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University of Michigan Hosts First Ethnic Media Forum

New America Media, News Report, Suzanne Manneh Posted: Jun 16, 2009

Ethnic media voices are critical to the national discourse, according to University of Michigan administrators at a university press conference. The June 12 convening was part of University of Michigan at Dearborns series on media diversity and social change, and the first ever to include a panel of ethnic media.

The discussion was facilitated and co-organized by Bankole Thomson, senior editor of the Michigan Chronicle and included Osama Siblani, publisher of The Arab American News, Elias Gutierrez, publisher of Latino Press, Arthur Horwitz, publisher of Detroit Jewish News and Tack-Young Kim, publisher of Michigan Korean Weekly.

The conference, titled The Power of Ethnic Media: Has Obama Changed the Face of Ethnic Media? was focused on the significance and future of this sector of American journalism.

Eric Bolling, director of the UM-D Multi-Cultural Affairs Office and assistant to Chancellor Daniel Little, explained that establishing the series was essential for students of color to know that there are media out there to address issues more relevant to them than mainstream media.

University administrators realized that minority students were not taking journalism classes, Bolling said. And it was because they just couldnt relate. One of the core journalism classes was teaching a mainstream media approach," he said. After a student of color complained, he said, we felt that we needed to start with a lecture series that would help incorporate diversity.

According to Osama Siblani, publisher of The Arab American News in Dearborn, mainstream media report on what happens overseas, while ethnic media report on how it affects the community.

Bankole Thompson, the forum moderator and co-coordinator of the series, added that students need to be exposed to different lenses and then arrive at their own decision."

For Bolling, Americas rapidly growing diverse communities make ethnic media all the more important.

The population is changing, people of color are becoming the majority. For example, in Michigan the Latino population, while relatively young, is growing. American society is becoming different. We need to provide information on diversity, provide opportunities for people to come together in roundtables, and give opportunities to ethnic media, he said.

Tack Young Kim, publisher of the Michigan Korean Weekly agreed.

Mainstream media cant reach everyone, Kim asserted. In fact, many more people are coming to us (ethnic media) to get the message.

According to a recently released poll by New America Media, 57 million Americans get their news from ethnic media. Thats a big number, said Kim. It took 64 million votes to get Obama into the White House.

Yet government and corporate advertisers still seem to be ignoring this growing sector.

The government isnt getting their point across to ethnic communities. A small ad in an ethnic newspaper, in that communitys language, draws more attention, he explained. Its important for customers to be spoken to in their own language.

Osama Siblani, publisher of The Arab American News, shared an example to illustrate this situation.

A Wal-Mart opened in Dearborn a little over a year ago and is not advertising in The Arab American News, nor in many other ethnic community media, he said.

Many businesses are opening up in ethnic communities, he said, They dont reach out to ethnic communities or advertise and then they close.

Administrators of the University of Michigan at Dearborn hope this will be the first of many meetings with ethnic media. For their part, media representatives were pleased that they could finally engage in the conversation.

Weve made a very good step in the right direction, but we really need to have more of this to keep our communities involved, said Siblani.

Related Articles:

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