Insights from the world of ethnic media

by Betsy Laikin (@betsybagel)

Last class we heard from two journalists, Rong Xiaoqing, a reporter for over 10 years at the Sing Tao Daily, and Tomasz Deptula, managing editor of  Nowy Dziennikthe, the Polish Daily News. Both journalists were awarded the first ever Ethnic Press Fellowships from the Independent Press Association in 2003, and have dedicated their careers to the communities they serve. Their informative and insightful presentations revealed a fascinating glimpse into the world of ethnic media in New York.

 Community histories and population projections

Founded in 1971 by former soldiers who emigrated from Poland to America after WW II, the Polish Daily News is now based in New York. Deptula said Polish immigration to America started in the 18th century, and peaked in the late ’70s to the early ’80s, while Poland was under Communist rule. In 2004, their admission into the EU halted almost all immigration to the United States as Poles began working legally in European countries closer to home.

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Deptula expressed his concern about the survival of his independent paper, and of the two other local Polish language papers in the city, as his readership is aging and shrinking. His tight budget allows for only eight staff members,  which makes it difficult to do in-depth reporting, but the Polish Daily News does cover important topics like employment, housing, homelessness and other needs of the community.

(Photo of  Nowy Dziennikthe by Rachel Glickhouse) 

When asked how he measures success, Deptula poignantly said: “Our success is when we are not needed any more,” referring to the future when descendants of Polish immigrants will be self-sufficient and more integrated into the community.

Rong Xiaoqing began by talking about the history of Chinese immigration to New York, when the offspring of railroad workers started arriving to New York’s Chinatown in the 1880s. Meanwhile, Chinese immigration to the U.S. was restricted, first by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and then by strict quotas that remained until 1965. This resulted in rampant human smuggling and ID forgery; many Chinese immigrants entered the U.S. by feigning familial relations with phony papers, and were known as “paper sons”

The poorer populations that settled along Broadway became known as the “silent” generation, not wanting to provoke any attention. In the 1980s, Chinese immigrants arrived from the Fujam province, creating a language divide, as they spoke Mandarin instead of Cantonese, the language of earlier Chinese immigrants.

This population is increasing well beyond Chinatown; nine neighborhoods are now at least 25 percent Chinese. From the 90s and continuing to this day, educated, wealthy and tech-savvy immigrants with no memories of the “poor” China known to earlier generations, are now arriving in droves. Chinese nationals account for more than 80 percent of EB-5 visas, which are obtained through investing $500,000 into the U.S. economy. It is important to determine future population shifts within your community in order to plan for the future.

 Conflicts inside and outside the community

The Chinese community is finally finding its voice in the public sphere. In 2013, after the “killing everyone in China” skit aired on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” Chinese Americans spearheaded protests, which resulted in a public apology by Kimmel and ABC.

Chinese visibility was noted most recently when thousands voiced their support for NYPD officer Peter Liang after his indictment. Xiaoqing said she “had never seen so many Chinese Americans protesting before.

However, diversity, such as geographical, political, language or class, can produce conflicts of interest within the community. Xiaoqing said that New York City Council member Margaret Chin, whose district includes Chinatown, supported the indictment of Peter Liang. A prominent Chinese American soon up for reelection, Chin was criticized by some of her Chinese constituents. When a prominent member takes a different stance than their community, compromises will need to be forged.

Survival of the fittest

As one of five daily Chinese papers in New York, Xiaoqing acknowledged that her paper faced stiff competition. When asked about the possible transition into an online publication, she said fewer people would buy the print edition if it was free online. However, she is aware that competing papers are starting to build an online presence.

Deptula expressed his concern about the survival of his independent paper, and of the two other local Polish language papers in the city, as his readership is aging and shrinking. It will be up to millennials from these communities to determine how ethnic media will evolve.

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(From L to R, Professor Jeff Jarvis, Tomazs Deptula, and Rong Xiaoqing)

Community sensitivities and taboos

The front pages of both The Polish Daily and the Sing Tao Daily feature news from abroad, signifying the ties their communities have to their home countries. When asked about sensitive issues that arise, Rong Xiaoqing said for her community, it is losing “face” by bringing shame to yourself and your family. For her award-winning investigative report on the mental health of Asian students at Stuyvesant High School, she remarked on the difficulty of finding anyone who would speak about this taboo topic.

