New America Award Honors Best of Media Collaboration

By Lehrman, Sally | The Quill, June 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

New America Award Honors Best of Media Collaboration


Lehrman, Sally, The Quill


The ethnic media in the United States isn't exactly new: The first-ever printed news here took the form of hojas volantes (flying pages) or relaciones (reports), small, bilingual booklets that kept people in the Spanish colonies up to date. Then, over the first half of the 19th century, newspapers sprang up to serve Latinos, blacks and American Indians, thus laying the foundations for U.S. journalism as a whole.

The authors of the book, Racism, Sexism and the Media: The Rise of Class Communication in Multicultural America, tell this history in part to show the ongoing need for targeted media. Niche news outlets have long challenged the dominant portrayal of ethnic minority groups and provided an alternative voice and a lifeline for communities of color.

Authors Clint Wilson, Félix Gutiérrez and Lena Chao even conclude that the increasing diversity in the United States will push the news toward ever-narrowing and segmented target audiences. For one thing, journalists who work for general circulation media still have a very hard time integrating nonwhite perspectives into their work. But the spiral toward separate interests, concerns and consciousness could be about to shift dramatically. Both mainstream and ethnic outlets have begun to recognize the power of collaboration.

This year for the first time, SPJ will recognize the outstanding results. The New America Award, approved in September by the national board in New York, honors public service journalism by ethnic and mainstream media working together to cover issues important to immigrant and ethnic communities in the United States.

The award aims to promote excellence in reporting both on and within immigrant and ethnic communities, and to encourage productive bridges between the ethnic media and general circulation outlets.

"It fits with our overall goal of working toward more diversity in news coverage," said Irwin Gratz, president of SPJ and the local anchor for Morning Edition for Maine Public Radio.

While newsrooms clearly need to address the lack of integration on their staffs, "in the short term, collaborations may offer us a quicker way to more diverse news stories," he said.

Such collaborations also can allow a depth of coverage that neither outlet might achieve alone. The ethnic media bring access, cultural competency and an intimate knowledge of their communities to the mainstream outlets, which in return contribute resources, professional skills and access to the institutions of government and industry. Less than half of the ethnic media in the New York area were able to get information in a timely way from federal officials, the Independent Press Association found in a recent survey. …

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