The president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Michele Salcedo, refused to allow media coverage of its open board meeting Tuesday, July 31, 2012. Salcedo barred use of social media and video recording in the meeting, asking a UNITY News reporter who had been assigned to live tweet the board’s discussions to stop reporting or to leave the room.
BY NADIA KHAN
The president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists refused to allow media coverage of its open board meeting Tuesday.
Only one board member openly objected to the policy, which President Michele Salcedo said had been established years before.
A UNITY News reporter who had been assigned to live tweet the board’s discussions was asked to stop reporting and to leave the room. The reporter sent out three messages on the social media network before she left and waited outside the meeting room, at the request of her editor.
The incident further enflamed board critics’ existing concerns that the NAHJ leadership has lacked transparency during its two years in power.
Members discussed the UNITY News ejection on Facebook and Twitter, which have frequently hosted past debates about the organization’s future, finances, minutes and elections.
Last year’s controversial board decision to lay off a majority of staff, including Executive Director Ivan Román, upset many members, but Salcedo insisted that tough financial decisions had to be made because of past excess and deficits that ran in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
During Tuesday’s board meeting, Salcedo said the board’s financial austerity measures led to $339,000 in net income for the organization.
Members were welcome to observe the board meeting, Salcedo said, but the board in October 2010 banned credentialed press coverage — including Twitter and Facebook use during proceedings.
UNITY News video mentor Joe Vazquez recorded a portion of the meeting before Salcedo asked him to leave the room.
“It (the policy) followed board training by our attorney and also by a consultant that we brought in to talk about best practices for board members and board governance, and that was the recommendation that he gave to us,” Salcedo told UNITY News.
However, when asked for documentation, she could not produce a written record of the policy, “because it doesn’t exist,” Salcedo said.
The 2012 board elections sparked the most heated discussion. Salcedo accused critics of “character assassination” and Elections Chair Elaine Aradillas decried Facebook cyber-bullying from members who believed she manipulated the elections.
UNITY News tweets about the meeting coverage confrontation created intense debate on Facebook and Twitter, where members, including past NAHJ presidents, questioned why the board would bar journalists from covering a journalism organization.
“I am not aware of any bylaw concerning social media and I can’t imagine agreeing with her (Salcedo) on this,” said Rafael Olmeda, former president of NAHJ (2006-2008) and UNITY (2009), in a phone interview.
Rebecca Aguilar, NAHJ general at-large officer, was the only board member who challenged the media coverage policy during the meeting.
“I believe that tweeting our meetings should be fine. It’s 2012. They are open meetings. NABJ does it. Thanks for trying.” tweeted Aguilar, who is running for vice president online and has been critical of Salcedo and her allies.
After the board meeting, Aguilar gave an interview to UNITY News, but was interrupted by Salcedo who insisted that only the president and executive director could speak for the board.
Members of NAHJ inquired if and when the minutes of the meeting will be made public.
“The minutes will be posted for this meeting the way minutes are posted for every meeting and that’s once they are approved by the board they will be available for members on request,” said Salcedo.