Ethnic – Intro
By the Project for Excellence in Journalism
The one constant in trying to understand the ethnic media in the United States is that its audience is in perpetual transition. New immigrants are arriving, sometimes moving to new communities. Existing audiences may or may not remain loyal, depending on the medium, the competition and the ethnicity.
At the end of 2007, a number of sweeping but seemingly contradictory trends were reshaping this sector of American media, some pointing to a future of growth – at least among smaller outlets – and others indicating a flattening or even contraction.
As more ethnic groups spread across America, there seems to be growth potential for small startup ethnic outlets, particularly in print. This already may be starting to show itself in the increasing number and circulation of ethnic weeklies. But other trends among the immigrant population may be working against the ethnic media.
On one hand, those new communities tend to be full of recent immigrants – those most likely to use and rely on ethnic and foreign language outlets. The more established immigrant populations, though, are found to be less likely to rely on native-language media. The longer people are in this country, research shows, the more English they speak, and the more English they speak, the more likely they are to use English-language media. Of the Latino immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least 26 years, 43% report speaking English very well, compared with just 14% of those who have lived in the United States for less than three years.1
The audited circulations of three of the biggest Spanish-language dailies in established communities — La Opinión, based in Los Angeles, El Diario-La Prensa in New York and El Nuevo Herald in Miami — have been flat for several years. (More of these papers are auditing their circulations now and this may help them with advertisers.)
And there is increasing competition from the mainstream media as they tailor their content to Hispanic audiences, deliberately choosing topics and personalities that will appeal to Latinos.
In the end, the current demographic trends may be pointing to a more multi-faceted ethnic media landscape with no across-the-board positive or negative prognosis. The niche world of the ethnic media is growing further niches of its own.
All this complicates the economics of ethnic media, as well as its news-gathering muscle and its reach. For now, while the story is getting more complex as the sector matures, the economics are in many ways also becoming more stable.
1. Shirin Hakimzadeh and D’Vera Cohn, “English Usage Among Hispanics in the United States,” Pew Hispanic Center, November 29, 2007.