Beyond Broadcast Interviews: New American Media
A conversation with Kevin Weston, New American Media's director of new media and youth communicationJuly 11th, 2008 | Randi Cecchine
Calling themselves “the first and largest collaboration of ethnic news organizations,” New American Media (NAM) represents a consortium of 3,000 ethnic media organizations, typically organized by ethnicity -- African American, Chinese, Spanish, Russian, and so on.
Kevin Weston, director of new media and youth communication for the organization, attended the Beyond Broadcast conference at SILVERDOCS and spoke with The Independent’s Randi Cecchine about ethnic media and multilingual polling.
How many staff members do you have?
Probably 100 staff, offices in San Francisco, DC, Los Angeles, and New York.
How long has it been NAM?
New California Media started in 1996 and went national in 2006. It was founded by Sandy Close who was the executive director -- she was executive director of Pacific News Service, a wire service which did a lot of Vietnam coverage.
We are a membership organization and also provide training for ethnic media. Essentially, we are a trade association, doing social marketing with ethnic media. So, we act as a go-between if you want to place ads or do social marketing in the ethnic press. For example, folks like the CDC or FEMA will contact us to help spread information.
We have an awards event every year (the next will be in Atlanta), and we host conferences, expos, trainings, gatherings, and ethnic media roundtables with policy and newsmakers.
What is ethnic media not?
Interesting question…it is a very broad term. Part of it is Univision or Telemundo -- they are huge and just as mainstream as NBC -- or it could include the 10,000 copies a week of Hmong language paper in Minnesota. There is a very broad range of what we would consider ethnic, but the tradition comes out of the African American press. Other ethnic/immigrant groups followed the same model. Every new group that comes to the US, one of first things they do is create their own media, for obvious reasons, to maintain some connection to the home country, to get news from people they trust, and to get it maybe in their language, if you can’t read English. A lot of papers and other media outlets serve ethnic, but also geographic communities -- now you have African American newspapers operating in communities that used to be African American but have changed.
Anything could be ethnic, but it’s usually defined as folks serving an ethnic/geographic community.
A lot of papers started by business people, a lot of language around the left doesn’t necessarily apply to them. We don’t consider our organization ideologues, but we are part of a media consortium with entities like The Nation, AlterNet who have left political leaning. But a lot of our members are conservative -- there is a wide flavor of folks involved.
How is your organization funded?
Thirty percent of our budget comes from earned income and 70 percent from foundations.
Can you tell me about your Ford funding?
This is an initiative that Ford started about four years ago, making an effort to support media operated for the public good -- so that includes traditional public broadcasters, NPR, PBS, ITS, organizations like us, Link TV, PRX, a lot of people in this room. Ford has been great, they really saw a couple of years ago that since the media landscape has changed so much that this sector of media that operates ‘for the public good’ needed a boost.
So for smaller shops like us, it means that we are able to continue our youth media work, continue to try to bridge the digital divide between ‘ethnic’ media and so-called ‘mainstream.’ There is a lack of resources in ethnic media -- only five percent of advertising go to ethnic media, but one third of Americans are accessing ethnic media.
Talk a bit about the polling work NAM has done.
We pioneered multilingual polling. How can you access communities that aren’t used to talking in English if you are doing polling, especially in California where over 40 percent of folks are coming from immigrant households, either themselves or their parents. So, Ford realized the future of media is going to have to be these folks running small papers. In the African American press, third and fourth generations of families are running the papers, and since the online world is becoming more of a factor, if they are not online as an ethnic media outlet, they are pretty much doomed…
When we did our multilingual polling on cell phones, we found that most young people identified with music and fashion, not religion, race, ethnicity, not any of those categories. Sixty-five percent of California's young people had dated outside of their race; eighty percent would marry outside of their race; there was a high percentage that have friends of a different race. Young people are growing up in cliques not necessarily defined by race or religion -- but other categories like skateboarder, or Goth.
You have that reality butting up against the baby boomers still around, who see the world as black/white. And maybe you think about Mexicans every once in a while, but if you are thinking about inequity and race you are thinking about black and white.
But what is depressing is that NPR or PBS, or any of these major media outlets, when it comes to jobs: who gets hired and who doesn’t? I would argue that I don’t know if that paradigm is going to change much. It’s hard for us to look at PBS and say you need to change. My response is that we need to figure out a new vehicle, something that will allow other voices to come.
For example, we broker partnerships between ethnic and mainstream journalists. We connected a reporter at Sacramento Beat to a Hmong community in Sacramento and a lot of great stories come out of it. This is the wave of the future. And it’s the same as in Iraq…a lot of international folks are using Iraqi stringers so they don’t have to leave the Green Zone. They have to partner -- it’s not a bad model -- to get stuff done.
New American Media: www.newamericamedia.org
Youth Outlook: www.youthoutlook.org
Read the results of NAM’s California youth poll.
Watch Ethnic Media Newcomers.
Photo Credit: LA Mayday (by Ryan Furtado) http://media.youthoutlook.org/flash/photo-essay/LA_mayday/
Link to this page: http://www.independent-magazine.org/