Deptula explained that Poles, often very passionate about history, are sensitive about the misconception that “Polish death camps” existed during WW II, as the camps were established and run by German Nazis. In 2012, while in Poland, President Obama upset Poles and Polish-Americans when he used this phrase during a WW II medal ceremony. Xiaoqing then reminded us of a recent incident regarding a pocket watch in Taipei. To avoid a similar fiasco, one must know what makes a community tick.

Spilling the “beats”

Regarding our continuing debate of the relationship of social journalism to advocacy, and how it muddles the traditional definition of journalism, Xiaoqing said she was a staunch follower of journalistic principles, and remained objective throughout her reporting career. But occasionally an issue comes along that makes it more difficult to stay neutral. For example, in 2013, The New York Times first reported that John Liu, the only Chinese candidate to be a serious contender in the mayoral election, was connected to a campaign finance scandal, leading to the ruination of his campaign. Although the Sing Tao Daily News covered this story extensively after it broke, she did find it hard to imagine being the first to report on Liu.

Song of the week: “Chinatown, My Chinatown”

Select from the questions below that best relate to your community:

  • If you discover information that could have damaging repercussions for those you serve, and might decrease this community’s trust in you, would you report it? If so, how would you handle it?            
  • Have you identified any powerful events or movements that occurred in your community, that brought forth increased visibility, justice or social change?
  • Have you identified the most sensitive issues in your community? How will this influence your work?
  • Rong Xiaoqing spoke of how affirmative action has lowered the acceptance rate of Chinese students to top universities. However, it has helped Asians from countries like Burma and Laos. She posed questions that arise in her community, such as “do you take care of the entire community, or just the majority? Does everyone advance together, or should some benefit before others?” Are there any examples of inequalities within your communities? How are they handled?
  • Is the population of your community expanding, shrinking or stagnant? How will this impact your future work, and how will you innovate to accommodate for this?

24 thoughts on “Insights from the world of ethnic media”

  1. Good questions. I’m going to take the first one: If you discover information that could have damaging repercussions for those you serve, and might decrease this community’s trust in you, would you report it? If so, how would you handle it?

    One thing I’m encountering a lot in my reporting is that some immigrants who came to the U.S. as adults committed some sort of crime or infraction in an effort to live normally. This could mean the nature in which they entered the U.S. (crossing the border in a car with other migrants; overstaying a visa). It could be purchasing a Social Security number or ID. It could be driving without a license, or with an expired license. It could be using a fake name to get a lease.

    Immigration is already a very politically loaded topic, but it’s important to depict people honestly. The truth is that for the undocumented, it is virtually impossible to live in the U.S. without breaking some laws or rules. For example, one of the country’s most well-known undocumented immigrants, Jose Antonio Vargas, had fake documents that his family gave him, and he worked for years as a journalist despite lacking legal status.

    Plus, a big issue happening now is a focus on deportations of people with criminal records – which can include immigration violations and DUIs. Committing a “significant misdemeanor” makes one a priority for deportation – even if the person has a green card.

    It’s hard to gloss over these things. But it’s something you can’t ignore, especially when it comes to reporting on deportations. So I think the most important thing is giving context, particularly because some of these issues are so common in the undocumented community. Is a person a public security threat because they bought a Social Security number? Because they had a DUI when he was young? Because she crossed the border without a visa?

    More often than not, immigrants are people trying to make a living and raise their families, and they come up against major roadblocks without legal status.

    So distinguishing between serious crimes (murder, or rape) and immigration-related ones is really important. When it comes to reporting on deportation in particular, it’s important to give a full picture that shows who this person really is.

    1. Good, Rachel. I didn’t realize that was true even for people with green cards.

      Certainly shows some of the nuance around bias when it comes to journalism. Generally speaking, journalists have an agreed-upon bias that if something is illegal, it is also wrong. But is that *always* the case, if we are making a more nuanced ethical case? Is it wrong to speed while driving your pregnant wife to the hospital to give birth? There are obviously *many* nuanced involved in any possible scenario involving illegal activity, but it is important to think about them.

