Diasporic News and Journalism
Summary and Keywords
Diasporic news refers to information, entertainment, and education news that is politically, economically, and socioculturally relevant to diaspora audiences. This news content is produced by diasporic news media established for and by diasporic groups. According to scholars, diasporic media plays two broad roles: an orientation role relating to information and advice to help diasporic groups adjust to the host country and a connective role relating to information about events in the homeland.
The affordability of new media technology spurred the growth of diasporic media making countless platforms available to diaspora groups to disseminate their views via the legacy media of print, radio, and television; and via the new media of Internet and social media. However, their business model is still preedominantly independent and small scale, and their printed edition is circulated mostly through alternative distribution outlets such as grocery shops, churches, restaurants, and airports.
Their practitioners subscribe broadly to the tenets of journalistic professionalism, but these are discursively reinterpreted, appropriated and contested in line with the cultural sensibilities of diaspora audiences. On their part, the diaspora audiences use them as a platform for political activism; to connect with their group members; to watch movies and listen to music. But in recent times, the home governments are using them to tap into the diaspora resources including remittances and skills transfer.
The Roots of Diasporic Media Studies
Diasporic media studies has a checkered history. Since the early 20th century, scholars have focused attention on the roles of the media for and by immigrant people. Park’s (1922) seminal book on the U.S. immigrant press identified two major roles: the orientation role, which is to inform readers of the inner life of immigrant peoples and their efforts to adjust themselves to a new cultural environment; and the connective role, which is to maintain contact and understanding between the home countries and their scattered members in every part of the United States of America. The term “immigrant press” is still being used by some scholars. For example, Sanchez (2014) used it to investigate the social and linguistic functions of a newspaper for Spanish-Italian immigrants in Italy titled Expreso Latino in maintaining ties with their countries of origin and in mixing the two closely related languages. Titley (2012) used the term to examine how migrant and minority media navigate the ambivalent politics of diversity. And Navaz and Ferrer (2012) used the term to highlight the rise of specialized media produced, distributed, and consumed by migrant communities in Spain.
These disparate roles are broadly subsumed under the connective and orientation roles that remain the dominant roles of diasporic media in modern times but with a notable difference. The diasporic media is able to reach more people and provide more content through the media of technology. This implies that modern diasporic media has a better opportunity to meet the desire of diasporic people to read news in their mother tongue, thereby preserving foreign languages from disintegration into mere immigrant dialects, hyphenated English (Park, 1922). This is evident in the role played by Chinese-language media in Australia in communicating crucial economic, legal, and educational knowledge—policies, rules, and regulations—to Chinese-speaking Australian citizens and residents (Sun, Gao, Yue, & Sinclair, 2011).
However, some scholars have argued that the term “immigrant media” is inappropriate because it does not cover indigenous populations and African American media (Matsaganis, Katz, & Ball-Rokeach, 2011). As a result, other terminologies were used including “minority media,” “community media,” and “ethnic media.” The former, which dominated academic discourse in the 1980s, was used to examine their role in the negotiation of minority-majority or minority-dominant group relations (Matsaganis et al., 2011) and the under-representation, xenophobic reporting, and racist portrayal of minority groups in the mainstream media (Cottle, 2000; Riggins, 1992; Ross, 2001; Sreberny, 1999; Halloran, Bhatt, & Gray, 1995). However, this term was deemed inappropriate because many groups that are referred to as “minorities” are actually the majority in particular cities or communities (Matsaganis et al., 2011).
The term “community media” examines media that generally serve people in a particular local space (Howley, 2005; Jankowski & Prehn, 2002), retain a predominant focus on local news coverage and articulate connections to local identity and local place (Funk, 2013). In South Australia for example, this media plays a role in negotiating a distinction between assimilation (or integration) and the maintenance of cultural heritage from countries of origin (Cover, 2013).
The term “ethnic media” entered the academic discourse because of its exponential growth in recent decades and because of its appropriateness to studying how the media construct, sustain, and redefine ethnic minority identities and communities (Alia & Bull, 2005; Bai, 2010). In the United States, for example, statistics show that there were over 2,500 ethnic media in 2009 serving Africans, African Americans, Asians, Europeans, indigenous people, Latinos and Middle Eastern communities (Matsaganis et al., 2011). In Canada, there are more than 250 ethnic newspapers in 2007 that represent over 40 ethnic communities and 40 television channels that provide programming to a variety of ethnic groups (Matsaganis et al., 2011). Across Europe in the 2000s, statistics reveal that there were 150 ethnic broadcasting in Netherlands; more than 90 print and broadcast media in Germany; and more than 100 ethnic dailies and weeklies and 15 ethnic radio and 30 television channels in Britain (Matsaganis et al., 2011). In Australia, statistics show that there were more than 115 ethnic media serving 39 different ethnic communities (Matsaganis et al., 2011).
