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Mainstream & Ethnic Media Should Partner to Deliver News

Seattle Times, Commentary, Julie Pham Posted: May 27, 2009

More than 100,000 foreign-born people live in Seattle, which is approximately one-sixth of the city's population. It's a significant number that does not include their children, many of whom grow up speaking a language other than English at home.

Like everyone else, these newcomers access news to better understand society.

From my experience with managing Northwest Vietnamese News, I know how immigrants rely on newspapers in their own language for information. When my parents founded NVN in 1986, we were the first private Vietnamese-language newspaper in the region. Since then, five other Vietnamese-language newspapers have opened to serve the approximately 70,000 Vietnamese living in Washington.

It is more important than ever for newspapers to foster intercultural understanding among different communities in an increasingly multiethnic society.

But how do we do that when the newspaper industry is struggling?

Although NVN's constituency continues to grow, I still share the same concerns as major mainstream newspapers: How much longer do we have until readers and advertisers no longer find us relevant?

News organizations should do something rather than mourn the decline of our industry. In order to maximize our resources and maintain our relevancy, mainstream newspapers and local ethnic media outlets should form strategic partnerships to better serve and increase our respective readerships.

Ethnic newspapers do not have salaried reporters producing regularly updated news like their mainstream media counterparts. But they have a lot to offer in their legwork and their analysis of ethnic communities.

One kind of arrangement could entail ethnic-media reporters providing English translations of their news stories. These articles could be adapted and edited by the staff at mainstream newspapers. Journalists from the ethnic press would benefit from working with professionally trained copy editors, editors and reporters. The benefits would also extend to mainstream readers because of the cultural perspectives that might otherwise be unavailable to them.

A news cooperative could be established so that ethnic-media outlets could access and translate fresh news coverage provided by local mainstream newspapers. Those Washingtonians who cannot yet read English fluently would then be able to find out what's happening at the city, county and state level. Reading local news in their own language would make them more-informed voters. Mainstream newspapers would increase their readership base and relevancy across language boundaries.

Collaborations are nothing new to the ethnic press. To maximize our limited resources, NVN works regularly with Northwest Asian Weekly, an English-language newspaper that serves the pan-Asian community in Washington. We translate relevant NAW stories into Vietnamese.

A recent example was a story about how Seattle's Styrofoam ban affects Asian delis and fast-food restaurants. We also provide NAW with photographs and English versions of articles about the local Vietnamese community. More newspapers could experiment with forming such partnerships.

News providers all share the belief that local news is vital to community life. Let's work together to provide it.

Julie Pham is the managing editor of the Nguoi Viet Tay Bac/Northwest Vietnamese News. Contact her via e-mail at news@nvnorthwest.com

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