  2. Solid questions Betsy. I’ll take a crack at these the best I can.

    I have a unique look at this because much of my work is studying the way that my community actually communicates with one another, rather than the advocacy angle many other people in this program have taken. It’s a more academic approach, but that’s just a preference thing for what I’d like to do with my future. Anyhow, the sensitive issues in my community revolve around visa statuses. I cover a white, European, English speaking community, and while they’re not typically the most visible group for immigration status problems, they still have quite a few of them with a shrinking Irish economy.

    The population of my community is growing continually with the economic problems I identified in the above paragraph. However, much of my work involves the sense of identity around the community. Many Americans in New York find themselves to be “Irish”, but have no connection to the island itself within a few generations. Others have Irish parents and grandparents and grew up with some sense of the place, and countless others are citizens of the Republic. This creates quite a bit of dissonance as to which community I’m actually trying to identify. It’s been an interesting subject and I’m looking forward to beginning my thesis on how these groups communicate with one another through media outlets.

    1. Good start, but I’d like to see a little bit more detail. Some members of your community face some of the same issues as Rachel’s, of course. Might be interesting to discuss how they perceive themselves as similar or different from other immigrant groups vis a vis some of these questions Betsy has posed.

      What about powerful events or movements…have you identified any of those yet? How does the history of the big early wave of Irish immigration during the Potato Famine still affect your communities interests or identity, if at all, for example?

      1. Thanks for the feedback.

        The biggest impact item these days impacting my subject of study is the failure of the Irish economy post-2006. The unemployment rate topped out at an overall 15%, and remains high (over 10%). The impact is especially large for young people, and has led to mass emigration, particularly to the U.S. and Australia.

        The Irish here do interact with olde groups, but they make a specific distinction with the Irish-American community. They claim this older group doesn’t have as much contact with modern Ireland and its issues, and they’re often right.

  3. I concur. Some great questions, Betsy. Here I go:

    Is the population of your community expanding, shrinking or stagnant? How will this impact your future work, and how will you innovate to accommodate for this?

    My community is in constant expansion. Young people in New York City are playing team sports more so than ever before and soccer in particular, is a wheel that keeps on spinning. This is due to many factors. Firstly, from a practical side, the city is doing more and more to create more opportunities for kids to play – more youth academies, more soccer clubs, more classes. The majority of these are non-profit so kids have an opportunity to play without the need to spend that much. Soccer is different to many sports where all you need really is a pair of shoes and a ball, no need for much equipment. Places like South Bronx United do amazing things to help kids from lower economical backgrounds – they not only offer classes and games but also help them with tutoring and school.

    The other reason is our business. Social Media plays a huge role in the expansion of sports. Young people go on Vine, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat etc and they connect with other people and pro athletes and the game itself. I wrote a piece for social tools about the power of sports and instagram and it is amazing how much it connects with people. Readers can see the personal side of athletes, they can watch highlights, they can post their own games and skills and so create a huge community. My FB page WE ARE FUTBOL is a place where people who love the game get to read different content from all over the web and be inspired. Not just about stats and scores but also about what the meaning of sports/soccer can offer.

    The other reason why soccer is growing is due to growing number of different ethnic communities – Latinos and African families have a strong connection to soccer. And this is just going to grow more and more.

    I am lucky to say I am involved in a community that is benefiting from social media and engagement. Now it’s about trying to figure out how I can serve them better – and what they need from me and vice-versa.

    I believe in internal journalism. I believe the best way to help a community is to fully immerse yourself in it and help in any way you can. Objectivity is about your craft and the way you report and help – For the journalist, that’s something else.

    1. Have I seen the piece you did about sports and Instagram? I don’t think I have unless I’m forgetting…please send along.

      I think you are right and there is a good bit of research about how athlete’s ability to “go direct” to fans, not through the middelman – the sports reporter – does affect their connection to the sport. I’m glad to hear that this may be influencing them to actually play themselves, not just be fans.

  4. My community is still relatively new, only maybe 5 or 10 years old, and is rapidly expanding as more newsrooms hire people to engage audiences and manage social media accounts. One of my roles in serving the community can be fostering understanding among the different experience levels of journalists.

