A Close Look at the Role of Local Non-English Media

What role to non-English language newspapers, such as Toronto’s Ming Pao, play in local communities?The Northwest is home to only a few non-English-language newspapers. National media studies say ethnically centered publications are growing in importance. For instance, Spanish-language media in Oregon and Washington deliver key audiences to advertisers.

What do we know in general about non-English media?

A recent study of a Toronto, Ontario-based foreign language publication analyzes the news content and role in the community of one major newspaper, Ming Pao, Toronto’s second-largest Chinese newspaper. The study was released just before Thanksgiving in 2011 by Ryerson University’s School of Journalism.

The study’s authors were curious what role the newspaper had in introducing readers to life in Toronto, a culturally diverse urban center. They examined the amount of local news coverage in Ming Pao, which is published seven days a week and has a daily readership of more than 50,000. Study findings show that:

• The amount of local reporting is dwarfed by news from China; and

Ming Pao tends to be dominated by local crime news.

"…It [crime news] squeezes out other stories — about local politics, for instance — that are important in terms of informing people so they understand how the local political system works, why they should care and how they can become involved,” said Professor April Lindgren in an article posted on the university’s website.

“Media has a big role to play in creating a sense of place for readers – how people feel about a place, how they understand it and what goes on there,” said Lindgren. “When people come to Canada they have a sense of what their home country is like but they don’t really know what they are getting into in their adopted city.”   

“Reading a newspaper doesn’t tell you what to think, but it plays a role in suggesting what readers think about,” added Lindgren.

Lindgren is considering a possible role for the journalism school to play in helping ethnically centered newspapers.

“In reflecting on this research,” Lindgren says in the web story,  “there are some simple, cost-effective ways to achieve a better balance in news coverage. A great first step would be to feature more general Toronto area news on the front page.”

Lindgren said she is interested in exploring possibilities for the School of Journalism to work more closely with ethnic media outlets such as Ming Pao to better understand the constraints they face when it comes to reporting on local news. She also is expanding her study to examine the local news content of Toronto-area Punjabi, Korean and Russian-language newspapers.

Academic aid for non-English media is an intriguing idea. Sounds like a challenge for the University of Oregon to consider.