A Letter to CCNMA/NAHJ Members in Los Angeles from CCNMA President Joseph Rodriguez

Joseph Rodriguez, CCNMA President

After a long career in journalism, I can look back now and credit my start and accomplishments to two Latino journalism groups that today find themselves on the brink of a disastrous divorce.

As many of you know by now, the biggest news from the Excellence in Journalism Conference in Anaheim was a vote by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists to revisit the fledgling partnership with the California Chicano News Media Association. If the two groups don’t strike a deal soon, the partnership could end, and Latino journalism in Los Angeles may never become the social, political and cultural force it ought to be.
But before I discuss how we can save this united front, let me tell you my story related to CCNMA and NAHJ.

Back in the 1970s, I was just another indecisive college student from East L.A., too unconfident to pursue a writing career—until I met members of the fledgling California Chicano News Media Association.

Today we’d call them “role models” or “disruptors” because they challenged the elitist, old boy hiring habits of American newsrooms and opened enough doors for me and thousands more young Latino journalists.
Not too many years later, as a reporter on the East Coast, I joined another new group, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists . It shared the same mission—to further integrate American newsrooms and deliver better and accurate coverage of Latino communities and issues. I served on the NAHJ board in the mid-1980s and helped to established the group’s student scholarship program.
Over the past decades, the two groups prospered and grew even as they feuded over turf. Que pendejadas, I thought back then. We’re the same people, with a common goal, the same “espirito!” Why don’t we join forces, even merge the two groups?
Eventually, as legacy news media have declined in the Internet Age, we got that chance. Looking for a way to remain relevant, some of us on both boards promoted the idea of a partnership based in Los Angeles. The deal basically allows CCNMA autonomy in its hometown and offers NAHJ a West Coast headquarters. L.A. journalists became members of both groups for the price of one.
We hammered out a Memorandum of Understanding in 2016. But today the agreement is in jeopardy. To be sure, each group has concerns as this merger evolves, so I’m just going to describe a path for saving the CCNMA/NAHJ partnership in Los Angeles from a premature death.
First, before this year ends, the NAHJ board should vote on the hiring of an administrative manager for the newly combine Los Angeles chapter in 2018. Initially promised to our chapter in late 2016, the position is our  highest priority. You simply cannot run ambitious, influential programs –like saving high school journalism in Latino neighborhoods and teaching residents how to watchdog their city halls– without an office staff to raise funding, grow membership and revenue, and marshal the talents of individual, Latino journalist volunteers.
If NAHJ rejects the position, or even tables the decision, then the next step should be CCNMA’s.
I don’t think we should end the partnership for the lack of one office manager, as important as that person would be.
We could, for example, make this counter offer: Instead of getting the administrative manager, the CCNMA/NAHJ Los Angeles Chapter gets to keep 100 percent of NAHJ and CCNMA dues paid by members until we can hire a manager on our own.
The deal would accomplishment two things: Sooth the nerves of NAHJ board members worried about expenses and liability issues, and give the Los Angeles partnership a modest and steady income as it grows membership.
The partnership between NAHJ and CCNMA offers Latino journalism the best opportunity for growth and influence at a time our people and cultures  are under political assau;t, and as too many news media organizations neglect their promises to diversify their ranks.
Our partnership offers too much promise to abandon so soon.
–Joe Rodriguez is a former reporter and columnist with the San Jose Mercury News, among other papers, and teaches journalism at San Jose State University.
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CCNMA NAHJ MOU Timeline and Corrections on NAHJ claims

Los Angeles – We would like to take a moment for the members of CCNMA and NAHJ to better understand the timeline of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between CCNMA and NAHJ. We take issue with how the MOU is being characterized by the current NAHJ leadership as somehow not being thoroughly vetted. The two-year process was detailed, debated, open, transparent and reviewed legally before final agreement was forged.



  • September 2014

-CCNMA President Yvette Caberea and newly elected NAHJ President Mekahlo Medina began discussions on a partnership

  • February 2015

-An initial draft proposal was sent first the the CCNMA board to consider

  • March-August 2015

-There were open discussions with both memberships on what the partnerships might look like and how each group would benefit

-Many CCNMA directors and members worried about losing the group’s autonomy and identity

  • October 2015

-The CCNMA board tabled discussions as it dealt with planned events

  • December 2015-January 2016

-NAHJ President Medina re-engaged CCNMA in partnership talks again

-The CCNMA board once again took up the issue, drafting an edited version of the MOU that included the position NAHJ deputy executive director to be headquartered out of the CCNMA Santa Monica office and be under the supervision of the NAHJ executive director, with approval by the CCNMA board. The DED would essentially be the West Coast arm of NAHJ.

