The Ethnic Media cries out for City business

by Kwabena Opong

According to the Center for Community and Ethnic Media at the CUNY graduate school of Journalism, ethnic and community media in the City carries 40 percent of news mainstream media would not carry. The ethnic and community media is among the 350 weekly and 26 foreign language dailies that deluge New York making it a vibrant media haven. In a city that prides itself as populated largely by and welcoming to immigrants the ethnic and community press is essentially the mouthpiece of the immigrant community, but it is starved of the City’s business.
Like the mainstream, they comprise a myriad of daily, weekly and monthly newspapers, radio and television stations and programs. Mostly they reflect the thinking and the mood of the various immigrant communities in the city. The ethnic media also often advocate for their communities.
The content in the ethnic media reflects the true feelings of the communities that in turn inform city policies about the immigrant groups in the city. It is a service that is often provided at a cost to the media but free to the city’s policy makers.
The ethnic media often provide immigrants with the tools they need to negotiate everyday life in America, says 2011 Ippie winner Helen Zelon. “I think the ethnic press does an enormous service when it explains to people, ‘This is what happens when your kid starts school. This is what happens when you rent something. Here’s how you establish yourself here.’” She says further, “. . . you are writing about race and class and money and politics and power and privilege and all of it, . . . “And I write about child welfare, which to me is a hugely important issue that doesn’t get a lot of coverage until
there is a very bad disaster and then there is a lot of attention around it

and then it goes away. We do investigative reporting.”
The ethnic media also need that same credit and business facilities available to others. Running a press is an expensive venture. Like other businesses the ethnic media also pay salaries for reporters, photojournalists and other professionals. Ethnic businesses by their nature are mostly confined to the communities they serve and so most of them do not find it necessary or even important to advertise. They hardly sponsor programs in the communities even as they operate within them.
Mainstream businesses as the telecommunication companies, money transfer businesses among those, especially those that do businesses in the countries of origin of some of the ethnic communities also shy away from advertising in the ethnic media because, according to them, the ethnic media do not have a wide national appeal. Money transfer businesses like Western Union and Vigo among others have also pulled away from the ethnic media of late. They, however, continue to sponsor programs in the communities.
Increasing populations in the ethnic communities call for expansion of the resident presses but in the absence of advertising dollars it becomes difficult to increase production and expand coverage. Helping the ethnic media by extending city business to them could help in ways unimagined by the City’s Office for Immigration Affairs. They have the opportunity to deal with issues that directly affect the communities. Since the media advocate for policy affecting the immigrant community, they can also be partners in policy design and implementation in the communities. But none of these can be achieved without the needed financial help. And all that is being requested is for New York City to recognize role played by the ethnic and community media and help them survive the economic challenges they face. The ethnic press is a willing and able partner in forging excellent relations between the City and its immigrant communities.

The writer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Amandla, and Director of the Center for Peace and Media Initiatives (CMPI

Posted by on Mar 21 2015. Filed under Community News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Leave a Reply