Ethnic media reflects the new reality of America

In Sacramento an august gathering of ethnic media met on the 31st of August 2023. They were there to celebrate excellence in journalism and award the writers of stories. Stories that are often not told, are invisible in plain sight or siloed within their communities. Airing them, celebrating them and awarding them, Ethnic Media Services (EMS) brought together their scribes and the decision makers together under one roof for the first time. 

“The power of ethnic media was palpable as I glanced around the room. Over 300 people of various hues of black, latino, asian, and white could be seen under one roof. New immigrants and well established immigrants, communities that want to be heard and fit into the fabric of American democracy, bandied together to create a strength in togetherness. The Russians were looking to find their place as were the new African immigrants,” said Vandana Kumar of India Currents, whose magazine won three awards this year.

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Ritu Marwah wins 2nd place for Outstanding International Reporting at the Ethnic Media Services expo and awards ceremony (image courtesy: Ritu Marwah)

“California is the most diverse state in this nation, and it’s reflected in this room,” said Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber. “It’s reflected in our relationships with each other, and it’s reflected in our values. We will always celebrate that.”

As the makeup of the country’s population changes, ethnic news outlets are playing a key role in providing essential news to groups of people who often get scant attention in the mainstream press.

“Race-ethnic statistics from the 2020 census makes plain that America’s “diversity explosion” is continuing, ” said the Brooking Institute. “All of the nation’s 2010-to-2020 growth is attributable to people of color… Together, these groups now comprise more than 40% of the U.S. population.”

YouTube video
Ritu Marwah, Finalist for Outstanding International Reporting

Cross-ethnic and cross-racial communication humanizes individuals

“It is important to recognize the quality and content of reporting in the ethnic media,” said Sandy Close, Executive Director, Ethnic Media Services (EMS), the host of the expo and award ceremony. “Too often these stories are invisible to the public. We can make them visible to each other’s audiences,” she said.

Cross-ethnic, cross-racial communication is an important tool for combating hate, prejudice, and stereotypes, said Pamela Anchang, The Immigrant Magazine – serving the African diaspora at the Ethnic Media briefing on September 8th. “It humanizes individuals. It is hard to hate someone if you know and understand them. ” 

A woman leans forward holding her computer
Sandy Close, Executive Director, Ethnic Media Services (EMS) (image courtesy: Ritu Marwah)

Stories of shared aspirations, conquered obstacles, and human emotions were judged by 26 judges who are leaders in their own fields: writers, communications specialists, educators, playwrights, and publishers from across the state. 

“The entries for the awards were extremely competitive,” said Jaya Padmanabhan, an EMS editor and one of the judges for the contest who has written for The New York Times, PBS, and the San Francisco Examiner. “There were close to 300 entries and many submissions showed in-depth reporting and research. For instance, the team from Little Saigon TV traveled to Ukraine to cover Russia’s invasion of the country and profile the struggles of Vietnamese Ukrainians. They won first place for their work. To win an award is recognition of outstanding work.”

The Ethnic Media Symposium, Expo & Awards hosted by Ethnic Media Services and California Black Media had California legislators, Secretary of State, U.S. Census Director, Secretary transportation, Secretary government operations, ex senators and congressmen Senior Advisor on Civic Engagement and Strategic Partnerships for the Office of the Governor, Maricela Rodriguez among others celebrate the group. Diane Ding of Silicon Valley Innovation Channel recorded the event for posterity. 

Legislators make an impact in supporting Ethnic Media

Lawmakers listened to the concerns of local news advocates and publishers. Lawmakers can pass legislation that leads to more informed communities, more reporters on the ground, and sustainable, independent, and community-rooted local news.

The publishers met with Senator Dave Min who was instrumental in the passage of the historic AAPI Equity Budget of $166.5 million in response to the rise in anti-Asian hate. To address long-standing racial inequities and provide services to victims of hate crimes, the budget funds hate prevention efforts for all diverse communities. 

Stop The Hate program funded by the State of California helped us write stories that exposed the hate in tony neighborhoods like Saratoga and Los Gatos. The story of a community’s shame, not acknowledged by them but quietly internalized, was brought to the forefront of the discussion” said Vandana Kumar.  

Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, Chair of the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee and author of AB 1511, which calls for the establishment of the Ethnic and Community Media Program within the Governor’s Office to advise state agencies and departments on strategies to integrate ethnic and community media outlets into their communications strategy also met with the publishers. 

“The funding for local journalism creates win-win situations,” said Vandana Kumar. The University of California, Berkeley was able to give us resources on the ground to cover stories and in return, a student of the university was ensured invaluable hands-on newsroom experience. India Currents has incubated writers for the last thirty-five years and will continue to support inclusive journalism.”  A community reporter joined India Currents through the California Local News Fellowship cohort of 2023, an initiative that supports community news and information needs throughout California by providing two-year fellowships for up to 120 early career journalists over the next three years. 

 Assemblymember Buffy Wicks Chair of the Housing and Community Development Committee and author of the California Journalism Preservation Act, which requires big technology companies like Google and Meta to pay a “journalism usage fee” when they sell advertising alongside news content met with the ethnic media publishers.  As of now, tech companies control more than 90% of the total digital media revenues. They must support local ethnic media.

“At a time when the journalism industry is facing a variety of existential threats, from polarization and lack of trust in news to profound business model failures, our aim must be to fill critical gaps in reporting,” said Christa Scharfenberg, director UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

“Next year,” said Sandy Close “the awards will be open to national submissions.”

Ritu Marwah is an award-winning author ✍️ and a recognized Bay Area leader in the field of 🏛 art and literature. She won the 2023 Ethnic Media Services award for outstanding international reporting;...