As a news junkie, lately I’ve been getting pretty sick of hearing the media report on itself. I think most people are aware by now that many major newspapers are going the way of Morse code and mimeograph machines, due largely to our amazing economy and teh internets. This is a tragedy of epic proportions, according to both major news outlets and various and sundry grandmas. But while there are some concerned citizens, it seems to me that the people who are most upset about this development are the ones who are reporting on it.
Then yesterday, I heard this interview with Alberto Vourvoulias on NPR’s On The Media. He was pretty pissed.
Alberto Vourvoulias is the editor of El Diario La Prensa, a New York based Spanish language newspaper that has well over a half million readers per week and is growing by the day, despite the economy. Here are some of the highlights from the interview:
…Most English language newspapers have tried to reach out to a very broad suburban middle-class audience, and as a result of that, working-class Americans have been left out of the coverage equation.
…We find that we cover issues and neighborhoods where there is really no presence from the English language press. There are large pockets of our society that are simply not covered, and they feel it. They know it. And you can see the absence, their absence from the pages, if you look at the major newspapers.
If you look at every major American city, what you have is thriving ethnic media, whether it’s newspapers or radio, and sometimes television, and it’s media that completely exists under the radar.
And it’s ironic that one of the barriers, the limitations to imagination in terms of newspapers, is that if it doesn’t happen in English, to them it seems like it doesn’t exist, which is sad because I think, you know, ethnic media is doing a lot of very interesting things. (Emphasis mine.)
ETA: I also would add to Vourvoulais’s point by saying that the barrier between English language media and ethnic media in the United States is not always the result of a language barrier or even a cultural or class barrier—it can also be the result of simple, blind ignorance and prejudice. Take the example of Al-Jazeera English: secular media that does world news coverage, broadcast in English, from a country that is an ally of the U.S. that still has yet to be carried by any satellite or cable companies, because we don’t want to hear what those terrorists have to say. Right. Meanwhile, we are depriving ourselves from a critical point of view. For example, Al-Jazeera was the only network with reporters allowed in Gaza during the past months’ conflict, so by excluding their coverage from our media, we are essentially censoring ourselves from information that could be critical to the U.S.’s role in the peace process there.
It’s no secret that minority viewpoints are often left out of mainstream media and politics (just look at the last presidential campaign and how often the candidates or the media mentioned the poor—you’d think the middle-class is the only class there is), but I guess this story really got to me because of the pity-party the large media corporations have been throwing themselves of late. The irony is that if the major newspapers hadn’t been guilty of classism or ethnocentrism in the first place, their readership might not be plummeting and some good, well-intentioned journalists would not be losing their jobs.
Don’t be fooled! Newspapers aren’t disappearing, it’s just that the ones that will be left are invisible…
…Unless, of course, your eyes are open.