From news on the coronavirus pandemic to coverage of mass protests over recent police killings of Black people, immigrant news outlets have proven themselves vital sources of information for communities underserved by mainstream media.
Even as they struggle with financial pressures to survive, resourceful outlets are thriving on livestreaming and social media with followings reaching into the millions. They are also developing new business models to serve their audiences, whether “indigenous farmworkers, Chinese engineers, or Somali Uber drivers,” according to a new report by the Center for Community Media at the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.
CCM has been studying immigrant news outlets for the past year, seeking to find those that are models of growth and innovation. Based on interviews with more than 150 people in 30 states, CCM not only identified media organizations in the vanguard, but discovered that the best of them are evolving in four key ways: by wielding social media for community engagement, leveraging a small staff to reach big audiences, globalizing both production and audiences, and diversifying business models and revenue streams.
The CCM researchers also winnowed down a list of more than 100 outlets operating on a variety of platforms to a database of 50 standouts in 23 states reporting in more than 30 languages. From the 50, CCM selected 17 for in-depth study and profiles.
“The pandemic, and the protests over the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and dozens of others have put innovative immigrant-serving digital outlets into overdrive, as reporters squelch rumors via WeChat and Facebook Live and beam interviews with local officials into living rooms via Roku and JadooTV boxes,” according to the report, which emphasizes this style of interactive, community-based reporting is not only for the current crises.
“When the mainstream press has moved on to the next hot topic, immigrant-serving outlets will cover many of the battles to come — be they justice for Black immigrants, justice for indigenous laborers, or justice for Sikh long-haul drivers,” the report continues. “A virus and protests have highlighted the value of informing and supporting immigrants, but the fact is that these outlets have long played a critical public service role in the day-to-day life of newcomers by helping them to navigate a difficult and often inhospitable environment.”
This report was researched and written by Daniela Gerson, senior fellow at the Center for Community Media and assistant professor of journalism at California State University, Northridge, with research and reporting assistance from Chi Zhang, Taehyun Kim, Darleen Principe, Jennifer Cheng, Omar Shahriar, Yana Kunichoff, Son Ly, and Maria Angela Vega. The report was edited by Karen Pennar.