Final California Awards

Final 'New California Media' Awards Show Spotlights Ethnic Media

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SAN JOSE, Calif.--New California Media is going national.

Just before changing its name to New America Media, the San Francisco-based group put on its seventh annual awards ceremony, celebrating the best journalism in ethnic media statewide on Thursday, Jan. 26 in San Jose.

"The award winners kept mentioning 'New America Media,'" says executive director Sandy Close, "as if the name magnified all of us in the room by putting us on the national stage."

The ceremony celebrates ethnic media of all stripes. Television, print, radio and Internet news organizations send in entries on a multitude of topics, including health care, investigative reporting, youth voices and international affairs. Many of the reports revolve around immigrants' tales of making it, or not, in their new country.

Winners told stories ranging from an underground economy of cars sold to illegal immigrants to profiles of rabbis and priests working here and abroad. The capacity crowd in the Fairmont Hotel ballroom included media, advertisers, community members and politicians, from Madison Nguyen, the newly elected San Jose City Councilmember and "highest ranking Vietnamese in the country," according to her friend and award winner Grace E. Jang, of KoreAm Journal, a Korean-American magazine, to media heads Hardy Brown, of San Bernadino's Black Voice news, and Rick Rodriguez of the Sacramento Bee. California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson led off the night with a plea to get out the vote within ethnic communities.

The presentation and organization behind it, says Rep. Mike Honda, Democratic congressman from the South Bay, recognizes people who most Americans know little about. "People like Ang Lee," he says, director of the gay cowboy love story film "Brokeback Mountain," "have not gotten enough coverage."

The role of journalists, Honda says, as "rabble rousers," is important to raise questions on topics Americans seldom consider. He points to former Army Chaplain Capt. James Yee, a speaker at the event, as one example.

Capt. Yee served the Muslim detainees in Guantanamo Bay as a chaplain. He was arrested on espionage charges and spent 76 days in solitary confinement before being cleared of all charges.

Bernard Lloyd, an advertising representative at black newspaper the Los Angeles Sentinel, says he read Yee's story a major newspaper and thought, "This guy is going to spend the rest of his life in jail." He read another, he says, and thought, "This guy is definitely going to spend the rest of his life in jail." Only after picking up the Japanese-American paper Rafu Shimpo, Lloyd says, did he read an account of the story less "cut and dry."

Yee was eventually honored with an Army medal when he left the military.

Sandy Close made a "great idea" happen, Lloyd says, by organizing the ethnic media. He compared NCM with the more established New York Press Club, saying the California upstart needs to earn its way into national recognition. Close's outfit represents publications "never recognized outside their own communities," he says.

The name change pleases him, says public relations consultant Lee Callaway, husband of honoree Tami Adachi, a former employee of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. "More people need to be aware of how nice it is to work with ethnic media," Adachi said. She knew Close 10 years ago, when NCM started, and pegs PG&E as a founding advertiser with the group.

The nonprofit New America Media, a project of Pacific News Service, plans an awards show in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14.