    Also, my community is spread across the country in almost every state, although there is a concentration of people in New York City and D.C. I think finding ways to connect members of my community who may be geographically isolated from others would be a good challenge to tackle.

    The most sensitive issues I’ve heard about in my community so far are around professional respect, pay, and career growth opportunities. There’s some tension between some journalists who see doing social media work as an important job for experienced journalists vs. other journalists (especially young journalists) who see the social media roles as a great entry-level opportunity to make a real difference in journalism right away. I think it’s important for me to find a way to cover this issue with both (and other) perspectives respected and quotes from people who have done the work after years of newsroom experience and from people who are just out of college.

    The career path for those in my community is murky. I’ve heard stories of the struggle to be taken seriously as a journalist who has real editorial judgment and experience, not just “the girl who runs social,” especially when seeking job advancement. It’s unclear what kind of positions people who do social media managing are successfully able to advance into, though hopefully within the next few years there will be more examples to look to. There have been a few people who have asked me to report on how different newsrooms structure their audience engagement roles, and I’m looking forward to making time to do that reporting.

    These story ideas I’m mentioning seem to fall under internal journalism, but I think especially in stories about community members seeking more respect from their colleagues, it’ll be important that I also share the stories with people outside the community. The situation won’t improve if the only people reading about feeling disrespected are the people within the community — it would need to reach a wider audience for there to be cultural change.

    1. Great points, and I’ve heard things along these lines as well. It’s interesting. To a certain extent, this is about the kinds of ruptures and tensions that occur as newsrooms change. Social media is increasingly an important role, and many know this. But people who traditionally got a lot of respect in newsrooms, who worked their way up to high positions – well, many of their skills, like what goes on 1A – are not so highly prized anymore. And that is tough to take. I think we are gradually seeing a shift to social folks getting more respect, but it’s not easy.

  5. The visit from Rong Xiaoqing and Tomasz Deptula was very motivating since their work related to what we’re all working towards: trust in the community. They both had such inspiring dedication towards their own communities. Despite that Xiaoqing had barriers within her community in order to encourage them to talk about issues, she worked with them on their terms and eventually proved that just talking about it can help a difficult situation. Of course, these two journalists have years upon years of experience and we’re trying to insert ourselves into our chosen communities with only a few months and our passion. Still, it’s more encouraging than discouraging to see journalism with an effective purpose.

    All of Betsy’s questions were thought-provoking and I hope that by the end of the year I’ll be able to answer more of them.
    Regarding sensitive issues in my community, there are too many of them to just list.

    Have you identified the most sensitive issues in your community? How will this influence your work?
    I think what’s important right now is to carry around a LGBT vocabulary sheet (this actually exists) to get used to using terms in the correct manners. I sat in on a cultural competency lecture on the LGBT ABCs.
    One woman, a nurse, kept unknowingly making remarks that really hurt others in the room. For example, she brought up a situation in which she had a MTF (male to female) transgender in her doctor’s office. She told us how she would approach the situation and basically would question the patient to how it felt to be abnormal. After a large debate on how disrespectful this is, she left the group talk. She didn’t care to understand that this is normal. This is only a tiny portion of what is sensitive for my community. I know that I shouldn’t be walking on eggshells since that might not get me the information I need, but I do need to listen closely to terms being used to identify and feel for any hot spots that might close off a conversation.
    One thing I hope to continue to accomplish is a completely open and honest discussion with any source I come into contact with. I’ve learned that just listening and letting someone talk is a sure way to get others comfortable and discussing what’s actually on their minds and not what I want to hear.
    In a way, I’m hoping these sensitive issues are those that aren’t covered in mainstream news and that it will affect the work I produce since my community will be able to drive my stories.

    1. Whew. As important as it is…intimidating to be carrying around a whole vocab sheet all the time and worrying about making a mistake! Definitely a lot of difficult and sensitive issues here.

  6. Hearing about the experience of living within and reporting on ethnic communities is highly relevant to the social journalism idea of service. While Rong Xiaoging of Sing Tao Daily, and Tomasz Deptula of Nowy Dziennikthe both are serving their communities, they are also part of the communities. Their perspectives on establishing credibility and serving communities helped me to gain a clearer idea of how I can integrate into the Greenpoint community., especially the Polish-speaking demographic in my neighborhood.

