HomeChinese AmericanNewspaper Seeks to Beef Up Coverage of Asian American Communities

Newspaper Seeks to Beef Up Coverage of Asian American Communities

AAJA Workshop

Views from the Edge

Like many businesses, newspapers are having difficulty keeping up with shifting demographics of the U.S. As the U.S. population becomes more diverse, the Census predicts that mid-century, the White population would no longer be the majority. People of color, energized by immigration, will be over 50% of the U.S.

Newsrooms tend to be overwhelmingly White. More than three-quarters (77%) of newsroom employees – those who work as reporters, editors, photographers and videographers in the newspaper, broadcasting and internet publishing industries – are non-Hispanic Whites, according to the analysis of 2012-2016 American Community Survey data.

That’s whiter than among the general population where 65% of U.S. workers in all occupations and industries combined, according to the Pew Research Center.

Newsroom employees are also more likely than workers overall to be male. About six-in-ten newsroom employees (61%) are men, compared with 53% of all workers. When combining race/ethnicity and gender, almost half (48%) of newsroom employees are non-Hispanic White men compared with about a third (34%) of workers overall.

The Sacramento Bee on Thursday reported that it was one of 50 newsrooms awarded a grant from an national service program called Report for America. The grant will help pay for a full-time reporter in our newsroom to cover Californians of Asian descent.

Close to 20 percent of Sacramento’s population and 16 percent of all Californians are of Asian descent.

The reporting will be shared with all five of McClatchy’s California publications.

A reporter on this new beat will offer an understanding of, and exposure to the political, cultural, societal and economic challenges that affect Chinese, Cambodian, Indian, Hmong and Japanese communities, as well as the contributions each group makes.

How do cultural expectations shape the emerging #MeToo movement and its impact on Asian American families? How do local laws and ordinances affect immigrant business owners? 

As a host newsroom, The Bee will welcome one of RFA’s 2019 corps reporters to join the publication starting in June. The 2018 corps class had 13 reporters; this year’s corps has 60.

The job description reads:

The Asian diaspora in Sacramento is complicated, vast and underrepresented in The Sacramento Bee’s coverage. The Report for America corps member will cover Asian-American issues in Sacramento, including the city’s Hmong, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Cambodian and Japanese communities, among the many others. Stories will include larger California issues such as how the DACA debate affects Cambodians brought to Sacramento as young children to escape the Khmer Rouge, and the largely unreported deportations currently occurring in the Vietnamese community. The reporter will explore topics such as how cultural expectations affect the #metoo movement, domestic violence and educational outcomes for girls. The beat will also explore how Asians who have been economically successful are reshaping California politics and our understanding of how we are increasingly part of the Pacific Rim. This reporter will work on a high-impact team and be mentored by a senior reporter.

Whew! That’s a lot to put on one person. As a former member of the profession, it seems to me that coverage of the AAPI communities — including cultural sensitivity and historical context — should be spread throughout the newsroom.
But, small steps … I guess. We’re supposed to be grateful that the newspaper recognized the news gathering shortcoming and that they are seeking to address it.

“We’re thrilled to be among the news organizations included in this program, and we look forward to deepen our relationships with communities across California,” said Sacramento Bee and West Region Editor Lauren Gustus.

RFA assignments last a full year, with the option to renew for a second year. Candidates will be interviewed by The Bee in March before coming aboard in June.

RFA is an initiative started in 2017 as part of The GroundTruth Project, a nonprofit. In addition to recruiting journalists, RFA provides them with development opportunities via training and mentoring before and during their assignments in local newsrooms.

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