SEATTLE — Over 80 people, including 30 ethnic media representatives, government agencies, non-profit organizations, private companies, and minority journalists from mainstream community news outlets met May 26 at the Seattle Times auditorium for the launch of Seabeez.

Keynote speaker Sandy Close, executive director of New America Media, described the event as “historic.”

“There’s a real understanding among the media here… that there’s such a rich potential to inform our communities about each other,” Close said. “Once you expand the lens, you expand the audience; once you expand the audience, you have greater resources for advertising. We found that to be the case in California, and I think Sea Beez is going to lead the way for ethnic media up here.”

Sea Beez is a pioneering progam seeking to empower ethnic news organizations through capacity-building, with an emphasis on business development.

Dr. Julie Pham, founder and director for the Sea Beez program, described capacity building as “equipping individuals with the understanding, skills and access to information, knowledge and training to perform more effectively and efficiently.”

“As ethnic media organizations gain the tools to develop their businesses, and we begin to work together to build our industry, they become better equipped to amplify the voices of the ethnic communities they serve; to expand their audiences beyond their conventional ethnic boundaries; and to foster intercultural communication,” Pham said.

Sea Beez is also the name of the content-sharing news website for local ethnic media in Seattle. The website is in development and will be launched this fall. It is the fifth in a series of “Beez”-hyperlocal, multimedia, ethnic media websites sponsored by New America Media. The other sites include Los Angeles, New Orleans, the Bay Area and Phoenix.

Garry Owens of the City of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods, the principal sponsor of Sea Beez, said the program represents the three elements in the vision of the Neighborhood Matching Fund: capacity building, empowerment, and “the whole process of helping people tell their stories.”

Pham said that the idea to start a business-focused capacity-building program for ethnic media stemmed from her own experience as managing editor of her family-owned Northwest Vietnamese News.

“I realized that at the end of the day ethnic media outlets are small businesses,” said Pham, “and we need to strengthen our businesses in order to better serve our readers and our communities.”

Pham is the ethnic media monitor in the Northwest for New America Media, which also sponsors the Sea Beez program.

The Sea Beez program leverages relationships with community partners in the public, private and community sectors to create opportunities for mutual learning and networking among and between those partners and ethnic media.

Community partners include Chen Communications, the Business and Economic Development Center, Seattle Public Library, Comcast Spotlight, the U.S. Census, University of Washington’s Communication Department, and Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.

Numerous ethnic media representatives expressed excitement for the new program.

“We think this program can give us another perspective on our work and on our business,” said Olga Kazakova, a reporter with the Russian World newspaper. “To unite with other media…would be great because after all, it’s about [serving] our readers.”

King Li, a reporter with the Seattle Chinese Times, said, “I think it’s about time ethnic media start talking to each other, sharing our news, our stories, and our experiences. I hope we form a strong coalition to help each other out to form a greater international community.”

Kazakova and Li, along with other media representatives from such communities as Russian, Somali, Ethiopian, the Yakama, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Filipino, Japanese, Hispanic, and African American attended the event. Also in attendance were members of the Asian American Journalists Association, the Seattle Association of Black Journalists, and the Native American Journalists Association.

“This event has been energizing, with all the different ethnic groups represented, coming from all over the place,” said Teresa Jones, an account representative with Univision. “People have a perception that Seattle is just a few groups, but there were so many groups represented tonight.”

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