Later this month I will lead the New York City Council’s first public hearing on the crisis of community ethnic media: who’s thriving, who’s not, and how to better understand the media’s role in advancing the quality of life for our immigrant communities.
We are a city founded on the energy and promise of immigrants. As they have done for more than 100 years, our newest New Yorkers turn to ethnic and foreign language newspapers for help to navigate a complicated web of city services. Yes, our City needs to do more to fund more English-learning classes in our neighborhoods, but even after managing to learn English, foreign-born New Yorkers rely on news outlets in the language that most comfortably reflects their lives and experiences.
New York Magazine reported in 2014 that New York’s ethnic newspapers, with a combined circulation of 2.9 million, outstrip the combined print reach of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Daily News and the Post. Yet, the dark future of our nation’s oldest Spanish-language daily newspaper, El Diario, is a bellwether worthy of all our attention as we examine all ethnic newspapers.
Despite a growing Latino presence that now makes up nearly 20 percent of the City’s population, El Diario will employ only half a dozen journalists after the latest round of layoffs, down from a newsroom of 25 just two years ago. Not only is there some doubt as to whether El Diario will continue to exist on paper, the cuts will leave its website with less original local reporting and more generic content. If the print edition were lost, it would leave thousands of Spanish-speaking New Yorkers who lack regular access to the internet without the news they need to participate in voting and other civic matters.
These foreign-language newspapers, whether written in Urdu, Mandarin, Spanish or any other language, share a similar mission: to cover community issues in depth, and to focus on issues of concern to immigrant communities that are not addressed by the “mainstream media.” These newspapers are private companies, but they hold a particular public trust.
I believe that the future of our city and our nation rely on our shared responsibility to ensure that we continue to tell all of our stories in all of our languages. Without a doubt, the decimation of El Diario—and others in the future—represent an affront to the immigrant traditions of our City. Let’s be better, let’s be heard.