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Pacific News Service dba New America Media announces closure of organization

New America Media | 11/17/2017, 6 a.m.

NAM’s work put ethnic media on the radar in a way nothing else had, recalled founding NAM member Monica Lozano, publisher of the Spanish-language La Opinion and CEO of its parent company, ImpreMedia LLC. “NAM has had such an enormous impact that will live long beyond the organization. It built communal ties that will continue to change the narrative, elevate voices, bring communities together and demonstrate to the larger society that we are stronger than any divisive measures others try to impose.”

The most exciting part of NAM’s work, Close noted, is seeing the media collaborate across languages and cultures to tackle issues that affected their communities. “Black media in Arizona stood alongside Arab-American, Latino, Asian-American, and Native American media in denouncing the state law (SB 1070) that would allow police to pull people over and ask for their papers. That’s only one of many examples.”

Close said NAM would not have existed without the foundation laid by Pacific News Service, and the many reporters who started their careers there.

Launched in 1970 by noted China scholar Franz Schurmann (who was also Close’s long-time partner) and freelance journalists like Orville Schell, PNS’s mission was to challenge official government narratives about the U.S. role in Indochina.

When the war ended, PNS used the same model of tapping independent voices to cover other foreign and domestic news.

One highlight was Jessica Yu’s Academy Award-winning short documentary called “Breathing Lessons,” commissioned by PNS to tell the story of another PNS writer, Mark O’Brian, one of the last 100 Americans to live in an iron lung.

Over the years, PNS paid particular attention to America’s growing enmeshment in Central America’s wars, the rise of religious fundamentalism as a force for political change, and the impact of unprecedented immigration on every aspect of American life.

“But it was PNS’ entry into youth communications that made us realize as journalists we could do more than report; we could actually convene people from the communities we were trying to cover,” recalled Close.

In the late 1980s and early 90s — a time of unprecedented urban violence — PNS wanted to look behind the stereotype of inner city youth as “super predators.” It began recruiting young people to speak at forums with policy makers and to write for mainstream media. “Harper’s Magazine was bemoaning the death of literature, yet here were these young people, inventing new forms of self-expression on the streets and in juvenile halls,” said Close.

Among the multiple youth media projects PNS launched or cofounded were YO! Youth Outlook, Youth Radio, now a national leader in the youth media field; The Beat Within, a weekly publication of writing and art from workshops it led in juvenile halls; and Silicon Valley De-Bug, a zine for young people working on the tech industry’s assembly lines. The Beat Within and DeBug are also now independent enterprises.

In 2011, the agency started six youth-produced media platforms in communities that have few homegrown news platforms of their own.

Four hubs now operate independently as YouthWire, a project of Community Partners. The YouthWire network stretches from Coachella to Merced. Two other hubs, Richmond Pulse and South Kern Sol, are run locally and independently.

“Today our challenge is to make sure NAM’s work can live on without NAM,” said Close.

Over the coming weeks, NAM will be exploring alternative ways to continue key projects that leverage ethnic media’s unique access to underserved audiences.

“We are confident that, for all the challenges, the ethnic media sector will not disappear,” Wilkinson said. “As global migration accelerates, too many diaspora populations will need trusted media messengers to stay informed and connected. More immediately, we also believe that the sector’s commitment to work together — to be a bridge across racial and ethnic divides — will be more vital than ever.”