Kalpesh Shah of Gujarati Darpan (right) introduces Howard Shih (middle) of the Asian American Federation and Kaushik Amin (left) of Radio Dil during a community forum on the Census in Iselin, NJ.

Center for Cooperative Media launches 2020 Census reporting initiative in NJ communities of color

Community reporting fellowship will support 2020 Census coverage by New Jersey ethnic media

Anthony Advincula
Nov 26, 2019 · 5 min read

Montclair State University’s Center for Cooperative Media has launched a new community reporting fellowship program intended to support ethnic media journalists and their coverage of the 2020 U.S. Census.

Immigrants, low-income populations and communities of color in the Garden State are among the most vulnerable to being undercounted or not being counted at all. That risk is compounded by a number of pressing political and economic issues, including the aftermath of the proposed addition of a citizenship question to the Census, the Trump administration’s new public charge rule and a lack of access in some communities to in-language information.

There are simply not enough stories, if any, about and from these impacted communities regarding the decennial Census. That’s what New Jersey Media Counts aims to fix; its fellowship program will provide coaching and grants to up to 12 ethnic news organizations across the state to support their reporting efforts on the 2020 Census.

“Through this program, the Center aims to educate and promote the importance of the Census, especially among people who are at risk of being undercounted,” said Stefanie Murray, director of the Center for Cooperative Media. “Few journalists out there know these vulnerable communities inside and out more than those who work for ethnic news outlets.”

According to the Advocates for Children of New Jersey, some of the hardest-to-count communities in the state include the areas of Atlantic City, Camden, Vineland, East Orange, Elizabeth, Hackensack, Hudson County (Jersey City, North Bergen, Bayonne, Union City and West New York), Long Branch, New Brunswick, Newark, Trenton, Clifton, Paterson, Woodbridge and Trenton.

The New Jersey Media Counts Initiative will largely focus on those areas.

The fellows include journalists Kleibeel Marcano of Reporte Hispano (Spanish); Kalpesh Shah and Kaushik Amin of Gujarat Darpan Magazine (Gujarati); Orhan Akkurt of Zaman Amerika (Turkish); April Xu of Sing Tao Daily (Chinese); Raymond Tyler of WLFR 91.7 FM (English); Don Tagala of ABS-CBN’s The Filipino Channel (Filipino); Silvio de Souza of The Brazilian Press (Portuguese); Kamau Kujichahalia, Carlos Avila, and Kelly Ramos of The Nubian News (English); Abu Taher of Bangla Patrika (Bangla); Laszlo Bartus of Amerikai Nepszava (Hungarian); and Mohsin Zaheer of The Pakistani Newspaper (Urdu).

The journalists will report the latest information and news about the Census that their audiences in New Jersey can use: raising awareness about the Census, aiming to change the negative perception of the Census, addressing fear and stigma, and connecting the Census to current hot-button issues in their communities, such as immigration, language barriers, access to public assistance or employment.

Additionally, some of the fellows will organize and hold forums in the communities that they serve, along with trusted leaders in their communities and advocacy partners across the state. The forums will be held in various languages other than English, including Spanish, Gujarati, Hindi, Turkish, Urdu, and Bangla.

Kalpesh Shah, managing editor of Gujarati Darpan Magazine. Photo by Anthony Advincula

“In Turkey, the population count is mainly based on the registrar’s information. So for most Turkish immigrants who arrived in America, they are not aware of the U.S. Census —it is a process that is completely new to them,” said Orhan Akkurt, reporter for Zaman Amerika. “With my fellowship project, the Turkish-American community will get relevant information about the Census. I hope that members of my community in New Jersey will understand its benefits and get counted.”

On Oct. 24, the reporting initiative kicked off with a four-hour Census forum with the South Asian community, held at an adult care center in Iselin. More than 60 South Asian residents of Middlesex County attended the forum, which was facilitated in Gujarati, Punjabi, Hindi and English, in partnership with the Asian American Federation. Several New Jersey-based South Asian news outlets, including Gujarati Darpan Magazine, Radio Dil and ITV Gold, covered the event.

The Center for Cooperative Media’s reporting initiative kicked off with a community forum on the Census with the South Asian community in NJ. PHOTO: Anthony Advincula

Many Indian-Americans were shocked that for the 2020 Census, the federal government — for the first time — will not be collecting Census responses in any South Asian languages. While U.S. residents will have a total of 14 languages to choose from — English, Spanish, Arabic, French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Tagalog, Chinese, Korean, Russian and Vietnamese — when answering Census questions next year, none of South Asian languages (Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu or Bangla) are included. Notably, paper census forms will only be available in English and Spanish.

“It’s critically important to be part of this initiative. With my fellowship reporting, it provides the [African American] community in the Atlantic City and southern parts of New Jersey what they need to know and learn about the 2020 Census,” said fellow Raymond Tyler, writer, host and producer for WLFR 91.7 FM in Atlantic City. “And it also gives my community an opportunity to get our voices and concerns heard.”

The reporting fellowship initiative is made possible with support from Montclair State University and the New Jersey Local News Lab fund, a partnership between Democracy Fund, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the Community Foundation of New Jersey.

Click here for more information about the New Jersey Media Counts initiative.


Anthony Advincula is managing the Center for Cooperative Media’s NJ Media Counts initiative with ethnic media for the 2020 Census. A former editor and national media director for New America Media and a correspondent for The Jersey Journal, he currently works as a media consultant and a freelance journalist. He is the co-author of “The State of Ethnic and Community Media in New Jersey” and has worked with ethnic media in 45 states for more than 20 years. Contact him at oni.advincula@gmail.com.

About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. The Center is supported with funding from Montclair State University, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, the New Jersey Local News Lab (a partnership of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, and Community Foundation of New Jersey), and the Abrams Foundation. For more information, visit CenterforCooperativeMedia.org.

Center for Cooperative Media

An initiative of the School of Communication at Montclair State University

Thanks to Stefanie Murray

Anthony Advincula

Written by

Oni is a journalist. He covers immigration, health, politics and government, and ethnic media.

Center for Cooperative Media

An initiative of the School of Communication at Montclair State University

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