New America Media, which empowered ethnic media, to close

The board of directors and staff of the nonprofit New America Media, and its parent organization, Pacific News Service, announced in a statement Nov. 1 that the two entities will cease operations by Nov. 30.

“Long before terms like civic engagement, youth media, collaborative reporting, and inclusive journalism were in vogue, PNS and NAM were inventing how to implement them,” noted fellow board member James Bettinger, longtime director (now emeritus) of the John S. Knight Stanford Journalism Fellowship program.

According to the statement, the concept for the ethnic media organization, which describes itself as “the country’s first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 3,000 ethnic news organizations,” was birthed 20 years ago over lunch at a restaurant in San Francisco for more than two dozen ethnic media reporters, and “was inspired by PNS’ search for more effective ways to report on an increasingly diverse America.”

The organization “decided to seek out partnerships with ethnic media outlets that would allow us to share content about and between the Bay Area’s growing racial and language groups,” NAM Executive Director Sandy Close said.

“Funded by foundation grants and contracts, the news and communications agency launched many successful projects that pushed journalism’s boundaries,” the statement said.

In addition to serving as a news organization, it also went on to “go beyond journalism to become a quasi-trade association and develop a social marketing arm. NAM organized awards and expos to bring the sector greater visibility, held press briefings with experts and elected officials, coordinated fellowship programs and professional training workshops, facilitated a news exchange, and developed public awareness campaigns that have brought over $10 million to the sector,” the statement said.

Close emphasized the importance of seeing news outlets collaborate to cover issues affecting their communities. “Black media in Arizona stood alongside Arab-American, Latino, Asian-American, and Native American media in denouncing the state law (SB 1070) that would allow police to pull people over and ask for their papers. That’s only one of many examples,” she said.

According to the statement, “launched in 1970 by noted China scholar Franz Schurmann (who was also Close’s long-time partner) and freelance journalists like Orville Schell, PNS’s mission was to challenge official government narratives about the U.S. role in Indochina.

When the war ended, PNS used the same model of tapping independent voices to cover other foreign and domestic news.”

“But it was PNS’ entry into youth communications that made us realize as journalists we could do more than report; we could actually convene people from the communities we were trying to cover,” recalled Close.

The youth media projects PNS launched or cofounded include “YO! Youth Outlook, Youth Radio, now a national leader in the youth media field; The Beat Within, a weekly publication of writing and art from workshops it led in juvenile halls; and Silicon Valley De-Bug, a zine for young people working on the tech industry’s assembly lines. The Beat Within and DeBug are also now independent enterprises,” the statement said.

“Today our challenge is to make sure NAM’s work can live on without NAM,” said Close.

Additionally, NAM will “explor(e) alternative ways to continue key projects that leverage ethnic media’s unique access to underserved audiences.”

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