Ethnic Media Are Here to Stay, Our Old and Long History Will Continue Well into The Future, National Trends Show

We live in a world of special interests. Historically, this has always been the case.

We have chambers of commerce to represent business interests. We have labor unions to represent workers. We have professional associations to represent the interests of individuals within their profession. We have civic groups to further the cause of educational, cultural, religious or ideological causes. Politically, there are PACS, SuperPACs, and political parties.

Special interest groups ultimately are formed for one purpose which is empowerment of individuals that belong to a respective group.

The more organized a group is and the greater its voice translates to harnessed strength in the greater society or mainstream society.

Now, when we look at mainstream media, the idea, or more precisely “ideal” behind these outlets is that they represent impartiality as media professionals try to present “both” or multiple sides of a story or issue.

But what happens when certain ethnic groups, their needs and uniqueness, are not represented sufficiently or fairly in this enterprise called “mainstream media” that purportedly represents the many groups in greater society?

The inadequate representation – unfairly or completely ignored — of ethnic communities have led to the birth of ethnic media, which collectively, represents yet another set of special interest groups.

Asian, Latino, Black, white ethnics have taken it upon themselves to establish their own media ultimately for empowerment and to control their own narratives.

When we trace the origins of ethnic media in the U.S., we discover it’s as old as the origins of immigration of these ethnic groups into the country. Black and Mexican media dates to the early and mid-1800s. The earliest Asian media dates to the turn of the 19th and 20th century.

From the very start of the rise of ethnic media, there has been antagonism between ethnic and mainstream media. Until today, there is a high-brow attitude the mainstream press has over ethnic media, one example, not including ethnic media in the most esteemed media industry awards.

Certainly, today, we see an abundance of minority professionals in mainstream media, which helps with minorities’ visibility and empowerment in greater society. This should be applauded as we move forward to greater inclusivity and diversity in journalism.

And in part because of this, some will question the need for ethnic media at this time. A common argument is that minorities already have their representation. There is none or lesser need for ethnic media to exist.

But the role of mainstream media remains largely the same, one that will represent the interests and perspectives of greater society, which in fairness, perhaps should be the case.

Additionally, due to the changing demographics in the U.S. and that minorities are a part of mainstream media in greater numbers than ever, it is true that coverage on ethnic populations has improved tremendously.

However, there is still a need for advocacy in ethnic communities and this falls outside the realm and scope of mainstream media. Therefore, there remains a need.

In fact, data shows ethnic media is on the rise. There are now close to 1,000 ethnic media across the country, according to a comprehensive study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

And as old as the collective of ethnic media is, it is less a part of mainstream journalism today, but rather fall under what’s now collectively referred to as alternative media that includes small independent newspapers, the international press (which presents different editorial slants typical of mainstream American press), smaller digital-only newspapers, podcasts and social media.

Due to millennials and Gen Z’s reliance on alternative media as their preferred sources for news, the alternative media today rival mainstream media within each country and globally, which make for a fuller representation of communities and perhaps closer to truth in reporting.

Hawaii is unique from the mainland and is special even when it comes to journalism because it reflects a kind of United Nations, multi-cultural approach to reporting news. Its mainstream media perhaps is the fullest in representing minority communities.

Still ethnic media here is welcomed and flourish as the Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Native Hawaiian communities all have their own newspapers, radio or TV programs in English and/or their ancestral language.

As for Filipino media in Hawaii, we have seen the value and need in the state’s latest crisis, the Maui wildfires. With some 40% of those living in Lahaina comprising of Filipinos, the Filipino media in Maui and Honolulu have been reporting on how Filipino organizations – business, professional, civic, cultural – are coming together to help Maui. Hawaii’s Filipino media are relaying valuable information our Filipino organizations are working on for those affected by the disaster to access. Moreover, there is a long-established relationship of trust between our community in Maui (and statewide) with Hawaii’s Filipino media that makes outreach and our reporting better received.

There will always be a need for ethnic media and alternative media. The trend of ethnic media outlets increasing nationwide shows this to be true.  Ethnic media are here to stay.

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