executives January 10 and 11 in New York City.

"It was the best meeting of its sort that I've been to," said David Lawrence, publisher of the Miami Herald and president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. "I think the seminar gave everyone there an even deeper philosophical framework for a genuinely diverse organization."

The Diversity Seminar, organized by the Task Force and convened by the American Newspaper Publishers Association, the National Advertising Bureau, and the American Society of Newspaper Editors, resulted in a number of recommendations that the ANPA currently is coalescing into an action plan.

The most valuable aspect of the meeting, according to some leaders of the minority groups, was being able to discuss diversity face-to-face with news media leaders. "It was the first time we could address so many CEOs regarding diversity," said Don Flores, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and publisher of the Iowa-City Press Citizen. "I think the result of the meeting is that we all know each other better."

The idea to bring the minority group leaders together with industry executives was born of the frustration many minorities feel about the news media's attempts at diversification. ANPA, ASNE, NAB, and other journalism groups founded the Task Force on Minorities in the Newspaper Business six years ago to deal with the issue of diversification, but its principal benefactors -- the major minority groups -- felt the Task Force was ineffective.

"The Task Force was perceived as powerless," said Gerald Garcia, the immediate past chair of the Task Force. "It was simply a place to dump issues." The presidents of NAHJ, National Association of Black Journalists, Asian American Journalists Association, and Native American Journalists Association threatened to quit the Task Force in 1990, prompting Garcia to call a meeting to revitalize the group. They determined they needed better access to news media executives, and the idea for a major summit meeting was born.

The focal point of the seminar was Roosevelt Thomas, president of the American Institute for Managing Diversity at Morehouse College in Atlanta, who discussed his theory of "managing diversity." "The goal of Thomas' program is to develop a management that creates an environment where all employees, regardless of gender, race, or religion, are empowered to achieve to their fullest potential," said Roz Stark, director of the ANPA Foundation.

Thomas provided few concrete ideas for managing diversity, but he basically called for moving away from merely hiring more minorities, and towards taking full advantage of the minorities -- and all employees -- already hired.

Though Thomas emphasized that affirmitive action still is an important element of his plan to diversify the workplace, Mark Trahant, president of the Native American Journalists Association, said some minority leaders fear that Thomas' ideas may be used as an excuse to abandon affirmitive action. "There was a lot of misunderstanding about what he said," Trahant said.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of The New York Times and chair of the Task Force subcommittee that organized the seminar, said Roosevelt did not advocate abandoning affirmitive action, just combining it with other diversification plans.

Trahant and Flores said the seminar has given the Task Force new credibility, but the merger of two founders of the Task Force, the American Newspaper Publishers Association and the National Advertising Bureau, has put its future on hold.

ANPA's Stark said the Task Force's role is a "piece of the puzzle" emerging from the union of the two industry groups, which will become effective July 1.

"What will happen is some structure for better communication [between minority groups and industry leaders] is going to emerge," Stark said, adding that ANPA plans to move its diversity program from the foundation side to the main organization itself, indicating an elevation in priority. Stark predicted that change will be approved at ANPA's May meeting.

Past Task Force chair Garcia is optimistic: "My hope is that the new group, the American Newspaper Association, hires someone at the highest level of the company to be [an advocate] of managing diversity in the industry."
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Title Annotation:Task Force for Minorities in the Newspaper Business organized meeting among leaders of minority journalists groups
Author:Avis, Ed
Publication:The Quill
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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