The term “ethnic media” progressively displaced the aforementioned terms because it broadly describes the media produced by and for immigrant, ethnic, racial, and linguistic minorities, as well as indigenous groups living in various countries across the world (Matsaganis et al., 2011). It also covers media which largely produce local shows focusing on minorities within a country of settlement (Karim, 2003) and that import materials produced in home countries. This broad operational definition has served ethnic media studies well in examining various issues of acculturation and identity reformation within the new national cultural space (Sreberny, 2005). However, none of these terms really capture the new generation media for global migrants: whatever people do with media is infinitely more complex than can be explained by either ethnicity or community, or as resistance to the worldview of the Walt Disney Company (Deuze, 2006).
Diasporic Media Studies
The use of the term “diasporic media” signals the theoretical advancement from essentialized and fixed identity positions to multiple, fluid, and fragmented ones (Prentoulis, 2011). Through diasporic media studies, scholars were able to focus on a multiple of experiences such as immigration, expatriation, and ethnic or overseas communities (Brubaker, 2005; Totolyan, 1991), the multiple global locations in which diasporic groups find themselves (Sreberny, 2005), trends in global migration and their mobilization within digital space. The latter focus is underpinned by statistics showing that the global migration has reached 244 million in 2015 for the world as a whole, a 41% increase compared to 2000 (United Nations, 2016). A breakdown of the figure indicates that the largest diasporic group is India with 16 million people, followed by Mexico with 12 million and other large diasporas come from the Russian Federation, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Ukraine (United Nations, 2016). In addition, countries such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Nigeria, and Ghana have experienced major exoduses in recent years due to political and economic instabilities.
The reason for the adoption of “diaspora” could be attributed to the similarities between the experiences of global migrants and some historically well-known diasporas such as Jewish, Greek, Armenian, and African-origin ones (Cohen, 1997, 2018). The notion of diaspora enables scholars to focus on the constitutive parts of diaspora in a globalized setting such as alienation; relationship with homeland; the expansion from homeland in search of work; a collective memory and myth about the homeland; an idealization of the real or imagined ancestral home; the frequent development of a return movement to the homeland; a strong ethnic group consciousness; a troubled relationship with host countries; a sense of empathy and co-responsibility with co-ethnic members in other countries of settlement; and the possibility of a distinctive enriching life in host countries with a tolerance for pluralism (Cohen, 1996; Safran, 1991; Totolyan, 1991).
However, some scholars criticized the adoption of “diaspora” by arguing that it is qualitatively different from the idea of migration (Faist, 2000; Matsaganis et al., 2011). Its advocate responded that the terms “diaspora” and “diaspora community” are metaphoric designations for several categories of people—expatriates, expellees, political refugees, alien residents, immigrants, and ethnic and racial minorities tout court (Safran, 2018). Some examples of these new global migrants include Kuwaiti Palestinians, Bulgarian ethnic Turks, Saudi Arabian Yemenis, Dominican Republic Haitians (Van Hear, 1998), the Indian and Chinese (Matsaganis et al., 2011).
Diasporic communities refer to people who are typically citizens of a Western country or who do not have citizenship status or who are diasporas outside the Western countries such as the Indian diasporas in different African countries and Japanese in Latin American countries. By studying them, scholars identified different categories of diaspora audiences including “knowledge diasporas,” “victim diasporas,” “labour diasporas,” “trade diasporas,” “cultural diasporas,” post-Communist diasporas, and political diasporas. For example, the Rhodesian diasporas who arrived in the United Kingdom in the 1980s represented the knowledge diasporas, as they were largely skilled and could afford to buy their own computers or had Internet access at work (King, 2003). The Africans and the Armenians represent the “victim diasporas” who were forced to migrate—fleeing violence, famine and prosecution; the Indians represent the “labour diasporas”; the Chinese and Lebanese represent the “trade diasporas,” and the Caribbean represent the “cultural diasporas” where arts, images and language form essential characteristics of shared imagination (Cohen, 1997). While the post-Communist diasporas represent those who migrated to the West from the former socialist states; and the political diasporas represent those who are in exile or flee political persecution (Georgiou, 2003).
