2017 was an up and down year for news. Multicultural media also felt every bit of it.

A look back at multicultural media in 2017

2017 was a tumultuous year that kept journalists and their readers struggling to stay on top of everything.

“Fake news” and the exceptionally contentious relationship between the president and the media set the tone. Add to that multiple natural disasters and exposure of sexual misconduct by notable entertainment, political, and media figures, and you get a larger — and heavier — picture of the news scope.

The multicultural media also saw its share of triumphs and setbacks. Here are some of the top stories that affected multicultural news media this year.

Big Events

2017 was a year of natural disasters with three major hurricanes hitting the U.S.

The aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico particularly reverberated throughout the media landscape.

FiveThirtyEight data analysis showed that coverage of Hurricane Maria lagged far behind that of Harvey and Irma, perhaps underscoring even more firmly the importance of diverse voices in media.

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists decried the disparity.

Of course, the fallout from the hurricanes and widespread power loss on the island didn’t spare newsrooms either. Two of Puerto Rico’s top papers, El Nuevo Día and Primera Hora, laid off 59 employees because of the hurricanes.

Yet, even in the devastation and turmoil, journalists persevered to get the story out.

The first year of the Trump presidency also saw an increased focus on immigration policy and deportation. Hispanic press further proved its value to the communities it serves with in-depth reporting on the lives of the people affected by the policy and enforcement changes.

Expansion

Several 2017 launches gave us a preview of what the future may hold for the multicultural media.

Blavity, a BuzzFeed-style news site for African-American millennials, continued to grow with the launch of beauty site 21Ninety and the acquisition of entertainment and travel sites.

Time Inc. announced just last month that it’s launching a new portal, Time Inc. Latino, to reach Hispanic audiences.

In February, HBCU Florida A&M University and former Congressman J.C. Watts announced Black Television News Channel, a 24-hour African-American-oriented cable news channel, and a deal with Charter Communications to put the network on in multiple top African American markets. It is expected to hit air waves in Feb. 2018.

And Latina star Zoe Saldana launched her own digital media company, BeSe, to focus on Latino storytelling and empowerment.

Contraction

Earlier this year, it was widely reported that Time Inc. was looking to sell once Black-owned women’s magazine Essence. But even bigger news at year end was the sale of Time Inc. itself to Meredith Corp. in a deal backed by the Koch brothers.

According to The Root, Essence, which is also the sponsor of the Essence Festival, “the largest magazine-sponsored festival in the world,” will not be a part of the deal.

Meanwhile, another African-American-focused magazine powerhouse, Ebony, struggled in 2017. #EbonyOwes started popping up on Twitter from journalists purporting to not have been paid for their work.

Indian Country Today, a Native-American news site owned by the Oneida Nation, announced in September that it was taking a “hiatus to explore [a] new business model,” potentially silencing a unique voice for thoughtful Native-American news and issues reporting. For now, the site remains up with sporadic updates to the content.

This year also saw Hoy, one of the top Spanish-language newspapers in Chicago, cut to weekly distribution. It appears owner, tronc, plans to focus more on its online presence.

Diversity in Newsrooms

The annual American Society of News Editors (ASNE) survey of newsroom diversity showed the number of minority journalists held steady from the previous year, accounting for 16.6 percent of the workforce.

Online news sites were above the overall average at 24.3 percent, a slight increase over the previous year.

Women also saw a small uptick from the previous year at 39.1 percent overall and 47.8 percent for online publications.

There also were increases in newsroom leadership with the study reporting “13.4 percent were minorities (compared to 13 percent in 2016), and 38.9 percent were women (compared to 37.1 percent in 2016).”

However, students at the Asian American Journalists Association’s AAJA Voice program investigated how current progress on diversity stands up to the ASNE’s 1978 pledge to bring newsroom demographics in line with those of the communities they serve.

ASNE Google NewsLab Diversity in Newsrooms

They found The Wall Street Journal (21 percent minority), The New York Times (22 percent), Los Angeles Times (34 percent), and The Washington Post (31 percent) all fell behind their respective communities of New York-Newark-Jersey City (53 percent minority), the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim metro area (45 percent Hispanic, 7 percent black, and 16 percent Asian American), and the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metropolitan area (54 percent minority).

All are off track to meet the ASNE’s self-imposed 2025 deadline.

The report noted that even at organizations with far above average diversity, matching their communities still is a challenge. Take Miami Herald, where 41 percent of the newsroom is from a minority group. To match the Miami community, it would have to jump to 68 percent representation.

While the ASNE survey reveals that online news sites have slightly more diverse newsrooms, and African-American-focused national sites of all varieties are thriving, the legacy black press has been reluctant to make the jump to the internet, leaving a void in African-American-oriented local news content.

On the Horizon 

What will 2018 bring?

How will recent F.C.C. rules changes on consolidation and net neutrality affect the multicultural media?

The National Hispanic Media Coalition already is raising the alarm about both.

Undoubtedly, 2018 will challenge American society with many more complex issues, but with diverse voices to guide us through the many sides and stories, we will continue to live up to our ideals as a diverse and inclusive society.

The multicultural market will continue to play a huge role next year. Stay up to date on trends and news by opting into one of our multicultural media lists. Journalists and bloggers can email our multicultural audience director at Jessica.Alas@cision.com for more information. Or, follow us on Twitter @PRNMltCult.


Nicole Howard is an associate product manager at Cision, as well as an editor and freelance writer. When not working or reading, she enjoys word puzzles and the outdoors.

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