The rise of Asian Americans is a demographic trend that most of us are pretty familiar with — we see it almost everywhere, including on our very own campus in the especially diverse makeup of this year’s freshmen class. This demographic trend isn’t going away, yet the media seems slow to adjust to this change.
In a study conducted by the Pew Research Center in June, data showed the immigration rate of Asian Americans is surpassing that of any other race, and fast. In fact, the study states, “Asians recently passed Hispanics as the largest group of new immigrants to the United States.”
Yet at the same time, Asian American presence in the media is decreasing. An article published in the 2011 American Society of News Editors Census in April showed a downward trend in the representation of journalists of color. A chart of U.S. publications polled by the ASNE, both local and national, provided data and included percentages of minority reporters on their staffs. The data was sorted by ethnicity: Asian American, Black, Hispanic and Native American. In more than half the publications, Asian Americans were completely excluded from the statistics.
Despite an overall decline of employment in newsrooms, as the census states, “minority newsroom employment is still substantially lower than the percentage of minorities in the markets those newsrooms serve.”
So, the overall rise of Asian Americans in the U.S. seems to have little impact on the number of Asian Americans opting to become working journalists, which could jeopardize media coverage on Asian American issues.In a field where accuracy, fairness, and diversity are arguably most necessary, this contradiction only hurts the reputation of journalism.
I can’t blame the media entirely though — it’s also a personal choice that Asian Americans have to make. Journalism isn’t traditionally a popular career path for Asians. One theory is that the majority of jobs in the field do not grant the same financial security as other career paths could.
But I would argue that nowadays, there are no guarantees. Overall, the culture does not support humanities-based majors because those academic paths are less technical and practical. But I would argue otherwise: journalism is a science and a practice. It involves hard work, dedication and focus, values that are highly esteemed in Asian culture.
When I chose to apply to Medill, my Indian parents were apprehensive at first. Whenever I discuss my decision to study journalism with other Indian parents back home, I’m met with raised eyebrows and an onslaught of questions: “That’s an unusual choice, how did you decide that?” “You don’t want to be a doctor?”
But I’ve got better at explaining to them why I chose journalism. It’s because of the very fact that these people “wow!” and “really?!” at my unconventional career choice. I believe the only way to keep news fresh and relevant to an increasingly heterogeneous audience is to update the face of journalism and represent the diverse communities who make up the whole of America. And I am proud to say that I am a part of this ongoing revolution in journalism.
— By Priyanka Mody
(Image used under Creative Commons from Binuri Ranasinghe)