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Content Analysis

Content Analysis

By the Project for Excellence in Journalism

The many languages and outlets of the ethnic press make it difficult to examine content, perhaps the most critical factor in understanding media impact on its users and on the culture at large. What is the picture presented in the many outlets of the ethnic press? How does it differ from the mainstream press?

The Project decided to try to address ethnic press content by peeling away a small sample of newspapers to translate (where necessary) and study. We looked at five newspapers available in New York City aimed at different ethnicities and races. We chose two papers targeted at immigrants from the other side of the globe – the Pakistan Post (in Urdu) and Sing Tao (in Chinese). We also looked at two large Spanish-language dailies – Hoy and El Diario/La Prensa. And we examined the coverage of the African American community’s “newspaper of record,” the Amsterdam News. The Independent Press Association of New York, which monitors and analyzes the New York ethnic press, helped the Project select the papers and (when needed) translate them.

For each paper we captured the front-page stories on the same dates we examined the coverage of the mainstream press. For non-dailies we took the front pages of the nearest weeks and for the Pakistan Post, which is a weekly but sometimes ran as many as 20 stories on the front page, we took the stories that ran above the fold.

We coded the headlines and the first few paragraphs of front-page stories by looking at two main variables: the geographic focus of each piece and the topic. “Geographic focus” dealt with the trigger of the story – local, national (i.e., U.S.), international or homeland issues. “Topic” dealt with what the story was about, along the lines of the topic category we used to analyze the mainstream press but with one difference. Pieces strictly about homeland topics (homeland politics and policy) were given a special topic category.

What did we find? For one, there were vast differences between the papers both in geographic focus and in topic. In addition the papers, some broadsheets and some tabloids, had very different front pages that contained vastly different numbers of stories. But there was one general rule in the five papers we looked at: the closer geographically a paper’s readers were to their countries of origin, the more the paper was likely to resemble mainstream U.S. papers in content. Those papers aimed at immigrants from distant locations – the Pakistan Post and Sing Tao – tended to focus more on those homelands and less on local New York City news or U.S. national news. The two Spanish-language papers tended to serve their readerships as a kind of alternative to the English-language daily papers. Their front pages covered a wider range of topics and focused largely on U.S. national and local news, while doing stories on the many different homelands of their readers less of the time, or on the inside pages. The Amsterdam News, the only English-language paper we looked at, was heavily local in its content.

Beyond this general finding, the character of each paper is worth exploring individually.

Pakistan Post

The Post is a free weekly newspaper based in Jamaica, in New York City’s Borough of Queens, with a self-reported circulation of 40,000.1 Though its audience is primarily the Pakistani population of the city, it reaches people in other large U.S. cities as well. It differs from standard English-language dailies in many ways. Point of view and voice were readily apparent in the stories we looked at. Many stories were less straight news accounts than analysis articles. The Post also stood out for sheer volume. It had the most stories of any of the papers we looked at, 212 over the time we studied it. The Post’s front page isn’t just full of stories, it is crammed with them – well over twenty on every front page studied, compared with six or seven in most U.S. papers. For this reason we captured only the top half of the front page for the weeks we examined, we were still looking at roughly 13 stories for each issue.2

The Post may be based in the U.S., but its coverage reaches far beyond U.S. borders. On the days we examined the top stories, a full 45% had what we classified as a home region geographic focus, stories triggered by news in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. This is a paper for those who want to keep up with what’s going with politics and government policy back home. Not that the readers’ new home was forgotten; almost of third of the stories (32%) in the Post had a U.S. national focus. Other regions of the world accounted for 18% of the stories we looked at, while the focus in only 5% was local.3

Geographic Focus of Pakistan Post
Design Your Own Chart
Source: PEJ Research, numbers reflect total of 212 stories
Topics Covered in Pakistan Post
Design Your Own Chart
Source: PEJ Research, numbers reflect total of 212 stories

The national-news-organization flavor of the Post becomes clearer when one looks at the topics on which it reported. The paper has a broad news agenda, but it is dominated by one thing, news from home. Fully 50% of the top stories in the Post on the days we examined the paper dealt with home-region issues.4

