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Geo-Ethnic Media: An often overlooked but critically important part of the Communication Infrastructure

Geo-Ethnic Media

Geo-ethnic media play a key role in the Communication Infrastructure of a community. By geo-ethnic media, we mean any media that are targeted toward a specific geographic area (for instance, to residents in South Los Angeles), toward a specific ethnic group (for instance, to Korean immigrants and Korean-Americans), or both (for instance, to Latino residents in East Los Angeles). Geo-ethnic media represent some of the most vibrant and important storytellers in the local community, yet they are often overlooked. An increased emphasis on connecting to geo-ethnic media can improve your organizational capacity in several ways. Geo-ethnic media can help you get your organization's story out to local residents, can help journalists write more accurate depictions about what is happening in your community, and can help your organization stay on top of what is happening in your neighborhood.

Why focus on Geo-Ethnic Media?

Many organizations make attempts to get their story into media, but oftentimes they focus on big mainstream news outlets like the Los Angeles Times. There are instances when this is a good strategy – perhaps you are trying to raise awareness of a campaign and would like to appeal to a national audience or grant-making foundations. However, if your goal is to make an impact in your local community, chances are that mainstream outlets like the Times will not be as useful to you. Focusing on geo-ethnic media outreach can be a much better way to connect to residents in the neighborhood in which you live and work. For instance, in our research in South Los Angeles, we have found that when residents look for news and information about their local community, it is geo-ethnic media – on television, the radio, or in newspapers – that is relied upon by local residents more often than mainstream sources.

Where can I find Geo-Ethnic Media?

Geo-Ethnic media can be found in a variety of places – on cable and satellite television, on the radio dial, and in printed form at countless community institutions. Libraries, convenience stores and bus stops are all places where printed geo-ethnic publications might be found, while church newsletters often serve as an important geo-ethnic media publication in a community. One might not think of a Church newsletter as an important piece of media, but depending on who you are trying to reach within your community, getting a story in one of these publications might have a greater impact than would an editorial in the LA Times!

At this point, it remains somewhat uncommon for smaller geo-ethnic media to be online, although you will see online versions of some of the larger initiatives, like La Opinion. There are a variety of other efforts that attempt to bring smaller-scale geo-ethnic storytelling to the web. In Los Angeles, LABeez.org is a “hive for hyperlocal ethnic news” that brings together several different geo-ethnic publications in one place. There are also several projects that have come out of the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, like Intersections, which focuses on South LA, and the Alhambra Source, based in the city of Alhambra.

The only way to know for sure what geo-ethnic media sources the residents you are trying to reach actually connect to is to ask them! Check out some of our research method tools for tips on ways to gather this information. Such work offers a great chance to get participatory with local residents, as they can help design a study to see which media matter most in your neighborhood and why.

Build Relationships with Geo-Ethnic Media Producers

Another drawback of larger mainstream media is that they are often hard to connect with and tend to rely on “official sources” like city employees or elected politicians as sources. One of the advantages of geo-ethnic media is that they are often more accessible, since they tend to be smaller organizations based in the community itself. Reach out to local media producers to let them know about your organization. If you build a relationship, they will be more likely to report on your events and campaigns, and just as important, draw from you as a source when they are writing a story that is in your domain of expertise.

All in all, geo-ethnic media are an important part of the Communication Infrastructure – place an emphasis on better understanding and connecting with these sources, and chances are you will be able to improve your organization's ability to reach out in the community.

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