Cali Today Brings Vietnamese Media into the Communication Age
NCM, Julie Johnson Posted: Mar 29, 2004
A radio show, website and three publications make Cali Today accessible to an audience that is larger and more diverse than ever before.
These days, Nam Nguyen sees a different market from the readership he knew nearly seven years ago when he started Cali Today. The daily Vietnamese-language paper based in Silicon Valley is now on newsstands in every major metropolitan area in Northern California, and its content attracts readers worldwide.
Nguyen recently received a call from a Vietnamese refugee waiting on Christmas Island for judgment on his family’s immigration status from the Australian government. The man asked Nguyen to write a story about his family in the hopes that the coverage might help their case. When Nguyen asked him why he called Cali Today, he said he read the paper everyday online.
In 1997, Nguyen left Viet Magazine to start the daily newspaper. A business major at San Jose State, he has an eye for media market strategy and saw an untapped news market for Vietnamese speakers.
Nguyen and three others put Cali Today together, each person sharing the hats of editorial director, business and marketing managers. The paper mainly featured translations of U.S. news and community goings on.
Now Cali Today is much more than a translation service.
Nguyen says Vietnamese in the United States today are tuning in more to their own community leaders, politics and culture. Ten years ago, he says, when young Vietnamese immigrants became American citizens, many changed their names to sound more American. Today many immigrants choose to keep their Vietnamese names.
“Now you see Vietnamese and a name like Nguyen, and while you had to spell it 10 years ago, you don’t have to spell it out anymore,” says Nguyen.
The Cali Today website draws readers from the Silicon Valley to the Soviet Union. The online version of the paper features profiles of community members, like the story of Leyna Nguyen, the KCAL and KCBS news anchor, and the experience of three Vietnamese soldiers in Iraq. Many of these articles have prompted responses from readers. Nguyen says stories about community leaders and culture, both traditional and contemporary, are what his readers are looking for.
The San Jose-based newspaper has also expanded to include the Cali Today radio show on 1430 AM, the biweekly Dan Viet in Stockton, and most recently the Bay Area’s weekly Viet Cali.
Some may see Cali Today as spreading thin, but Nguyen says that these days every niche market needs its own publication.
“When a Vietnamese doctor wakes up Monday morning and rushes to the office, how can they get the news?”
Cali Today radio provides news in Vietnamese, and in-depth coverage of topics of concern to a diverse community. One recent discussion between a retiring engineer, an insurance broker, and community activists focused on what will happen if Medicare goes broke by the year 2019.
Nguyen is expanding Cali Today to reflect the changing market. An English-language youth section and a Vietnamese-language news section don’t belong in the same publication, he says.
“The mixed market doesn’t work. They should have their own editorial staff and their own writers,” says Nguyen. “It’s a different market for different readers.”
Cali Today has plans for an upcoming separate English-only publication for young audiences.
Look for Cali Today’s story on the refugee family waiting on Christmas Island at www.calitoday.com.
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