    A lot of change has occurred in Greenpoint over the past decade where many Polish residents have moved away further east to Queens due to rising rents and a steady flow of new residents. There is palpable disdain towards us younger Greenpoint residents from some of the Polish people, who still own many of the businesses and apartment buildings. The Polish are without a doubt an important piece of the puzzle to engage the greater community; how can I reach them?

    I learned that Deptula has covered some of the issues with Newtown Creek in the past and says that his community is indeed interested in environmentalism and public health. This is great news for me, as I’m seeking to build relationships based on this mutual interest. A starting point for me was meeting the owner of the Polish radio station beneath my apartment, who is open for collaboration of some sort, possibly a podcast: An intial idea is to talk with Polish landowners and see what they are concerned about in the neighborhood.

    As I’m not affiliated with a publication I do have more freedom than they have in my covering of topics. Xiaoging said that she remains objective in her reporting but might think twice about some of the content depending on how many feathers may be ruffled by the coverage. I’m not seeking to cause a stir myself, but rather spark the interest of my neighbors who I feel will be interested in what is happening in their backyard without their knowledge or democratic input.

    This past weekend I spent the day with Professor Sarah Durrand and the Newtown Creek Alliance at an abandoned NYC Department of Sanitation garbage transfer station behind the wastewater treatment center; this area is being transferred to the public and the nature walk extended, and Durrand is working to plant wetlands on the shore to help clean the water. When I asked her what she views the biggest challenge to the proper cleaning of the creek she told me was public participation. With her busy schedule teaching fulltime amongst many other projects, Durrand and her peers do not have time for community outreach. Aeration was never considered to be open for public debate and N. Brooklyn residents are unaware of what is ahead. Durrand is part of my community and her concern about the lack of public engagement is one I hear again and again. This is where I continue to work.

    1. Great, Aaron. I was so glad you got to connect with Tomasz, and sounds like your reporting is going great so far! Love the idea of a podcast.

  7. There were a couple big takeaways from Rong Xiaoqing and Tomasz Deptula for me. One was that they both journalists were not just covering their communities, but they were also a part of their communities. The second is that they were both successful because (as Emily mentioned) their communities trusted them. They both continue to be immersed in their communities and have a deep understanding of them.

    While my community is not based on race or ethnicity like Xiaoqing’s and Deptula’s, I still find it extremely important to be immersed in it as there is a culture surrounding indie music. Betsy, you asked about the most sensitive issues in our community. I think one big issue is receiving fair revenue and/or royalties from music streaming sites. Overall independent artists have a tough time making money. We talked about artists like Amanda Palmer in class and how she is one trying to reinvent the way musicians make money. We looked at her examples from the book “The Art of Asking.” She’s just one example of how artists are trying to change the game. However, as many independent artists struggle trying to forge their own path I feel really immersing myself in more live music communities will help better understand their stories. I also feel reporting on their issues, struggles and overall journeys will allow them to trust me and make me more of an expert in this community.

    What’s funny is I think the population of indie artists is growing due to how difficult it is to be picked up by record labels. One example I have is with an indie artist I’ve worked with, Guatemalan born singer-songwriter Gaby Moreno. She has been signed twice to record labels, once at 17 to Warner Bros. and later to Sony Music. Both times she was dropped due to changes in label ownership. However, she pushed on and won the John Lennon songwriting contest, caught the attention of artists like Tracy Chapman and Ani Difranco (she’s toured with both) and went on to co-write the “Parks and Recreation” TV theme song. As a talented artist she had to find her own path and ways to make money without the help of a record company. She has since gone on to win a Latin Grammy and continues to build her fan base in the U.S. and Latin America.

