Ethnic/Alternative – Intro
By the Project for Excellence in Journalism
As the immigrant population of the U.S. continues to grow, so too, apparently, do the ethnic media.
Assimilation was the rule for much of the 20th century as immigrants who arrived in the late 1800s and early 1900s grew to know their new home. But in the early 21st century the new arrivals may be more inclined – and for various reasons are more able – to rely on their original languages. From a media standpoint, the patchwork quilt seems a more appropriate metaphor new immigrants than the melting pot. At the very least the models now seem to sit side by side.
Trying to quantify the ethnic media is a challenge, and making blanket statements about the vast assortment of ethnic groups is extremely difficult. The “ethnic media” actually comprise hundreds of language-defined media outlets. The Spanish-language press of New York is very different from that of Los Angeles. And what commonality is there between the Mandarin and Cantonese radio stations of greater Los Angeles and the Pakistani press of New York City, beyond the fact that they target non-English speakers?
What’s more, solid numbers on ethnic news media are much harder to come by than for the mainstream. Much of the information is not verified and lacks supporting data. Even as some questions are answered, new ones arise. We will discuss those questions in the sections below about audience and economics.
Still, even if the numbers are soft, growth seems clear. And common sense suggests it will likely continue in coming decades. The increase in ethnic outlets is not so much a function of the economy or the changing media landscape as it is a reflection of the nation’s demographic changes.
There are also fascinating questions about the content of these outlets. What are the differences between what these audiences see and hear every day and what the audiences of English-language media see and hear?
To get a very basic feel for the answers to those questions, we added something new to our look at the ethnic media this year. With the help of the Independent Press Association in New York City, we looked at the content of some of the leading ethnic newspapers in the largest, most diverse city in the country.1 We found a press that was very different from the mainstream English-language media, but also difficult to classify or to put under a single heading.
Because of the different nature of the ethnic news media as well as a lack of data in some areas, this chapter will feature a slightly different layout than others. It will consider these topics:
- The population picture concerning various ethnicities
- The content of various Spanish-language, Chinese, Pakistani and African-American newspapers in New York
- The overall audience picture of the ethnic news media in the U.S.
- The ownership and economic situations of the ethnic media
1. Some would argue Los Angeles is more diverse in the non-white share of its population, but by sheer number of ethnicities, New York is generally considered more diverse.