Image: Joe Amditis

New report documents the current state of New Jersey’s ethnic and community media

New research highlights the challenges and opportunities facing these important voices in our state’s media landscape

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Years ago, when I first embarked on a nationwide journey to organize press briefings for ethnic and community media, it was not uncommon for many ethnic and community media publishers to operate their newspapers or radio channels from their living room or garage.

At the time, the United States saw a dramatic spike in immigration, with some 14 million migrants settling in the U.S. from 2000 to 2010 — the highest number ever, within a decade.

When I began this work in 2005, growth in in-language ethnic media organizations was dramatically diversifying the American news ecosystem. Yet, despite their growing presence, ethnic and community media were viewed as secondary to mainstream media.

Today, nearly 20 years later, ethnic and community media are no longer seen as simply supplements to mainstream media. Ethnic news organizations are local media in their own right and an invaluable communication infrastructure that supports diverse and community-based audiences.

Image: Joe Amditis

Since 2014, the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University has built meaningful and collaborative relationships with ethnic and community media in New Jersey and helped strengthen this unique and resilient media sector. I witnessed the first ethnic and community media event that the Center organized, in the winter of 2014, with only six reporters and editors from in-language publications in the state. As we enjoyed a hearty Indian meal, we deliberated on strategies to enhance their content and boost advertising revenues.

Now, I’m happy to report, those efforts are paying off.

Despite facing economic challenges like any other industry, more than 140 ethnic and community media outlets continue to thrive in New Jersey, reporting in more than 15 languages — including Spanish, Arabic, Urdu, Chinese, Korean, Hungarian, Polish, Hindi, Gujarat, Punjabi, Ukrainian, Italian, Portuguese, Tagalog, Bangla and Turkish. Undeniably, they add to the vibrancy and robustness of the journalism landscape in the Garden State.

As the Census data show that New Jersey is becoming a majority non-white state, with Hispanics constituting 18% of the population, Black people are 12%, Asians 6%, and multiracial individuals 10%. Ethnic and community media have been instrumental in filling the local news void, particularly due to their language expertise and understanding of cultural nuances within immigrant communities and communities of color.

Image: Joe Amditis

In 2019, the Center first published “The state of ethnic and community media serving New Jersey” report, which provided quantitative and qualitative data about their businesses, audience and key characteristics.

In 2023, the Center finished an update of this analysis of community and ethnic news outlets in the state, looking closely at their demographic and geographical information, social media presence, key audience and distribution and, most importantly, analyzing whether the sector has grown or declined over a period of time.

This data, which includes updated social media and website information, also provides metrics on how ethnic media utilize digital and print platforms and formats, how they get their revenue, and how their audience seeks out news and information.

✨ Some key findings of the 2023 report include:

  • The number of ethnic and community news outlets in New Jersey increased by 15% since 2019.
  • About 25% of ethnic and community media in the state serve Asian American communities, while 22% serve Latinos.
  • Ten of these news outlets serve the Chinese community; five Korean; five Filipino; two Arab; two Muslim; one Pakistani; and one Hungarian.
  • At least 16 news outlets, mostly online platforms, currently serve the African American community.
  • About 85% of ethnic and community media in New Jersey are in-language and publish or broadcast in more than 15 languages other than English.
  • Black, South Asian and Filipino media in the state mostly produce either English or bilingual content.
  • In fiscal year 2022, based on the interviews the Center was able to conduct with publishers and editors, roughly 10% of ethnic media news outlets received advertising from NJ state agencies.

The COVID-19 pandemic made the inequality in accessing firsthand and timely information much worse. Government agencies did not provide enough information in languages other than English, as they had limited resources to deal with an unprecedented health crisis. As a result, ethnic and community news outlets were greatly affected and their audiences were left with little information. This exacerbated the information gap for these communities during the pandemic.

But, at the same time, the pandemic also underscored the indispensable role of ethnic and community media as lifelines to immigrant families and underserved communities. And when misinformation about COVID-19 became more rampant, ethnic and community media became the most trusted source of information for many immigrants and people of color.

There is a strong correlation between the sustainability of in-language news organizations and the population of diaspora communities. For example, recent figures show the population of Latino, Asian, African, and European immigrants in the state has nearly tripled in recent decades. To provide a glimpse of its resiliency, CCM’s report also shows that the number of ethnic and community media in New Jersey increased by at least 15%, as compared to the 2019 analysis.

Indeed, ethnic and community media play a crucial role in addressing the journalistic biases and failures of mainstream media to cover the perspectives of immigrants and people of color. These communities often find that the stories in mainstream media do not reflect their own lived experiences and cultures, whether in the framing or delivery. Ethnic and community media, in particular, have the unique ability to engage in community journalism that reaches and serves these audiences in ways that mainstream media cannot.

Image: Joe Amditis

I sincerely hope this report paves the way for stakeholders — elected officials, public influencers, nonprofits, advertisers, and philanthropies — to not only gain insight into New Jersey’s diverse ethnic and community media landscape, but also acknowledge their invaluable contributions to our communities, state, and society at large.

Having devoted the last two decades to the ethnic media sector, I believe it’s high time we stop relegating them to a secondary position. While diversifying staff and coverage at mainstream outlets is irreplaceable, it’s time to embrace collaboration with ethnic media. They offer fresh storytelling perspectives, broaden audience reach, and cover stories often overlooked by mainstream media.

It’s essential to recognize that as long as our nation continues to welcome new immigrants, ethnic and community news outlets will not only persist but flourish alongside our evolving communities.

📆 Join us for a panel discussion about the findings in the report on May 25 at 1:00 pm ET.

📄 Read the full report: “The state of ethnic and community media in New Jersey” by Anthony Advincula

Anthony “Oni” Advincula is the ethnic and community media coordinator at the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. Contact him at advinculaa@montclair.edu.

About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a primarily 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 operational and project funding from Montclair State University, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, NJ Civic Information Consortium, Rita Allen Foundation, Inasmuch Foundation and the Independence Public Media Foundation. For more information, visit centerforcooperativemedia.org.

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Anthony Advincula
Center for Cooperative Media

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