-The NAHJ Executive committee reviewed the CCNMA edited MOU and returned it, downgrading the position to administrative manager, a part-time to full time position that would be under the supervision of the NAHJ executive director, with approval by the CCNMA board. The duties would include, but not limited to, staffing the Santa Monica office one to two days a week, assisting CCNMA with office duties, accounting and planning for its two signature events. (Staffing the office was critical because the space was loan to CCNMA by ASU, but required a continuous presence)

-Upon both organizations sharing each others financials for review, each group agreed that any liabilities each organization had prior to the agreement would not be the responsibility of the other organization. (NAHJ has liabilities 10-times greater than that of CCNMA)

-Both organizations would share equal revenue in new sponsorship deals in California and work together to build more programming, development and grow membership.

-CCNMA members in California, outside of San Francisco and San Diego, where two NAHJ chapters were thriving, would become NAHJ members and inverse NAHJ members would become CCNMA members

  • Late January 2016

-The CCNMA board approved those changes and approved the MOU

-The NAHJ board reviewed the edited MOU and at the request of Executive Director Alberto Mendoza and Financial Officer Francisco Cortes decided to include a provision that the administrative manager position would be dependent on how NAHJ finances shaped up at the end of third quarter of 2016.

-Also included was a provision by board member Nathan Olivares-Giles that a 30 day grace period be added as a last resort if one of the organizations wanted to leave the partnership; the provision was meant as a “cooling off” period if one partner has exhausted all approaches to resolve any issues with the other partner

(“Both organizations can opt to leave the agreement at any time after a 30 day period of consideration where both organization attempt to resolve the issues that might be cause of disagreement”)

(Source: NAHJ January 2016 Minutes)

-The edited MOU was approved by the board unanimously and signed by NAHJ President Mekahlo Medina, reviewed by the NAHJ attorney and sent to CCNMA.

  • March 2016

-CCNMA board’s attorney reviewed the final MOU, approved by it’s board unanimously and signed it by new CCNMA President Joseph Rodriguez

  • May 2016

-The MOU went into effect

-There was a 90 day period that gave NAHJ Los Angeles, the local chapter of NAHJ, time to dissolve into the CCNMA Los Angeles chapter

-Some NAHJ LA board members took up board roles and began to work with CCNMA

  • September 2016

-CCNMA President Joseph Rodriguez attended the NAHJ NABJ conference and requested from newly elected President Brandon Benavides that the administrative manager role be funded in the 2017 budget

  • December 2016

-NAHJ President Benavides declined to fund the position at the Winter board meeting in Las Vegas

  • January 2017

-CCNMA President Joseph Rodriguez informed the CCNMA board of NAHJ’s decision

-Former NAHJ President Mekahlo Medina volunteered to the fill the role in the capacity of interim executive director of CCNMA until the end of 2017 with the hopes that NAHJ would fund the position in 2018

  • March 15th 2017

-NAHJ President Brandon Benavides requested that the NAHJ executive committee review the MOU for the 1st time

-Benavides, CCNMA President Joseph Rodriguez, NAHJ Executive Director Alberto Mendoza and Interim Executive Director Mekahlo Medina discusses the details of the MOU via teleconference

-After appearing to be satisfied with the review, Benavides emailed the NAHJ board writing “We had a wonderful conversation. This MOU applies to the LA Chapter. NAHJ is responsible for the LA Chapter account. The MOU is a work in progress.”

  • June 2017

-CCNMA NAHJ worked to deliver the largest job fair of the year for NAHJ with more than 325 participants and half a dozen hires

-Initiated discussions for new chapters in Fresno and growing chapters in Sacramento and San Jose

  • August 2017

-Struck a new partnership with Hispanicize LA to host the CCNMA Latinas breakfast that benefits the CCNMA scholarship fund set for October of 2017

Corrections and classifications in recent reporting:
NAHJ membership numbers
  • 2013: 900 members (approx), under President Balta
  • 2014: 1400 members (approx); Up 500 members, under President Balta
  • 2015: 1800 members (approx); Up 400 members, under President Medina
  • 2016: 2061 members (July 31st prior to NABJ NAHJ convention); Up 261 members, under President Medina
  • 2017: 2125 members; Up 64 members, under President Benavides
LatinoReporter Report:
“Benavides cited concerns about NAHJ’s financial and legal entanglements, including a $13,000 fine from the District of Columbia and a $100 fine from the state of California due to improperly filed taxes.” (
  • It’s unclear why Benavides identified NAHJ’s own legal entanglements and financial problems as it pertains to the CCNMA partnership.
  • CCNMA has NO connections to NAHJ’s $13,000 entanglement with the District of Columbia in 2016 or NAHJ’s $100 fine to the state of California for failure to file state taxes when its incorporation was in California as stated by Benavides.
LatinoReporter Report:
“NAHJ President Brandon Benavides said Thursday that he was unaware of the board’s plan to review the CCNMA contract at its Wednesday meeting. The national organization was exercising its right to postpone a vote on the contract in a “good faith effort,” he said.
“We wanted to make sure we know our liability and what NAHJ is responsible for,” Benavides said.”
  • Benavides is the chairman of the board and is responsible for the agenda of the board meeting
  • If he was unaware of the board’s plan, he ultimately had to decide to approve the agenda item
  • In the process, Benavides made NO attempt at contacting CCNMA President Joseph Rodriguez by phone, email or text; He also made NO attempt to alert CCNMA treasure Rachel Urgana, who was present in the room.
EIJ Report:
“In an email sent Wednesday, Brandon Benavides, the NAHJ president, said he requested the MOU because board members wanted to review the financial and legal liabilities of the merger. Benavides sent the e-mail to Joseph Rodriguez, the president of CCNMA, and Mekahlo Medina, a former NAHJ president and one of the main architects of the requested MOU.”
  • The email was sent three hours after the NAHJ board voted to start the review process
  • CCNMA’s President or its interim Executive Director was never made aware of the issue beforehand
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Ruben Salazar Award Presentation Moved from NAHJ Conference

