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Ethnic Media Overview

Ethnic Media Overview

The ethnic media are growing rapidly in the United States.

This can be particularly said of ethnic newspapers, the media for which there are the most data. Yet anecdotal evidence suggests the trend is also true for radio and television.

Even with this growth, large chains have yet to take over ownership beyond some of the Spanish-language media. In fact, ethnic media are among of the few areas left where the focus tends to be local. Even national associations linking these media are rare.

Because of limited available data, this chapter will focus on only a few areas in the ethnic media. It will first look at Overall Trends, examining a broad range of ethnic media. Then it will focus specifically on the Spanish-Language Media – newspaper and television. (Data on Spanish-language radio is even harder to come by, as is radio data in general, and is not included in this year’s analysis.) Finally, it will briefly discuss Other Ethnic Newspapers.

While this is far from a comprehensive look at the ethnic media in the United States, it is a beginning. There are indications that the ethnic media in the United States are beginning to merge, and more data are likely to become available in the coming years. In the future, with more data, we hope to give this growing segment of the news media more thorough examination.

General Trends

Looking simply at the demographic shifts over the past years, it would stand to reason that the nation’s ethnic media would grow. Between the 1980 and 2000 censuses, the number of people identifying themselves as White fell from 83 percent to just over 75 percent of the U.S. population.1 At the same time, other demographic groups increased. The Asian/Pacific Islander population, for example, grew in real numbers and as a percentage of the whole. People in that group constituted 1.5 percent of the population in 1980 and 3.6 percent in 2000.2

The biggest growth came in people who identified themselves in the U.S. Census as Hispanic or Latino. In 1980, this population of 14.6 million was 6.4 percent of the U.S. population. By 2000, there were 35.3 million self-described Hispanic and Latinos representing 12.5 percent of the U.S. population, surpassing blacks3 as the largest minority group in the country.4

Minorities as a Percentage of U.S. Population
Design Your Own Chart
U.S. Census Bureau Charts – Race and Hispanic or Latino: 2000, Race and Hispanic Origin 1790 to 1900

Beyond simple ethnicity, and perhaps more to the point, there has been a large rise in the non-English speaking population. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of people not speaking English at home grew from 31.8 million to 47 million – an increase of 48 percent. Spanish speakers led the growth, going from 17.3 million in 1990 to 28.1 million in 2000 – an increase of 62 percent. It should be noted that more than half of those Spanish speakers reported that they could speak English “very well.” Chinese was second in growth, climbing from 1.3 million in 1990 to 2 million in 2000, an increase of 54 percent.5

How do those ethnic groups use their native-language media? In summer of 2002, New California Media polled 1,000 adult Californians of various ethnicities – 300 Asians, 300 Middle Easterners, 200 Hispanics and 200 African Americans. The data, among the most extensive gathered in this area, provide an interesting look at which media various ethnic groups trust most and which have the biggest reach within each group.

The findings are twofold. First, all of the four ethnic groups examined here – African Americans, Asians, Hispanics and Middle Easterners – tend to trust English-language media outlets more than native-language ones. Hispanics are the most likely to find their native-tongue outlets trustworthier than English-language, though that is still the minority. Among Hispanics, 39 percent find the English-language media most credible while 23 percent say this of the Spanish-language media (38 percent did not answer). Among Asians and Middle Easterners, the gap is wider. Nearly 60 percent of Asians say English-language media are the most credible, while only 15 percent say this of the Asian. Similarly, more than four-in-ten Middle Easterners say they trust the English-language media the most, compared with just 15 percent who say this of news outlets in their own language.6 For all three ethnic categories, the number of those not answering is unusually high.

Which Media Are Most Credible, by Ethnic Group, 2002
Survey of 1,000 Californians*
Design Your Own Chart
New California Media/Bendixen & Associates, ’’Justice and Journalism,’’ survey, July/August 2002
*Question: Who do you think holds more credibility?

The higher trust among Hispanics may have something to do with the size and scale of Hispanic outlets. Farthest along of the native-language media in terms of development and size, these outlets may have more of a professional look and feel.

The second main finding concerned how much different ethnic groups turned to their native-language media. In every category Hispanics relied more heavily on their native-language media than the other groups. For instance, 41 percent of Hispanics read mostly the Spanish-language newspapers, compared with 30 percent of Asians who read newspapers mostly in their languages and 15 percent of Middle Easterners. A mere 5 percent of African Americans relied mostly on newspapers targeted at American blacks.7

Types of Newspapers Various Ethnic Groups Primarily Read, 2002
Survey of 1,000 Californians*
Design Your Own Chart
New California Media/Bendixen & Associates, ’’Justice and Journalism’’ survey July/August 2002
* Question: Which newspapers do you mostly read…?

It is also important to note that the other ethnicities are more likely than Hispanics to read both their native-language and an English-language newspaper. If the percent who read in their native tongue and those who read in both their native tongue and English are combined, the other ethnicities are closer in line with Hispanics – and Asians actually report a slightly higher percentage. Fully 56 percent of Asians read a newspaper in their native language or read both native-language and English newspapers. That is true for 53 percent of Spanish speakers.8

This reliance on ethnic media, however, varies by technology. In television and radio, Spanish-speaking audiences are by far the most likely to use native-language outlets, even when one adds in respondents who say they use both native-language and English outlets.

Language in Which Various Ethnic Groups Mostly Watch TV
Survey of 1,000 Californians*
Design Your Own Chart
New California Media/Bendixen & Associates, ’’Justice and Journalism’’ survey July/August 2002
* Question: Do you mostly watch television in …?
Radio Stations Various Ethnic Groups Mostly Listen To, 2002
Survey of 1,000 Californians*
Design Your Own Chart
New California Media/Bendixen & Associates, ’’Justice and Journalism’’ survey July/August 2002
* Question: Do you mostly listen to English radio or native radio?

There are, of course, many possible reasons for this disparity. Hispanic audiences have more media aimed directly at them.9 In many areas, they have more than one newspaper to read in Spanish and two networks that broadcast only in Spanish. There is also the possibility that, particularly in border states, many of the respondents to the poll spent time in both the United States and Mexico and, without the need to learn English, they simply rely on Spanish media.

Whatever the reason though, one thing is clear: the Spanish-language media market is large and growing.

Click here to view footnotes for this section.