Beyond news from the old country, there was a wide range. Some 9% of the above-the-fold pieces in the Post dealt with U.S. politics, with most of those focused on the presidential campaign. Another 15% looked at domestic affairs (stories about the U.S., but not political in nature), with about a fifth of those about terrorism. Foreign affairs (stories about areas outside the U.S. but not specifically focused on the home region) made up 14% of the paper’s top-of-the-front-page coverage.5

The Post is also a very serious paper, particularly when talking about events back home. Such stories were not light-hearted reminders of the goings-on in and around Pakistan, but weighty pieces about the future of the nation and of its president, Pervez Musharraf. Stories dealt with such issues as whether Musharraf would shed his general’s uniform as Pakistan tried to move toward more traditional democracy, whether Pakistan would rejoin the British Commonwealth, and the state of politics in India.

The weekly also did a series of stories about Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, and allegations that he leaked nuclear secrets to other countries. Mainstream outlets covered that story, of course, but not with the interest or tenacity of the Post. The paper’s coverage went on for weeks and dealt with everything from the breaking of the story to the punishment of Khan to court action against other nuclear scientists and the fate of some of Khan’s documents, which were missing. In total the paper did 18 stories above the fold, during the 19 days examined, about Khan and the nuclear secrets, or about 8% of all coverage studied.6

The Post’s coverage of U.S. politics included some of the flavor found in the mainstream American press. Take this headline from the March 11-17 paper: “U.S. presidential elections: John Kerry enjoys 52% approval rating compared to Bush’s 44%.” The piece was largely a campaign roundup, reporting that “both sides were gaining momentum” shortly after Kerry won the nomination.

But the paper also offered a more blunt look at politics. Stories were less concerned with being even-handed or even polite. A May 6-12 headline reported, “Bush, Kerry start boring Americans.” The story, which was datelined Kabul/Quetta, spoke of the rise of a silent majority in the U.S., which it said “believes that this could be the most boring election in U.S. history.”

There was a small amount of lifestyle and celebrity coverage (8%), though celebrity here is defined rather loosely and included stories like this special report from late July: “Daughter of Pakistan Banking Council chairman ties the knot with American youth.” The paper also devoted seven stories (3%) above the fold on the front page to sports, in particular the World Cup of Cricket.7

The biggest question, of course, is how do the Pakistan Post’s readers use the paper? As an immigrant link to the homeland, its coverage is without peer. It discusses the intricacies of the Pakistani political world. But if the Post is the only source of news for its readers, they will have a very limited view of the U.S., judging at least by the front page. National stories beyond the presidential race are largely nonexistent. Pieces about news around the country or about pending legislation, the stuff immigrants may need for an understanding of their new home, are rare.

Sing Tao

Sing Tao is a daily with a self-reported circulation of 50,000. It is not independent, but rather a subsidiary of the Sing Tao Daily in Hong Kong. The paper is thick with sections, colorful and full of pictures. With sister publications on the West Coast and in Chicago, it has 40 bureaus worldwide and is sold on the newsstand as well as by subscription for about $200 a year.8 In total, we examined 141 front-page stories – behind only the Pakistan Post.9

Sing Tao isn’t simply a newspaper for those looking to keep up with news of China. Its reportage is more evenly spread across the board: 34% of stories were triggered by events on the Chinese mainland or Taiwan, 30% by events or news from the U.S. national region, 19% by local events and 18% by events in other regions. But the choice of stories suggests that Sing Tao sees its mission as reporting the news about Chinese people around the world, from Asia to Europe to South America, to its Chinese readers in the U.S..10

Geographic Focus of Sing Tao
Design Your Own Chart
Source: PEJ Research, numbers reflect total of 141 stories
Topics Covered by Sing Tao
Design Your Own Chart
Source: PEJ Research, numbers reflecttotal of 141 stories

Among topics covered by Sing Tao, homeland issues – 35% of the coverage – are more diverse than in the Pakistan Post. This may be due to the stable nature of Chinese governance. There were few pieces about the doings of the Chinese government. Instead pieces looked at such issues as, in the January 16 edition, who is building the new subway line in Hong Kong, or on February 2 the breakout of “Chicken Fever” throughout China.11

