In the current evolving media landscape, particularly for print media, our local ethnic community newspapers are working to transition and strengthen their operations and outreach. For the Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino and Chinese-American newspapers, editors and publishers share how they’re adapting, making tough decisions, and leading change.

Julie PhamJulie Pham
Managing Editor
Northwest Vietnamese News

The Vietnamese comprise one of the most linguistically isolated Asian populations in Washington. Their need for Vietnamese-language news has only grown in recent years. Yet because of the recession, Northwest Vietnamese News finds it increasingly difficult to satisfy the rising need for news. Because most Vietnamese-owned small businesses have such slim profit margins, many of them have reduced or cut their advertising. Despite the increase of minority populations, corporate advertisers have also cut back their ethnic media ad buys. The same goes for government agencies and non-profits.

Although I only started working at Northwest Vietnamese News in late 2008, I soon realized my newspaper was not alone in this struggle. At the end of the day, most ethnic media outlets are small businesses and if we can’t succeed as a business, then we can’t serve our communities. That’s when I started working with New America Media to develop Sea Beez, a capacity-building program for local ethnic media with a focus on building stronger businesses.

How do we manage to serve more readers with fewer resources? We built partnerships with other local ethnic media and hyperlocal blogs, New America Media, the Seattle Times, and the University of Washington’s News Lab to get quality original stories that we can translate into Vietnamese for our readers. We bartered advertising for services and goods. We reduced the page count of our newspapers to cut back on production costs. We strengthened our online presence. We cut back staff hours. We collaborated with community organizations like Tet in Seattle to produce their festival program. We innovated different advertising opportunities to attract new clients, like a series of special bilingual theme editions. Through Sea Beez, we have also increased our advertising revenue. When I shared my advertising contacts with my colleagues, they reciprocated.

Shihou Sasaki
Editor in Chief
The North American Post

The newspaper industry was struggling before the 2008 economy downfall and North American Post is no exception. Interestingly, we had an increase in revenues and expenses after we started developing our business core while the country has been facing budget cuts.

During this economic impact, we decided to focus on better business practices. We enhanced our business with our heritage that has the strongest connection to Japan. With this knowledge, we started our own bilingual tour guide trip to Japan last year.

We took advantage of modernizing the publication from black and white to color with the cost competitive printing prices. It actually costs us about the same to print in color once we change vendors. We are also experiencing better customer service as well.

We have been fortunate to have strong non-profits and loyal vendors, advertisers and readers. Regarding fundraising for Nikkei (Japanese American) non-profit organizations, I have heard that many events have raised more than in previous years. The community may grow and strengthen and the newspaper will support these activities 100 percent. We have also reestablished relations with the universities and had an increase for internships and contributors from the community. We do not see any big change in circulation.

The struggle of the newspaper business also [meant] active engagement with other community ethnic media through SEABEEZ, coordinated by Julie Pham. This resulted in us having stronger media relations, greater public relation opportunities and a connection to larger businesses outside of the community.

So we would say that we’ve encountered some positive changes after 2008.

Gideon G. EpistolaGideon G. Epistola
Pinoy Reporter

The budget cuts especially in the last few years by both government and private sectors have severely impacted print advertising funds. As a result, there has been a significant shift towards online marketing, which has tended to be cheaper, more timely, and farther in reach.

Due to the drastic reductions in advertising revenues, many publications have merged, reduced their work force, or ceased operating.

In this new normal, newspapers especially those that are community-based, must find ways to stay relevant and afloat by reviewing their mission, modifying their strategies, and increasing revenues while managing costs. Whether for-profit or non-profit, ethnic media must run like a business in order to thrive, not just survive.

At the Pinoy Reporter, we have continued to reflect on our purpose, which is “To entertain, inform, and advocate for Filipino Americans in the Pacific Northwest.” We have to make sure that we are absolutely clear about our intention so that we are always focused on Filipino Americans, our audience.

We have also continued to extend our reach in the community by promoting events, groups, leaders, professionals, and businesses and by advocating for issues affecting Filipinos and other communities. Slowly but surely, Pinoy Reporter has been attracting more readers, more advertisers, more outlets, and more writers who are happy to donate their time and knowledge because they share our mission.

Along the way, we have built positive relationships through the steps that we have taken to give back to our community. The most prominent of such steps is the Pinoy Reporter Tagumpay Awards, now on its second year and is the annual celebration of Filipino American achievement, resilience and contribution in the Pacific Northwest. Through this premiere awards event that promotes excellence and contribution, we are seeing that the paper is getting embraced more and more by our community and beyond and, as a result, has attracted more and more supporters and advocates.

Finally, as part of our strategy, we have become actively involved with other ethnic media through SeeBeez. By participating in this amazing program, we get to meet other media practitioners, learn about new opportunities, new skills, and new strategies. In today’s economic climate, we must thrive, not just survive — with each other.

seattle-chinese-times-seattle-waThe Seattle Chinese

The budget cut we face results in a chain reaction in our society, affecting unemployment rates and individual expenditures. It eventually boils down to business owners and advertisers, whom publications rely on to deliver news to the communities.

Being a part of the ethnic media ourselves, the Seattle Chinese Times is no exception when it is striving for a stronger media presence along with the mainstream media. We have tried to cope with the current economical and social changes by exploring new market segments, while maintaining a high degree of efficiency among ourselves. We have also readily adapted to the prevalence of the Internet, launching our newspaper online and promoting the voice we stand for on social media platforms.

It is important for us to be recognized by the government and mainstream business since we cater news that serves the best interests of the ethnic groups. The budget cut will indeed largely interrupt the consistency of information delivery if the government does not acknowledge the role we play and the challenges we face.

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