Biswas sheds light on challenges and opportunities of ethnic media

On Tuesday, Nov. 27, Professor Masudul Biswas of the Shippensburg University Communication/Journalism Department. delivered his thoughts on ethnic media in 21st-century America in the CUB’s Orndorff Theatre.

The focus of the presentation was on the “challenges and opportunities of online ethnic media,” and was sponsored by SU’s Ethnic Studies Program.

Biswas spoke about where ethnic media has come from, where it currently is and where he predicts it may be going, based on in-depth research he has done.

Using several current examples of online ethnic media outlets such as “The Grio” and “Univision,” Biswas discussed the definition of ethnic media, while at the same time acknowledging that it is often unclear.

“Is it an alternative media or a transnational media?” Biswas asked the audience.

“If we suggest it is an alternative media, then we are saying it is an alternative to the mainstream media. But if it is a transnational media, then it reaches into many countries. It is allowed to go across the borders,” he said.

According to Biswas, New American Media reported that there are 2,500 ethnic media outlets as of 2011.

“The reason, historically, is due to an absence of diverse perspective in the mainstream media…[It is] also an attempt to fight the stereotypes facing [ethnic] groups,” he said.

Biswas said there are three broad functions of ethnic news — political, social and cultural — though he said that “not all ethnic media act in the same way.”

He mentioned that what they almost all have in common is a form of a “journalistic storytelling approach” that fits ethnic news stories.

“The inverted pyramid limits the possibility to tell in-depth stories about the backgrounds of ethnic groups,” he said.

Biswas said he feels those backgrounds are often lost within American culture, creating ignorance among white readers and viewers of mainstream media. According to Biswas, however, more than half of Americans will be non-white by 2045.

Most of the opportunities available in ethnic media are on the Internet, according to Biswas.

He showed this through several cases of cross-platform partnerships, such as “Univision” and its 2010 decision to release a full newspaper on the web.

Another major opportunity, Biswas said, is “the development of partnership…between mainstream and ethnic newspapers based on content sharing. Mainstream media will begin to feel competition from ethnic media.”

The largest challenge for ethnic media, according to Biswas, is that it does not “play a proactive role on any policy issues, and it is still in the ‘political potential’ stage rather than being a real ‘political factor.’”

Some other challenges ethnic media faces is its large traditional, non-web audience, limited access to broadband, limited finances and resources, and a lack of recognition from established news sources, Biswas said.

Hs recommends that ethnic media outlets “advance an active political and community policy agenda; target audiences using specific content interests; make use of the packaging of news, entertainment, interactivity, content sharing, and community activities; and update web and social media content regularly to keep the flow of visitors high.”

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