More interesting, though, is how the newspaper covered world events outside of the home region. Sing Tao featured datelines from the city, the country and the world, but the theme throughout was the effect events had on Chinese people. The February 2 issue, for example, had a piece about four Chinese Muslims who died on their pilgrimage to Mecca. The May 1 issue contained the story “Fujianese Gangsters rampant in Flushing” pegged to a fight the night before. The June 8 front page had a piece on how three Chinese workers were killed when a construction site collapsed in Queens. And on February 23, the front page of the paper featured a story on two Chinese students in Norway being found dead.

And when two Chinese students were beaten up at “the infamously violent Lafayette High School,” the story not only made the front page the day after the attacks, March 12, (“Chinese students at Lafayette High School Beaten”) it also made the front page the next day (“Blood Clip Gang of Lafayette High School targets Chinese students) and a week later (Chinese Students say that Lafayette High School is like a battle field).

Straightforward news accounts were sprinkled in – about the U.S presidential election (2% of the stories we looked at) or U.S. government (3%) or terrorism (7%). Nevertheless there was a definite Sino-centric view of the news on the whole. Even much of the foreign affairs news (21% of all topics) generally had some link to the China or Chinese citizens.12

Interestingly, one of the areas where this didn’t apply was science and technology reporting, especially pieces about space. Sing Tao was the only ethnic paper we looked at that fronted a story about NASA’s 360-degree pictures from Mars. But it was also the only paper that saved front-page space for a story on how Yao Ming, the Houston Rockets’ Chinese Center, scored 41 points in a game.

Judging from the front page, the readers of Sing Tao get a unique view of the world from their newspaper – a view focused on the Chinese people and their successes and problems in their home and the world at large. Beyond that, however, any look at the broader U.S. landscape, political or otherwise, is meager.

Hoy and El Diario/La Prensa

These two Spanish-language papers are the largest in New York City, and they share some common traits. Both are very concerned with local New York politics – and not just City Hall, but also community news. Both work to keep readers up on what the area’s Latino advocacy groups are doing as well as labor news. But the two newspapers have very different histories and ownerships.

El Diario/La Prensa is a daily tabloid formed by the merging of El Diario, founded in 1913, and La Prensa, founded in 1961. The combined paper was purchased by the Canadian company CPK Media in 2003 and is sold on newsstands throughout New York and as far away as Philadelphia and Boston. In 2004 CPK and the Lozano Family, owner of Los Angeles’s La Opinion, joined forces to create ImpreMedia. (The company bought La Raza in Chicago later in the year.)13

El Diario’s circulation is about 50,000.14 In the 26 days we examined the paper, we found 104 page-one stories, counting headlines and teases because El Diario does not run copy on the front page.15

Hoy, another tabloid, was founded in 1998 by Times-Mirror (before that company was purchased by Tribune) as a way to tap into the growing Spanish-language market. It publishes daily, except Saturdays, and has since spawned sister papers, also named Hoy, in Chicago and Los Angeles, which have different local content. It is available on the newsstand in the greater New York metropolitan area and by subscription in a broader area. After the scandal in 2004 involving inflated reader numbers, a new audit showed Hoy’s circulation to be 49,681.16 In the days we looked at the paper, there were 81 stories in all on the front page.17

Over all, the two papers looked similar in content. They were more like traditional U.S. daily newspapers than other ethnic papers. Both ran stories that were primarily concerned with local issues – 39% of El Diario’s 41% of Hoy’s. Both papers also paid significant attention to stories with a U.S. National geographic focus – 31% for El Diario, 30% for Hoy.18

Beyond local and U.S.-based articles, there was a small difference in the way the two papers split the geographic focus for the remainder of the stories we examined.

