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NAMIC’s Pipeline to Innovation

The National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications will kick off its 22nd annual conference this week in New York. But unlike prior conferences, this year’s edition is somewhat bittersweet for the pro-diversity organization because it is the last to be held in New York.

As part of the controversial National Cable & Telecommunications Association-led consolidation of industry events, next year’s NAMIC Conference will be held in October in Denver, alongside the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing Summit, a CableLabs seminar, the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ Cable-Tec Expo and the Walter Kaitz Foundation Annual Fundraising Dinner.

“We’ll definitely integrate the farewell to New York into our conference agenda,” said NAMIC president Kathy Johnson. “But we are optimistic about moving forward to Denver next year, and we hope to attract new constituencies to the conference due to the fact that the other associations will be having conferences there at the same time.”

NAMIC will look to send the conference off with a bang. Under the title “Diversity: Pipeline to Innovation,” Johnson said the conference (Sept. 14-16 at the New York Marriott Marquis) will look to provide information, strategy and ideas for minorities to compete and excel in a technology-driven communications industry.

Given the sluggish economy, Johnson would not predict whether the show would be able to match or surpass last year’s figure of 600 attendees.

One of the conference’s major highlights is the unveiling of NAMIC’s biannual industry diversity employment survey, during the Sept. 15 opening session, said Johnson.

Johnson said this year’s study, which looks at employment of people of color in upper, middle and lower management positions, included more participants and larger companies than last year, although she would not provide specific details.

“It’ll be a good way to see how far the industry has come since we last did the measurement, as well as to chart out the course for the future,” she said.

The findings will be discussed during the show’s opening general session, moderated by CNN Morning Edition anchor Tony Harris and featuring what Johnson described as one of the largest gatherings of industry CEOs on one conference stage.

Scheduled to appear are Comcast executive vice president David Cohen, BET Networks chairman and CEO Debra Lee, Scripps Networks president John Lansing, Time Warner Cable senior executive vice president and chief financial officer Robert Marcus, NCTA CEO Kyle McSlarrow, A&E Television Networks CEO Abbe Raven, TV One CEO Johnathan Rodgers, DiversityInc co-founder and partner Luke Visconti and Discovery Communications president David Zaslav.

The two-day conference will also focus on the upcoming election season and the role the media plays in the political process as part of a Tuesday-morning general session. CNN political analyst Roland Martin headlines a diverse panel of executives to appear on the panel.

As part of the session, NAMIC will award its annual Mickey Leland Award to journalist and author Charlayne Hunter-Gault. The award, established in 1992 in memory of the late Congressman from Texas, is awarded to an individual for lifelong advocacy of social justice and equality for all people.

Johnson said the show will feature numerous industry sponsors, including the Walter Kaitz Foundation, which will sponsor both the show’s mentoring breakfast as well as NAMIC’s two-day Writer’s Workshop, which will help provide participants skills and information necessary to get a script on the air (see sidebar).

“The writer’s workshop is important because we want to impact the content development side of the business,” she said.

Other sponsors include ESPN Deportes, Cisco Systems, Motorola, WE TV, Discovery Communications, TV One and BET.

NAMIC will also host its annual career expo on Tuesday. Johnson said more than 30 companies have agreed to participate in the event.