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Newsmaker Briefing on Ethnic Media as First-Line Responders

Awards Blog, Tom Turpel, editor of Sprawl Magazine with New America Media Posted: Nov 16, 2006

On Tuesday, November 14, New America Media hosted a news briefing on Ethnic Media As First-Line Responders in Washington D.C., just a few hours before the first National Ethnic Media Awards were held in the nations capital. First-Line Responders Photo Gallery

The moderator was Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of The Washington Informer. She said that in this day and age, though we might be looking at first-line responders as those who were in the midst of chaos, in covering Hurricane Katrina last year, there were many places and many issues when the ethnic press came to the front lines to cover what mattered most to their communities.

Opening remarks were made by Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, who stressed that the government must recognize the critical role of the ethnic media in informing their communities about emergency information. He stressed that new government rules which bar agencies from communicating with ethnic communities have to be changed, so that Katrina never happens again.

Terry Jones, publisher of Data News Weekly and Vu Thanh Thuy, Vice-President and CEO of Radio Saigon-Houston, knew exactly how difficult that reporting was. Both had first hand experience covering the most tragic natural disaster in the last 15 years, Hurricane Katrina. Jones, whose newspaper is based and published in New Orleans talked about what it took to continue his publication during that crisis: to get out the necessary information on survival to those who needed it most, his fellow neighbors and community members. Thuy described how useless the mainstream media was for many in the Vietnamese community. Radio broadcasts in Vietnamese proved crucial in assisting their mass exodus from New Orleans to Houston.

Pilar Marrero, political columnist for La Opinion, and also a New America Media award winner, talked about being a first-line responder in one of the largest political movements to hit California since the sixties, the protests against immigration reform. Marrero showed many of the photos taken by La Opinion on March 25, when Latinos from all over southern California surrounded City Hall, to show there support against House Bill HR-4477, which would make being an illegal immigrant a felony. Marrero compared these photos those taken by La Opinion during the East L.A. public school walkouts nearly forty years ago, when Latino students demanding more resources for a better education walked out in protest. Although those pictures were black and white and the kids wore different fashions, she pointed out that the expressions on the faces and the actions of many in this community, were all too similar.

Greg Macabenta, publisher of Filipinas Magazine, concluded the briefing talking about the impact and effect his publication has made on the Pinoy population which turns to his magazine for information. From lashing out on failures to elect a Filipino-American to public office, to showcasing podcasts specifically dedicated to Pinoy listeners, Macabenta displayed what being a first-line responder means: being there for your community first and foremost, and not letting the mainstream media filter out their priorities.

Control your own content! Macabenta exclaimed, That is the only way you can be a first-responder for your people.

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