    I met Moreno after she performed at the Latin Alternative Music Conference six years ago. I watched her perform at a small venue later and introduced myself. From that time I maintained contact and supported her online and in person every chance I could. It did take time to build that relationship, but once I did she trusted me enough to work with her and even film a live music video – https://vimeo.com/22874363

    I believe there are many more artists like Moreno out there who are making their mark in music by taking their own route. My next goal is to find these artists and begin to build their trust. I remember the work it took with Moreno and need to make the time to build more of these relationships. I do think offering coverage of their music (be it promoting shows, making music videos or writing articles online) can be a good way to build trust. The more I’m out in the community, the more I can meet people and offer my time outside of shows to help them out. I believe this is the next step in order to move forward in my community. Partnerships will help me develop relationships and build new ones in the future. I want to be someone these artists feel comfortable coming to and look to when it comes to helping them build a fan base so they can continue their art form and earn money while doing it.

    1. Great, Erica – I really enjoyed watching the video!

      I think the quest for revenue for independent artists is similar in some ways to that of journalists, so I think the insights that you are getting are really going to prove helpful in a variety of ways for you.

  8. These are really tough, but necessary questions, Betsy. I know Rachel talks a lot about the sensitive issues within her community yet wanting to be sure she gains her community’s trust. I’ve been trying to think about this in the sense of my own community.

    As journalists, we want to cover sensitive topics and shed light on truths no matter how hard they are to cover or even consume. If it’s important for you to tell that story within your community than it’s important.

    I imagine non-social journalists look at it as, “we’re serving the public information they need to know. Period.” This is opposed to us social journalists who come from that background, but who focusing on serving, listening and building relationships with communities. Nevertheless, we are trying to define not crossing the line between advocacy and journalism.

    A way around covering sensitive issues might just be simply gaining your community’s trust. I’ll explain. Sean’s community requires him sometimes to not use his subject’s name because once again, he’s dealing with a community who are immigrants from Ireland. He avoids losing their trust by simply not using the names of his interviewees who asked him not to, but they still talk with him and he’s still (proudly) able to tell stories that reflect them.

    As for my community, it’s filled with sensitive issues the community itself is shedding light on. They are actively using media platforms to police the police and challenge racism by recording, videotaping and taking to social to impact change.

    Other than that, I haven’t yet come across sensitive issues anyone in my community wasn’t willing to discuss, but it’s definitely possible.

    I’m concluding not knowing how I will handle risks losing my community’s trust by covering sensitive topics, but it’s something I’m thinking about in case the time comes.

    1. Not using a source’s name can increase trust…but at the same time, you still have to be careful. Anonymity can be appropriate in certain cases, but it can also be dangerous, especially around sensitive issues, because sources can then speak without any accountability.

      You really haven’t seen any sensitive issues in your community yet? Surprising.

  9. I found it very interesting to discover the experience share by Tomazs Deptula, and Rong Xiaoqing. It is always great to learn from peers who devoted their work to cover their own community and develop a voice. Deptula’s opnion about community-oriented achievement was brilliant and Xiaoquing’s analysis about new generation of Chinese immigrant proves that she’s well engaged with non-only Tsingtao readership but also to the broad Chinese community. Boundaries and it’s an extraordinary issue for ethnic communities. How should an ethnic media organization evolve regarding its constant community reshaping?

    I’m constantly thinking about it : who should i serve first in the community I want to cover? How can I transcript their issues the best? Is there any “conflict” inside the community as it could be in the Fukeinese and Cantonese communities in Chinatown ?

    The population in my community is definitely expanding in a very large way. Not only in terms of demographic but also in its structure. What should be considered as the tech-core business – basically tech companies- is now integrating new form of organization whether it’s a non-profit organization promoting code or a tech- related service provider like a payment processing company.

    This diversity impacts the culture intended in the community. Instead of focusing on the technology used to create their product, New York companies try to get focus on how to deliver services or product according to the customer experience. Maybe it is a basic marketing argument but I think that there is a very unique tech culture in New York compare to the one in the Valley. In order to grow and play a major role in New York, the tech ecosystem seems to set-up sort of rules, probably in order to distinguish itself from other tech hubs but also to respect certain form of New York legacy: business focusing and communication fluency.

    I had a chance to discuss about the main cultural difference between New York Techies and The silicon Valley culture with a programmer and he argues in New York city companies put the user experience in the center of the developing process whereas in the valley companies are more focused to deliver an innovation and make it evolve with the versions according to the platforms. Now I wonder if there is more app creation in the New York Tech hub then in the Silicon Valley.