El Diario’s coverage had more of a Latin flavor, with 19% of the front-page stories relating to the many home regions of its readership. The paper did pieces that looked at politics, sports and celebrities in and relating to countries in the Caribbean and Central and South America. Only 11% of the stories we looked at concerned other foreign geographic regions.19

At least on the days we captured, Hoy was a bit more international. The geographic focus for the remaining stories was evenly split between the home regions of its readers and other regions of the world. The paper had more front-page stories than its competitor on the bombing of commuter trains in Spain, for instance – some might argue that immigrants from Spain would be a target of the Spanish-language newspaper – and was more likely to pick up global terrorism and accident stories.

Geographic Focus of Hoy
Design Your Own Chart
Source: PEJ Research, numbers reflect total of 81 stories
Geographic Focus of El Diario
Design Your Own Chart
Source: PEJ Research, numbers reflect total of 104 stories
Topics Covered in Hoy
Design Your Own Chart
Source: PEJ Research, numbers reflect total of 81 stories
Topics Covered in El Diario
Design Your Own Chart
Source: PEJ Research, numbers reflect total of 104 stories

When it came to the topics covered, neither paper was very dedicated to U.S. politics or government – 4% of stories for El Diario and 6% for Hoy. In fact, large-scale national issues were not given a lot of front-page play in either paper. Domestic affairs topics lead the way for both papers (34% for El Diario and 42% for Hoy), but those stories usually concerned local topics – often crime. El Diario did more stories on crime and crime trends, 12 in all, than on any other topic except terrorism. The same was true for Hoy, where the 11 stories on crime and crime trends headed the list of topics. Articles related to terrorism made up 12% of the topics for each paper.20

There were some interesting differences between the two papers, however.

Perhaps because we counted the front-page teasers for El Diario and it generally teased at least one soft-news feature there were many more entertainment/celebrity and lifestyle stories in its tally – 13% and 16% of the total respectively. Jennifer Lopez made more than a few appearances in these front-page teaser stories – including the “bitter ending to the Bennifer saga” in January as well as the way the “Public sets out against J. Lo and Marc” in June. In February the paper fronted a story speculating about whether two well-known Spanish-language news anchors had married.21

Hoy’s front page wasn’t as interested in celebrity or lifestyle (though J. Lo cracked its front page as well), but one thing that stood out in its topic selection was the high number of stories concerning immigration – 12% – which fell under the domestic affairs rubric. The stories ranged the country, from a local report about a Mexican man who accepted a voluntary return home on April 15 to a piece about the postponed deportation of a Salvadoran girl in North Carolina on April 8.22

Pieces with home-region topics didn’t appear in either of these papers as much as they did in other papers we examined. Home-region topics were the focus of only 10% of all the stories on the front page of El Diario and only 7% of those stories in Hoy.23

Over all, both papers reflect a mix of approaches to the news. Judging by their front pages, they aren’t exactly national or local newspapers, but they do not spend an inordinate amount of space on stories from various home regions, either. Their readers ultimately get something similar in tone and approach to what they might find in New York’s Daily News – though obviously with more space devoted to issues that matter particularly to their Spanish-language readers. On inside pages, both papers have extensive sections devoted to Latin America, and their food, sports, entertainment and opinion sections are more targeted toward Latin American topics. They will be interesting to watch in years to come; both represent the changes in ownership that are hitting the ethnic media, about which more later.

Amsterdam News

Started in 1909, this Harlem-based weekly tabloid is widely considered the leader among African-American newspapers across the country. It’s aimed at African-American New Yorkers and is available on the newsstand, or by subscription for roughly $35 a year. It reports a circulation of 30,000.24 The News ran the fewest front-page stories on the days we measured, 67 in all.25

If the Pakistan Post is global in perspective, the Amsterdam News sits at the other end of the continuum. Its coverage is overwhelmingly based on happenings in and around New York, with 63% of its stories having a local geographic focus. Another 34% had a national focus. A scant 3% (two stories) of the pieces we looked were about countries black immigrants come from, a very broad category. The two stories with a “home region” geographic focus both concerned the problems in Haiti in 2004. Otherwise the paper had no stories with a geographic focus outside the U.S. But the paper considers coverage of the Caribbean to be so important for readers that it devotes a weekly page to news from the region.26

The paper’s primary focus on local issues makes for a significant distinction between the African American press and any immigrant press. Unlike the other publications we looked at, the Amsterdam News was published in English for a population that is largely U.S.-born. It is a local paper, and also naturally more of a supplement to other news outlets than a primary source. It’s more of a local magazine than a local newspaper, as is clear from the topics covered.