Los Angeles – After an unexpected vote by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) to review the memorandum of understanding with the California Chicano News Media Association (CCNMA) “eyeing at termination”, CCNMA has decided to move the presentation of the prestigious Ruben Salazar Award for excellence in journalism to it’s October 4th event.

“CCNMA’s Ruben Salazar Award has for decades been one of the top prizes for Latino journalism,” said Joe Rodriguez, president of CCNMA/NAHJ Los Angeles. “We did not want to present the award under the cloud created by the NAHJ board’s decision to jeapordize our partnership. That would not have been fair to the winner and finalists and it would have taken the spotlight away from the memory of Ruben Salazar.”

The award, named after legendary journalist Ruben Salazar, is given to a journalist or group of journalists that have exhibited excellence in  journalism while covering Latinos in Southern California.

Three works of journalism are finalists for the award. Each of the finalists have been alerted of the changes and are disappointed, but excited to attend the new event in the fall.

To register for HispanicizeLA and the CCNMA Latinas Event, click here.

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CCNMA Blindsided by Sudden Move to Revoke Partnership by NAHJ Board led by President Brandon Benavides

Without any warning or discussion before hand, the NAHJ Board led by President Brandon Benavides moves to revoke the young partnership between the California Chicano News Media Association (CCNMA) and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) citing already addressed issues.

“This move was totally premature, unnecessary,” said Joseph Rodriguez, CCNMA President. “It appears that NAHJ president Brandon Benavides may have misled me just a few days ago. He said the question of hiring an administrative manager for the newly combined CCNMA/NAHJ Los Angeles Chapter was on Wednesday’s NAHJ agenda for discussion. That’s what we expected and sent our chapter treasurer to discuss. Benavides did not say the entire Memorandum of Understanding might be on the table.”

The NAHJ board, without discussion, voted unanimously to begin revoking the agreement in 30 days. The action ignites the “duration” section of the MOU that was signed in early 2016 after two years of discussion.

NAHJ is requesting a legal review of the MOU and requests CCNMA’s financial records.

“All the materials requested have been given to the NAHJ board in 2016 and again in early 2017 at the request of the current President,” said Mekahlo Medina, former NAHJ President, who was one of the main architects of the MOU for NAHJ. “It was our understanding that the MOU was in good standing with the exception of the request by CCNMA for an administration manager.”

Here is an email from NAHJ President Benavides delivered to the board on March 18th of 2017: “Alberto and I just finished a conference call with CCNMA president Joe Rodriguez and Mekahlo. We had a wonderful conversation. This MOU applies to the LA Chapter. NAHJ is responsible for the LA Chapter account. The MOU is a work in progress. I invited Joe to address the board at our April board meeting.  I look forward to our discussion with him. Joe is a past board member of NAHJ.”

“It’s hard for me to believe the NAHJ board would suddenly replace a budgeting item with a vote to revoke an entire agreement that our boards worked diligently and in good faith to formulate over two years. Most if not all of the concerns your board has today were negotiated then in complete openness and we have more recently given you a clear picture of CCNMA’s financials,” said Rodriguez.

“At the very least, we deserved advance notice and the opportunity to state our case for continuing this vital and promising partnership beforehand. We could easily have conducted the conversation in meetings or by correspondence with the NAHJ leadership, but we never got the chance,” said Rodriguez.

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CCNMA concerned about its members affected by expected DACA decision

Los Angeles –  The California Chicano News Media Association (CCNMA) is concerned about the current and future situation of our members who have benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by the Executive Branch of the United States government.

“The program has afforded up to a dozen of our members, many of whom have called the United States home for most of their lives, the opportunity to becoming members of the Fourth Estate,” said Joseph Rodriguez, CCNMA President. “They have been dedicated to fulfilling the promise of the Constitution’s First Amendment of free speech and have worked diligently in the pursuit of the truth for all Americans in their reporting.”

Now, these young members of our association face deportation back to countries they have little knowledge of and, in some cases, no family support.

Members affected range from reporters at the Los Angeles Times to graduating college students on the cusp on starting their careers. We care for all of them and their hopes and dreams of being Americans and journalists.

“CCNMA and it’s members ask the administration of President Donald J. Trump to seriously consider the broader impact of ending the program and to find better solutions for these unique immigrants who are more American than anything else.”

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