    1. Interesting re: New York tech companies putting the user experience first….though I’m not quite clear what he means about the Silicon Valley focus in the last paragraph. In my experience, user experience is Startup 101…but at the same time, would be interesting if one culture focused on it to a greater extent than other aspects of a business model. Certainly interesting to think about how diversity affects a community as it expands.

  10. This week’s guests were mostly interesting to me not because of the community I’ve focused on, but because of one of the main communities I consider myself a part of: minorities. I’ve always found minority controlled/oriented publications fascinating because of one of the questions Rong Xiaoqing posed to us: is it better to serve part of the population rather than the whole, if it means the whole suffers? It’s deeper than looking at topics through a certain lens or diaspora, but asking ethically which is the best way to handle sensitive news situations.
    Recently, Michael Eric Dyson published a piece criticizing Cornel West for his longstanding criticisms of Barack Obama. Is it better for West to tone down his criticism of our first black president so as not to diminish his legacy (keep in mind this would ACTUALLY be a problem if a majority of white, Asian, or Hispanic people listened to Cornel West) thus hurting the rest of the nation? Likewise, is it better for Dyson not to call out one of the former leading minds of black Americans for his seeming pettiness towards the president?
    These are issues I think a lot of african american journalists struggle with. These are dangerous waters to navigate and, given your impact, could go from ripples to waves very quickly.
    Another issue within my community stems from transparency and empathy; specifically, do they possess any?
    The towers they’re fighting will contain “affordable housing,” so the people of BK Heights and Cobble Hill have been labeled as against poor people. I’d like to point out that “affordable housing” isn’t for poor people, its for mostly upper- working class people; I can’t afford “affordable housing,” in short.
    But still, I’m not sure how untrue the stigma my community has been given is. Which makes it even more difficult for me to want to help them. I think their age and income automatically puts them in the assumed “old curmudgeon” demographic, always against any sort of change. This is based on my own experiences with them and, more importantly, a community board in which very aggressive and offensive comments were made by those supposed to be in One Brooklyn Bridge Park, the building right behind the proposed towers. I’ve only heard rumors of these posts existing, and haven’t been able to find them in archives on the internet, but its a worrisome thing to be in the business of helping a community that would possibly look down on me if I could even afford to live in the towers.

    1. I think the example of Dyson’s critique of West is an interesting one in this context. Would be interested to hear a little bit more about what you think about what the responsibilities might be to the Black community, which of course itself contains a lot of diversity, if any. What kinds of things should be considered?

    1. When you update it, can you shoot me an email with link to let me know so I don’t miss it? Thanks.

  11. The question is: “If you discover information that could have damaging repercussions for those you serve, and might decrease this community’s trust in you, would you report it? If so, how would you handle it?”

    In my mind, if you are a journalist, you need to ultimately serve the “public good”. This, of course, is at the same time an extremely broad and subjective definition. But what I mean by that is when reporting on something you should use your judgement to see if the “community at large” that you are serving — say, the people living in New York City — is making progress through your work.

    This dilemma doesn’t appear very often, in reality, at least in my experience. But Rong Xiaoqing gave us two good examples of times it did. To come with a decision on the value of running both stories, I think she thought about if new yorkers, in general, would benefit. And she ended up weighting the “short term” versus “long term” impact.

    Both stories would affect how the “outsiders” see her immediate community. But thinking too much about that would be short-sighted. In the end, it made the Chinese community stronger, as it had to face their own problems in the medium and longer term.

    The thing is, and we discussed this a lot, is that you have to be transparent in your process and work ethic. When your audience see that you are trying to “do good”.

    In my new “beat”, I could hypothesize that one or two grants for journalists could be somehow “rigged”. As in: the selection process was just for show. If I’d report on that, there could be a backlash in grant-based journalism, and the immediate effect would be less freelancers interested. But on the longer term, what would happen? More scrutiny, more transparent selections, and a clearer set of best practices.

    In this example the choice is clear, but I understand everyone would be tested. All that is easier said than done, of course. But my community, basically journalists, understand the conflicts of interest more than other communities. So I would expect less hard feelings when I had to “betray” them, comparing to some of my colleagues here, with more delicate subjects.

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