Geographic Focus of Amsterdam News
Design Your Own Chart
Source: PEJ Research, numbers reflect total of 67 stories
Topics Covered by Amsterdam News
Design Your Own Chart
Source: PEJ Research, numbers reflect total of 67 stories

Politics and government received more coverage than anything else (43% of stories), but that coverage wasn’t about stump speeches by President Bush or Senator Kerry. The paper paid close attention to the Democratic primaries, with ten stories about the fate of the contenders during the primary season and with special attention going to the Rev. Al Sharpton. Sharpton’s name appeared in the headlines of six of the ten stories. The paper also focused on more local politics, like the candidacy of Adam Clayton Powell for Congress, and the standing in the African-American community of Governor Jim McGreevey of New Jersey.27

Outside of politics, the paper focused on domestic issues (34% of stories) with more local touch. Education and local economic conditions figured heavily into the story count, with education stories being focused on the New York City Schools – everything from the opening of a new school in Harlem to the question of social promotion of students. The labor movement, barely covered in much of the mainstream press, is alive and well in terms of coverage in the News. Land development issues received coverage and, of course, local crime stories appeared on the front page, but many of those dealt with problems the community had with police actions. The paper also looked at the issue of race on many different planes, from the divide between black and white America, in January, to Bill Cosby’s controversial comments in May, to former President Ronald Reagan’s legacy among blacks in June. All those topics appear in the mainstream press, but the coverage would have been drastically different. Other papers, particularly the mainstream press, did not have covered so closely tied to the communities and concerns of African American New Yorkers.28

Interestingly, the New York-based paper ran only one front-page story on the issue of terrorism in the days we examined it.


Even considering the small scope of this study, the vastly different approaches and kinds of content we found shows that ethnic audiences are getting a complicated mix of news in their press. What exactly they are getting varies from ethnicity to ethnicity and outlet to outlet.

Different ethnicities, in effect, demand different things from ethnic media, even within the print medium in the same city.

Some papers, like the Pakistan Post and Sing Tao, both aimed at audiences from far-off regions, are publishing for people caught between two worlds, their new home and the country of their birth or ancestors.

Others, such as El Diario/La Prensa and Hoy, are more focused on linking the members of a specific local ethnic community together to share information about what’s happening in their neighborhoods. And the Amsterdam News is not as much about topics or regions that aren’t covered as it about the putting a different perspective on the news that readers are getting.

There is a common denominator, however. They are all, in a way, about covering what has fallen through fairly considerable – and even growing – cracks left by the mainstream press.

Each of these models serves a vital purpose for its audience. The larger question may be the role they play in shaping the world view – and the U.S. view-of those they reach. We’ll discuss that more in the next section.


1. “Many Voices, One City, the IPA Guide to the Ethnic Press of New York City.” Independent Press Association – New York, p. 71.

2. Project for Excellence in Journalism Research

3. Ibid

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. “Many Voices, One City, the IPA Guide to the Ethnic Press of New York City.” Independent Press Association – New York, p. 30.

9. Project for Excellence in Journalism Research.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. “Many Voices, One City, the IPA Guide to the Ethnic Press of New York City.” Independent Press Association – New York, p. 60.

14. “Many Voices, One City, the IPA Guide to the Ethnic Press of New York City.” Independent Press Association – New York, p. 60.

15. Project for Excellence in Journalism Research.

16. “Many Voices, One City, the IPA Guide to the Ethnic Press of New York City.” Independent Press Association – New York, p. 62.

17. Project for Excellence in Journalism Research.

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid.

22. Ibid.

23. Ibid.

24. “Many Voices, One City, the IPA Guide to the Ethnic Press of New York City.” Independent Press Association – New York, p. 14.

25. Project for Excellence in Journalism Research.

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid.

28. Ibid.