New America Media was way ahead of its time when veteran journalist Sandy Close helped launch the non-profit two decades ago to provide a vehicle for ethnic media to collaborate with each other in reporting on issues that impacted their communities.
What began as New California Media over lunch at a San Francisco restaurant with about two dozen ethnic media reporters expanded nationally to advocate and support 3,000 ethnic news organizations.
Sadly, NAM’s parent organization, Pacific News Service, announced both will end operations by Nov. 30.
It will be a big loss not just for ethnic media, but for their readers and the communities which have seen a growing diversity among its citizens.
New America Media shared stories among its members; organized briefings with public leaders; provided fellowships for specialized reporting; operated newspapers (Bakersfield and Merced) where minority students could ply their journalism; held teleconferences with national experts regarding issues like health care and immigration; and, honored the best in ethnic reporting.
Its members/supporters ranged from East Indian newspapers in the Bay area to Vida en el Valle in the San Joaquín Valley. The languages represented were just as diverse.
Close, who won a MacArthur Genius Award in 1995. The following year, New California Media was born.
Close, who covered the growing U.S. involvement in Vietnam in her earlier years, made sure that ethnic media looked beyond its own communities and instead evaluate how they share the same issues, whether it was immigration, same-sex marriages or health care.
“We’ve always aspired to do more than our resources allowed. We grew too fast, and were reluctant to cut off programs after their funding expired,” Close said in a statement. “We reached a point where we were not sustainable, as currently constituted.”
The organization filled a major void that mainstream media – be it dailies, television, radio, or, in later years, the internet – either wouldn’t or couldn’t cover.
Mai Der Vang, whose ‘Afterland’ poetry collection won the 2016 Walt Whitman Award, worked for New America Media as director of the kNOw Youth Media project.
Longtime Valley journalist Eduardo Stanley also worked for NAM, reporting on the often-neglected Valley.
The NAM archives have hundreds of articles in English, Spanish, Chinese and other languages. Those reports range from why blacks march against legal immigration to aging farmworkers in the Coachella Valley to the emerging opioid crisis among Indian Americans.
The organization relied on foundation grants, and very often Close’s own pocketbook, to keep operating.
No media organization has made a bigger impact on ethnic reporting.
Sandy Close, thanks for the vision and leadership you brought to New American Media through the years.