In the past two decades, the focus of diasporic media studies has expanded beyond the diasporic community into the ownership structure and the journalistic practices of the media for them (Karim, 2003; Ogunyemi, 2012; Prentoulis, 2011). Scholars attempt to differentiate the content of diasporic media from the content of its mainstream counterparts by stressing that it deals with issues of specific interest for the members of diasporic communities (Bozdag, Hepp, & Suna, 2012) and that it offers alternative representations of them and promotes their civic rights concerns (Prentoulis, 2011).
We get a nuanced understanding of the characteristic features of diasporic media through diasporic media studies. For instance, some exhibit the features of “media about” because they communicate in majority language and are oriented toward majority (Caspi & Elias, 2011). Some exhibit the features of “media for” because they communicate in minority language (Prentoulis, 2011). Some exhibit the features of “media by” because they communicate in minority language and are oriented toward the minority (Caspi & Elias, 2011). While these features are complementary, they show a distinctive orientation. For example, the “media about” project under-representation and frequently distorted and stereotyped representation. The “media for” carry media content produced and controlled by minority people, representing, negotiating, and articulating their cultural identity (Prentoulis, 2011). The “media by” speak to particular ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups in a host society, create and maintain ethnic cohesion and cultural identity and support integration into the host society (Aksoy & Robins, 2003; Christiansen, 2004; Georgiou, 2005; Karim, 1998, 2003).
There has been a spike in the critical mass of diasporic media scholars that is evident in the membership of scholarly associations. For instance, the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) hosts a Diaspora and Media Working Group (DIM) that claims to examine the role of diaspora groups in the production and consumption of the media from a variety of perspectives including the roles of cultural and discursive practices, the implications of new information technologies, the nature of globally dispersed diasporic communities (IAMCR-DIM). And the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA) hosts a Diaspora, Migration and the Media Section (DMM) that claims to recognize that transnational and diasporic communications have become a fertile and challenging area for innovative theoretical and methodological approaches; this area of study urges the development of research with transnational and cross-European orientation, which, however, is not nation-centric and Eurocentric (ECREA-DMM).
Dominant Perspectives in Diasporic Media Studies
This section turns our attention to the influence of different research traditions (especially between France and Britain) and different academic perspectives (Rigoni, 2005) on diasporic media studies. The exemplary perspectives have been highlighted for further discussion including identity, public sphere, network society, normative roles, political economy, and journalistic professionalism.
The perspective of identity is relevant because it enables an interrogation of diasporic media from a cultural lens in order to understand how diasporic media acts as a central site for public communication in globally dispersed communities, staging communal difference, and discord productively and working to articulate insider ethno-specific identities that are by definition “multinational,” even global to the wider “host” environments (Cunningham & Sinclair, 2001).
Through this perspective, scholars explored the effects of migratory experience on diasporic consciousness. For instance, it reveals that diasporic consciousness is shaped by the fact that that migrants often straddle several sociocultural spaces, form hybrid identities, and undergo a complex process of fluctuating relationships with various communities (Diminescu & Loveluck, 2014; Georgiou, 2013; Matsaganis et al., 2011). This complex process influences the cognitive, behavioral, and affective dimensions of their identities. The former refers to acquisition of ideas taught by older members of the ethnic groups. The behavioral dimension refers to conformity to group norms. While the affective dimension refers to the feelings of belonging to a particular ethnic group (Matsaganis et al., 2011).
Diasporic media facilitates the development of these three dimensions through discourses that lead to the reinvention and redefinition of particular identities (Georgiou, 2006a) and through production of some specific cultural forms. For example, the diversity of discourses in the online magazines for expatriate Chinese students in Ottawa, Canada, includes “seeking spouse” messages for both male and female students; community events; “help” stories if one member in the community runs into difficulty; and the interest of the community (Qui, 2003). The diversity of cultural forms includes religion genre that serves as a vehicle for the transmission of culture and also provides the institutional framework for community formation (Thompson, 2002).
The main contribution of this perspective is in revealing how the provision of multiple messages helps diasporic people to construct meanings and to interpret content subjectively through the lens of their culture (Mainsah, 2009).
