Ethnic media exploded with growth over the last 40 years, paralleling an unprecedented influx of immigrants from all over the world. By 2009, an estimated 60 million American adults relied on some form of ethnic media — print, online, TV, radio — for news, information and entertainment. In California, over half the state’s new majority of ethnic minorities named an ethnic news source they referenced regularly or occasionally.
Today, like general market media, the ethnic media sector is buffeted by the challenges of the digital era — from the collapse of the advertising model to the explosion of social media. Their survival depends on diverse audiences having somewhere to turn for trusted news, for visibility, for a voice.
Ethnic media will evolve as the communities they serve evolve. Knight Ridder began as a German newspaper and turned into a corporate media giant. In Nashville, the largest Kurdish population outside Kurdistan communicates through WhatsApp on the imam’s iPhone. In Richmond, California, a black news outlet is now bilingual, in Spanish and English, and targets not just one ethnic group but the entire city.
Mainstream media have imagined ethnic media as insular and parochial. What if it’s the other way around? As climate change results in global migration tripling over the next 30 years, the media-serving diaspora populations could become the new mainstream.