State of Ethnic Media in New Jersey: New report documents a robust yet under-appreciated sector

Center for Cooperative Media finds at least 119 outlets serving residents in New Jersey; more resources needed to build capacity

Sarah Stonbely
Jun 3 · 5 min read

As topics like immigration, abortion and inequality roil the political public square, people search for trusted sources of news and information on the latest developments. Ethnic and community media are crucial interlocutors in the many ethnic, religious, and non-English-language communities in New Jersey and beyond.

Yet, as with the local news landscape in general, detailed understanding of the numerous providers in the area is spotty.

The Center’s latest report, “The State of Ethnic and Community Media in New Jersey,” is our first attempt at putting together a detailed accounting of the ethnic and community media providers serving the Garden State. In addition to a “census” of outlets, the report includes both quantitative and qualitative description of their operations, a discussion of themes common among them, and recommendations for how we and others might support them as they continue to serve as crucial news and information providers to their respective communities.

The above table, taken from “The state of ethnic and community media in New Jersey,” shows the communities served by the outlets identified in the report’s census.

We document a robust and optimistic, yet under-resourced and under-appreciated sector made up of at least 119 outlets serving New Jersey. These media outlets are generally well established with roots in communities dating back decades.

They also tend to be close to their audiences, drawing on voices and viewpoints from a wide variety of community members and taking a high degree of input from them as well.

At the same time, the publishers we interviewed expressed dismay at the under-appreciation of their work by the mainstream and by mainstream journalism; work which could clearly benefit those same mainstream outlets in myriad ways. And they appear to be at vastly different points when it comes to the transition to digital, with some fully embracing it and others content to remain in legacy format.

The criteria for inclusion in the study were:

  • That the outlet serve a specific ethnic, religious, or language-other-than-English audience.
  • Was either based in New Jersey or provided local New Jersey news (while being based in either New York or Pennsylvania). In other words, there are a handful of ethnic and community media that are based in New Jersey that do not provide local news (e.g. a radio station that plays only music or a magazine that covers lifestyle), or that are based just outside of the state but do provide local New Jersey news — as is the case with several non-ethnic local media outlets as well.

We have opted to include religious media because religious communities are specific cultural communities that often have their own dedicated news and information outlets. And, despite our best efforts, we know there are likely outlets that are still not included. (If you’re not on our list, we want you to be! Fill out our NJ News Commons form here so we can add you.)

The above table, taken from “The state of ethnic and community media in New Jersey,” shows the age of outlets identified in the report’s census.

In terms of target audience, nearly a quarter of the outlets we looked at serve the Hispanic community, followed by roughly 10% of outlets each serving African American, Filipino, and Chinese communities. In total there are at least 25 different ethnic or faith communities being served by dedicated media in and around New Jersey (the number may be greater than listed here because some categories are broad and likely include more specific and diverse categories within them).

On the whole the ethnic and community media outlets serving New Jersey are well-established; more than 85% are at least 11 years old, and 28% (N=34) are more than 40 years old. This reflects the fact that many of the communities these outlets serve have deep roots in New Jersey and have had their own local media outlets for many years, often passed down through multiple generations within the same family. It also conforms to other surveys of local ethnic media, which have found similar age ranges.

The ethnic and community media outlets serving New Jersey also have a robust social media presence; 78% of the outlets are active on Facebook, which we defined as having a dedicated Facebook page and having posted in the last month; fewer, 65%, are active on Twitter.

The above table, taken from “The state of ethnic and community media in New Jersey,” shows some of the social media usage of outlets identified in the report’s census.

Being active on social media has affordances like reaching a far-flung or scattered audience, and letting that audience communicate with the outlet. Social media also lets outlets scan their communities to become aware of issues and events. The outlets were not as active when it came to audience revenue; only 4% of the 112 outlets that have websites (seven do not) have a paywall (N=5), while 20% (N=22) ask for voluntary donations.

We have created a database of ethnic and community outlets that serve New Jersey and have a form, as mentioned above, where any ethnic and community outlet not included in our database may be suggested for inclusion. The database includes outlet names as well as information such as community served, whether the outlet provides local news, and language of publication.

Our intention with making this information public is to facilitate collaboration between ethnic and community outlets and mainstream outlets, make it easier for community members to find local news outlets, and help funders and other interested practitioners understand the ethnic and community landscape in New Jersey.

At the end of the paper we include some recommendations for supporting this sector going forward, including:

  • Facilitating collaborations
  • Targeted training and support in digital production.
  • A more concerted effort to recognize the quality and contributions of these outlets.

Our report represents a first iteration of an ongoing project to track and engage with ethnic and community media serving the state of New Jersey. As such it is a living document that will benefit from continued dialogue with ethnic and community media providers and audiences.

We look forward to continuing to work with this vibrant and crucial sector of the New Jersey media ecosystem.


Sarah Stonbely is research director at the Center for Cooperative Media. Contact her at stonbelys@montclair.edu.

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

Center for Cooperative Media

An initiative of the School of Communication at Montclair State University

Sarah Stonbely

Written by

Sarah Stonbely, PhD is the Research Director of the Center for Cooperative Media, in Montclair, NJ.

Center for Cooperative Media

An initiative of the School of Communication at Montclair State University

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