NAM Honors 'Ethnic Media Champions' at 2017 Awards Celebration

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Above: Co-emcees Odette Alcazaren-Keeley of New America Media and Maynard Inst. for Journalism Education Co-Executive Dir. Martin Reynolds. Photos by Tudor Stanley. Video by Eming Piansay

SAN FRANCISCO – More than 200 people turned out Tuesday for the 2017 NAM California Ethnic Media Awards in downtown San Francisco.

The event was a celebration of California’s ethnic media sector, the “bridge,” said NAM Executive Director Sandy Close, “that connects the diverse communities of the state to the wider civic realm and to each other.”

Emceeing the night’s ceremonies were Odette Alcazaren-Keeley of New America Media and Martin Reynolds, co-executive director of the Maynard institute for Journalism Education.

The event also marked 10 years since the death of journalist Chauncey Bailey, one of the founding members of NAM who was gunned down while reporting on a corrupt enterprise in Oakland. Quoting Bailey, Reynolds noted, “Ethnic media are like fingers on a hand. Together, we are a fist.”

The evening’s ceremonies began with a brief tribute to the founding members of New California Media, which later became NAM. Some 20 years ago, the group – publishers, editors, and reporters representing a broad spectrum of the ethnic media sector – gathered for a meal in San Francisco’s Chinatown, where the idea for an Associated Press-style network of ethnic media was born.

“Tonight we celebrate your bold vision in seeing the power of ethnic media,” said Alcazaren-Keeley.

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The original founders of what was then New California Media were honored on stage. 

Judges selected 12 winners in 11 categories, including Politics and the 2016 Election, Health Care, Immigration, Education, Sports, Youth Voice and Cross Cultural Reporting. Awardees were chosen from a pool of 140 entries in four languages across California.

Four awards were also given to recognize ethnic media champions across the state who have demonstrated a commitment to their communities.

One of them was Dong Kim, publisher and editor of the Korean-language weekly newspaper Hyundae News, who told the audience that after 35 years working in Korean media here, he continues to report, publish and “even deliver” his weekly paper to readers around the Bay Area. “I couldn’t stop now, even if I wanted to,” he said.

There are hundreds of ethnic media outlets across the state, serving communities both large and small. Whether they are large broadcasters, daily broadsheets or weekly and monthly magazines, hundreds of thousands of California residents regularly turn to ethnic media for news and information.

Winning stories reflected the issues, concerns and events that shaped 2016 as seen through the eyes of the ethnic press; from the 2016 elections to the migration crisis, labor conditions for young people, housing in the Bay Area and an aspiring Shaolin martial artist.

The evening’s first award for Outstanding Coverage of Voter Engagement went to BA (Balitang America) for their broadcast on The FilAm Vote and Election Day. Judges praised the breadth and depth of reporting, noting BA’s team took “the most divisive and unpredictable” election in recent memory “by the horns.”

Troy Espera is the executive director for BA, which this month marks 15 years on the air covering the Filipino American community across North America.

“To be in the company of these amazing news organizations is such an honor,” he said. “It’s tireless work, we love our jobs and it feels great to be recognized for the efforts we made.”

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The team at BA (Balitang America) accepting their award for Outstanding Coverage of Voter Engagement. 

In the category Outstanding Coverage of Politics, the award went to the team at KDTV Univision 14 for their piece, En Espera de la Muerte (Waiting for Death).

“Brave and daring,” and “a coup” is how judges described Univision’s reporting, which took viewers inside San Quentin’s notorious death row on the eve of Election Day when California voters were asked to weigh in on two bills dealing with capital punishment.

“Rarely,” noted acclaimed author and awards judge Richard Rodriguez, “has the news camera and a reporter dared to come so close … to the men, condemned for their crimes, who now live hidden from us, waiting for death.”

Ethnic Media Champion Regina Brown Wilson, chair and executive director of California Black Media, roused the audience when she spoke of her work advocating in Sacramento for a more equitable distribution of marketing dollars for ethnic media. “I go to Sacramento, and I ask them, ‘Where’s the money for ethnic media?'” she said.

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Regina Brown Wilson of California Black Media was one of four honorees named Ethnic Media Champions. 

Danny Wong of Chinese-language broadcaster Sky Link TV picked up two awards, one for an on-air episode looking at the stigma surrounding cancer patients in the immigrant Chinese community, and another for his piece on the housing struggles of low-income Chinese residents of San Francisco.

“Coming from an immigrant family myself, I remember how hard it was to find housing, and how hard we worked,” Wong said. “I was moved to see whole families crammed into single rooms in Chinatown, and I wanted to tell that story.”

Nancy Martinez of Eastern Group Publications won in the category Outstanding Coverage of the Environment for her story on the decades-long struggle in East Los Angeles to address toxic emissions, even as nearby Porter Ranch got immediate attention last year after a similar leak threatened the area’s more affluent residents.

“This story was years in the making,” said Martinez, who began reporting for EGP at 22. “It really made a difference in my career because it elevated the type of reporting I was doing. It was a journey to get to that point. This is what the article represents to me.”

Other winners included Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan of India Currents for her opinion piece on the pitfalls of pushing kids too hard in school and Mingyue Xu of the Chinese-language Sing Tao Daily for her profile of a local Shao Lin martial artist.

Joe Orozco of Hoopa Tribal Radio was among those named as an Ethnic Media Champion. Orozco has been at the helm of Hoopa Radio, a “standout among the 66 tribal radio stations in California,” since 1988. He was recognized for his “commitment to providing a platform for the Native voice … the missing voice in American media.”

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Joe Orozco of Hoopa Radio. 

Referring to the media gathered in the room, Orozco noted, “I’m very honored to be acknowledged in that same group. Yes, we’re Native radio, and we’re an ethnic minority, so to speak. But to be acknowledged by a much larger group across the whole state ... means a lot. That says a lot to me.”

NAM ED Sandy Close gave the closing remarks. With an eye to the future of the sector, she pointed to remarks by noted pollster Mark DiCamillo, who said that with 20 percent of Californians speaking a language other than English, ethnic media is “here to stay.”

Click here for the full list of winners and honorees from the 2017 NAM California Ethnic Media Awards. Check out NAM's Facebook page for a slideshow of the night's festivities. 

The 2017 NAM CA Ethnic Media Awards Ceremonies was made possible by the generous support of: PG&E, The San Francisco Foundation, Comcast, The California Health Care Foundation, The California Wellness Foundation, John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford, Wells Fargo, The California Endowment, AARP, East Bay Regional Park District, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, CTA, Presidio Trust, DAE Advertising, TBWB Strategies and Kapor Center for Social Impact.