Campus: San Francisco State University -- December 5, 2003
SFSU Survey Finds Ethnic Media Propel Immigrants
Into America's Public Life
SFSU survey finds ethnic media help build sense of
community with all Americans
Ethnic news media propel immigrants and ethnic groups into the mainstream
political process and public life, according to results released in
a San Francisco State University media survey.
The report, "News Ghettos, Threats to Democracy, and Other Myths
about Ethnic Media: Lessons from the Bay Area News Media Survey,"
finds that media targeted to Latino, Chinese and African-American populations
contribute to a sense of community within these groups and a strengthened
sense of community with all Americans. Instead of isolating their audiences,
ethnic media contribute to the political assimilation and political
incorporation of their readers, viewers and listeners.
"Ethnic media help immigrants realize that when they are threatened
with discrimination or violence they have to do what other Americans
do to defend themselves," said Rufus Browning, director of the
study and a political science professor at SFSU. "Ethnic media
lead people to speak out, to protest, to organize, to enter into American
political life so that their rights as Americans are not trampled on."
Prepared by SFSU's Public Research Institute (PRI) with funding from
the Ford Foundation, the survey measured the use of ethnic and general-market
media by 1,662 adults of Chinese, Hispanic, African and European origins
who live in the Bay Area counties of Contra Costa, Solano, San Francisco,
Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin and Alameda. Interviews were conducted
by phone last year in Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin and English.
Overall, 80 percent of people of Chinese, Latino and African heritage
use at least one ethnic media source regularly for news. They see their
media as standing up for the rights of their communities and rely on
them for news that is likely to be missing from the "mainstream,"
or general, news media.
People of color who believe their portrayal in general media is discriminatory
tend to mistrust that media and are more likely to use ethnic media.
For news about their native country, immigrants trust ethnic media much
more than general media.
The report uses the case of Wen Ho Lee, accused by the U.S. government
of giving nuclear weapons secrets to China in 1991, as an example of
how coverage by the Chinese-language media led to widespread protest
and mobilization among Chinese Americans and ultimately led to his release
Total Bay Area ethnic media use by African Americans, Chinese and Latino
adults is projected to double over a period of 30 years -- from slightly
more than one million people in 1990 to 1.4 million in 2000 and more
than two million in 2020. Across all media combined, the Latino market
is the most numerous and the fastest growing because of Hispanic population
According to the report, the sole reliance on ethnic media for news
is a temporary condition for new immigrants who begin to adopt general
news media as they gain knowledge of English. Yet even after immigrants
use general media for news, almost all continue to use ethnic media.
"Immigrants who have some knowledge of English like to use both
media for two reasons: coverage and perspective," Browning said.
"Ethnic media cover news about their native countries and their
communities in the U.S. that is not covered in the general media, and
they find that American media have a strange slant on their native countries.
They want the perspective of someone who's lived there - just as we
might find the perspective of, say, a French journalist on American
politics interesting but not the only perspective we want to read."
Founded in 1984, the Public Research Institute (PRI) provides policy
research, data collection, analysis, and consultation to San Francisco
State University and to government agencies, non-profit organizations,
community groups and businesses in the Bay Area and California.
For a copy of the full report visit: http://pri.sfsu.edu/ethnicmedia.html.
Media Contact: Susan Arthur, Public Affairs, 415-338-6747, firstname.lastname@example.org