Ethnic journalism is the practice of journalism by, for, and about ethnic groups. Because ethnicity is a historical and relational construction (Jackson & Garner 1998), the interplay of power and difference is central to the ways scholarly research defines ethnic media. Ethnic journalism relates to how difference is recreated and connected to the social, political, and economic participation of ethnic groups. Ethnicity is a membership formulated around a shared history, religion, cultural ancestry, geographical region, race, or language, which generates a sense of belonging among particular groups. By this definition, all news media are ethnic. What sets ethnic journalism apart as a distinct category is the involvement of ethnically differentiated groups living within a dominant culture. The literature on ethnic media and journalism maintains conceptualizations of ethnicity marked by contexts of disenfranchisement and limited access to media production.
Ethnic journalism embodies sociopolitical projects of groups that remain unaddressed in the news industry. Members of ethnic minorities seldom hold decision-making positions in the media, and content for and about ethnic minorities is marginal. News stories tend to emphasize the cultural and social traits that distinguish minority groups from mainstream culture, reinforcing constructions of these groups as different, exotic, and a problem (Wilson & Gutiérrez 1995). Ethnic journalism formulates representations of the group in ways that conform to how they see themselves, as a strategy for political advocacy and cultural preservation. Historical analyses have found that ethnic media and journalism crystallize during times of political and economic stress, to denounce discrimination and energize mobilization (Miller 1987). In some cases, ethnic media link to movements for political autonomy. Catalan and Basque news media in Spain, for instance, point to efforts for cultural reaffirmation and language preservation, but are also implicated in historical struggles for self-determination and the advance of a nationalist identity in seeking political independence (Hourigan 2003).
Ethnic news media do not always deviate from predominant journalistic values. Although in some cases they develop journalistic practices attuned to the group’s communicative traditions, ethnic media are more likely to tailor mainstream news content to their audiences. To gain credibility and legitimacy, ethnic journalists often adhere to prevailing professional standards. For example, producers and reporters for a nightly newscast serving Latino audiences in the USA reproduce standard practices and the ideology of US journalism (Rodríguez 1996). Nevertheless, they push forward a Latino-centered news agenda and configure a map of American society based on the Latino ethnic experience.
Economic support is another factor shaping ethnic journalism. Noncommercial ethnic media struggle to maintain operations with limited and intermittent resources. Scant funds translate into small editorial staffs and a dependency on external material, such as press releases and news feeds. Commercial news outlets operate through a profit-driven logic that may suppress diversity within the ethnic group to reach the largest portion of the audience. Because ethnic minorities are not unitary groups, the character of the ethnic experience to be communicated becomes a subject for negotiation. Ethnic media place the boundaries of ethnic membership under examination: who gets represented and who addressed?
Research on ethnic journalism emerged with the growth of the foreign-language press during times of increased immigration in the first half of the twentieth century (Park 1922). Given the continuous worldwide migration, the role of the diasporic press in the integration and identity formation of new migrants remains under investigation (Sampedro 1998). In a context of cultural globalization, ethnic journalism provides an opening to explore the particularistic markers that have resurfaced as a source of cultural identity and a resource for political mobilization. Studies of linguistic communities, racialized groups, and indigenous populations historically at the political and economic margins have examined the relationship between ethnic media production and public discourse (Riggins 1992). For example, indigenous media in Australia and Canada constitute an Aboriginal space, which enables conversation on common issues and experiences that do not find their way into mainstream discourse (Avison & Meadows 2000).
Aside from measuring patterns of ethnic news-media use, the social and cultural dimensions of consumption have had little study. But the institutional histories of ethnic media, which often apply political pressure to make communication policies more inclusive and to provide better access to media technologies, receive considerable attention. Researchers are shifting their focus to the levels of production and content, to understand the dynamics that shape ethnic news media and the maps they formulate of the world.
- Avison, S., & Meadows, M. (2000). Speaking and hearing: Aboriginal newspapers and the public sphere in Canada and Australia. Canadian Journal of Communication, 25(3), 347–366.
- Downing, J., & Husband, C. (2005). Research on racism, ethnicity and media. In Representing “race”: Racism, ethnicities and media. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 25 –59.
- Hourigan, N. (2003). Escaping the global village: Media, language and protest. Boulder, CO: Lexington.
- Jackson, R. L., II, & Garner, T. (1998). Tracing the evolution of “race,” “ethnicity,” and “culture” in communication studies. Howard Journal of Communications, 9, 41–55.
- Miller, S. (1987). The ethnic press in the United States: A historical analysis and handbook. New York: Greenwood.
- Park, R. E. (1922). Immigrant press and its control. New York: Harper.
- Riggins, S. H. (1992). Ethnic minority media: An international perspective. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
- Rodríguez, A. (1996). Objectivity and ethnicity in the production of the Noticiero Univisión. Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 13(1), 59 – 81.
- Sampedro, V. (1998). Grounding the displaced: Local media reception in a transnational context. Journal of International Communication, 48(2), 125 –143.
- Wilson, C., II, & Gutiérrez, F. (1995). Race, multiculturalism, and the media: From mass to class communication. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.