Ethnic Media Find New Angle on Katrina

Brian Skoloff, AP, Sept. 12

SAN FRANCISCO—“Black general takes charge in New Orleans.” “Undocumented won’t be allowed to receive help from FEMA.” “1,700 Koreans in New Orleans yet to be located.”

With passion and pride, ethnic news organizations in the United States are sending reporters, photographers and TV crews to the disaster area and covering the Hurricane Katrina story from angles not seen in many of the nation’s major metropolitan newspapers.

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The NCM estimates that ethnic media reach 51 million people in the United States. For many of them, the ethnic media are their only source of information.

The Korea Times, based in Los Angeles, is dedicating much of its coverage to motivating Korean-Americans to help their own.

“There are so many Koreans who had been living in the New Orleans area . . . and they lost their houses and businesses and had to evacuate from where they had been living, so Koreans have their own stories, and we’re focusing on the Korean victims,” managing editor Yoon Cho said.

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Radio Saigon in Houston, the city where about half of Louisiana’s Vietnamese population of 30,000 has taken refuge, spends two hours a day on hard news, and devotes much of the rest of the time to helping fellow Vietnamese-Americans.

“Having been a refugee myself years ago, I know exactly what it’s like to be a refugee and I know what needs to be done to help them,” said the station’s chief executive, Thuy Vu. “Some of us really have to relive the nightmare of being refugees all over again. It’s very hard to be professionally journalistic about it. I believe sometimes a journalist has to put down their camera and their pens to help people.”

La Opinion, a Los Angeles-based newspaper with 500,000 readers, sent a reporter and photographer to cover the storm’s effect on Hispanics living on the Gulf Coast.

“We get the big-picture stories from the wire services, but what we needed was the Latino community, more than 200,000 Latinos in Louisiana,” said executive editor Pedro Rojas.

One major story in La Opinion noted that illegal immigrants will not get help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Rather than criticize the Bush administration, the story offered options for those seeking assistance. “We included a box with what they can do and telephone numbers where they can call,” Rojas said.

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