NEW YORK – With the New York primary less than two months away, journalists who write for media outlets that serve immigrant and ethnic communities in New York City are being urged to ramp up their campaign coverage. At a workshop hosted by the New York Community Media Alliance, Errol Louis, of the New York Daily News underscored the importance of ethnic media during an election year. “Election season comes and goes quickly, and local coverage by mainstream media is often sparse, making the community press coverage crucial,” he said.
Louis outlined a step-by-step guide to covering local elections that encompasses four stages of running for office: getting and staying on the ballot; lining up friends and funds; Election Day; and the aftermath. He explained that coverage should continue even after the results are in. Who for are the winners and losers besides the candidates? Which candidates will run again?
2010 is an important election year in New York. State residents will elect a new governor and attorney general. The entire state legislature is up for election, as are all the state’s congressional seats and both U.S. Senate seats from New York.
Andrew Beveridge, a professor of sociology at Queens College and the CUNY Graduate School, began by talking about the “five lies that ethnic sources will tell you,” focusing on the “over-counting” that most ethnic groups succumb to when left to tally their own numbers. Political power, according to Beveridge, is not based on numbers but on registered voters. He advised the journalists that in such a multicultural city, no minority group can afford to promote their ethnic identity over others – coalitions, he said, are the only way to go.
David Dyssegaard Kallick of the Fiscal Policy Institute framed his presentation around the idea that immigrant economic contribution, contrary to popular belief, is directly proportional to the city’s immigrant population. But Kallick said that while immigrants account for 46 per cent of the city’s workforce, their role in governing the city lags far behind.
WNYC reporter Bob Hennelly opened by asking how many in the audience of about 25 ethnic and community media journalists had read the morning’s Wall Street Journal, emphasizing that journalists must understand the global economy in order to report successfully on the local economy. “We’re at a time,” he said, “when capital can be moved with the click of a mouse,” referring to the ease with which billions can be transferred to overseas banks. The government fears the exodus of wealthy people, Hennelly explained. “Their bodies are here, but their wealth is not,” thus the taxes they pay are disproportionate low. This, he maintained, makes it difficult for governments to support longstanding social contracts like subsidized CUNY and SUNY tuition and senior services.
Susan Stamler, the Director of Policy and Advocacy at United Neighborhood Houses of New York, pointed to huge cuts to the city’s “core” that are looming under the proposed state budget. Millions of dollars are slated to be cut from childcare and after-school programs, senior centers and adult literacy programs. She drew connections between the need for reporters to understand how government works – by learning the rules, being attuned to governmental processes, and remembering that elected officials always want to get re-elected – and understanding how the “system” directly relates to ethnic and minority communities.
The workshop was part of NYCMA’s election initiative, launched in collaboration with the Amsterdam News; CUNY TV; Feet in Two Worlds; Fiscal Policy Institute; Gotham Gazette; Manhattan Neighborhood Network; People’s Production House; WNYC; and the World Journal.