Live Blogging the WAM Conference: Ethnic Media Lessons

March 28, 2009

Some facts about ethnic media:
• Ethnic media reaches 50 million adult users in America.
• Latino populations use it the most, Asian Americans use it the least.
• Just in the city of Atlanta: 14 Korean newspapers!
• Ethnic media are first-responders in an emergency, advocates and decision makers in their communities.
• Over 6000 ethnic media outlets in US -- over 100 languages.
• Ethnic media gets less than 5 percent of corporate ads.

Shruti from India Currents says: "Writing for a publication like this you have the power to reflect ... your ideal community, a dynamic process. Really conscious of how I am representing my community to both insiders and outsiders." She talks about the eternal questions: to be or not to be labelled "ethnic." Who is our "we" -- especially when reporting on ethnic communities (e.g., for India Currents, are they Hindu)? Ragini leads a case study on India Currents, founded in 1987: incomparably low advertising rates and completely free distribution. She asks, "What happens when your "marginalized" community is in?" -- referencing the post-Slumdog Millionaire moment. For those who haven't seen it, India Currents has TONS of ads: Indian real estate agents, dance recitals, law firms, etc.; Ragini makes a case that this supports the community.

Esther Kaplan of The Nation Institute asks about possibilities for investigative journalism in the ethnic media. Good question ... something that Hyphen has been trying to figure out. I think ethnic media doesn't do investigative reporting because of lack of funding. That's why we've been kicking around the idea of having donors give to a specific "Hyphen Investigative Story Fund." What do people think?

Running out of time here but I really want to communicate with Ragini and Shruti -- second gen South Asian Americans -- about working in intergenerational media. Whereas Hyphen is primarily (almost completely) second gen, the publisher of India Currents is first-generation. It would be great to discuss the pros and cons of this.