This perspective focus debates on the fragmentation of the public sphere and the emergence of public sphericules where the diasporic media operates as global narrowcasters of polity and culture. The notion of public sphere denotes a meeting point for the traditional and the hybrid where they play the communication role that word of mouth once used to have for communities and where they mediate, translate and represent the multiplicity of ethnic discourses (Riggins, 1992; Georgiou, 2003). It also denotes the distribution of stories and creation of new markets for cultural products that cater to the needs of diasporic populations and also serve as a site of political power in providing a platform for self-expression. This global distribution of stories is evident in the flow of media content and communication from Tonga to New Zealand and to diasporas in Australia and the United States (Cass, 2016).
Through this perspective, which has its roots in the classic work of Habermas (1989), scholars articulate the fragile relationships among the diasporic media, the state, and the civil society. Hence, we have a nuanced understanding that diasporic media co-exists with mainstream media while being reasonably connected to and interculturally engaged with broader society (Yu & Ahadi, 2010) and that it emerges alongside a broad range of other forms of community, alternative, oppositional, participatory, and collaborative media practices (Cover, 2013).
The notion of a public sphere provides an insight into the contribution of diasporic media to democracy. This is evident in its use for commonwealth-oriented discursive exchange and for religious exchange, commercial purposes, or individual entertainment (Bozdag et al., 2012). Despite diasporic media’s achievement in facilitating engagement with deliberative public sphere, some scholars argue that we have little understanding of the extent a series of discrete, separate public spheres empower minority groups or encourage genuine democratic participation among marginalized communities (Husband, 1998). A scholarly focus on this will entail adoption of a model of multiethnic public sphere that explores a situation in which minority voices make their way into the dominant discourses of the majority ethnic group, in ways that encourage understanding and require recognition of the other (Budarick & Han, 2015).
This perspective enables scholarly inquiries into the uses of technology by diasporic people and the intensity of diasporic connections. Network society refers to a form of society increasingly organizing its relationships in media networks that are gradually replacing or complementing the social networks of face-to-face communication (McQuail, 2005). The perspective is associated with the logic of “connected migrant” (Diminescu, 2008) and the notion of “digital diasporas” (Ding, 2007; Laguerre, 2010). The former means the diversity of communication channels that enable migrants to maintain frequent ties with the country of origin (Diminescu & Loveluck, 2014). The latter means those who connect to diaspora websites including the interactive features such as blogs; social websites such as forums, and music and video channels; and social media such as Facebook and Twitter (Laguerre, 2010). Their motivations, according to Dakroury (2006), are to seek affirmation of their ideas, attitudes, views, norms, and values, especially for the forms they have learned from their parents.
Through this perspective, scholars highlight the differences between the classifications of digital diasporas. For instance, the “visible digital diasporas” are those who are most politically engaged, while “epistemic digital diasporas” are “cyberspace” or “desktop” activists who engage in political and economic discussion online. The “dormant digital diasporas” denote those who are politically inactive because of their illegal status in the host country or because they are too overworked to participate in any political activities or because they are simply disillusioned about the situation the homeland. And the “silent digital diasporas” refer to those who distance themselves because of the country’s negative publicity and ridicule in foreign countries (Pasura, 2008).
This perspective enables scholars to reveal the involvement of digital diasporas in the creation and management of diaspora websites. For example, a Palestinian diaspora used their website to construct Palestine as a point of reference and serve as global advocacy networks that transcend their immediate social networks (Ben-David, 2012). Tunisian diaspora contributed to a wider diffusion of cyber-activism concerning legitimate claims for democracy and human rights (Graziano, 2012). And Eritrean diaspora contributed to political engagement and activism that challenge conventional relations of citizenship and sovereignty (Bernal, 2013).
The adoption of this perspective also shows how the homeland governments are reaching the diaspora as a key source of resources, ideas, and leadership (Lyons, 2006). This is evident in the efforts of the Costa Rica government to engage with its diasporas by using social media spaces mainly as electronic newsletters and as one-way communication outlets to inform its foreign policy (Vanessa, 2012). It is also evident in the activities of both the Ethiopian government and the opposition to build support within the diaspora, send delegations to brief communities abroad, and use the Internet and other media to promote their positions (Lyons, 2006). And evident in the use of social media by the El Salvador government to engage with its diasporas to foster dialogue with its migrants and to build long-term relationships with the diaspora (Lyons, 2006).
However, some scholars criticize that these studies are yet to fully capture the significance of digital diaspora that reflects the engagement of its members in activities related to information technology (Laguerre, 2010).
This perspective that has its roots in functionalist theory (McQuail, 2005) speaks to how journalists are expected to meet the aspirations and ideals of the general public (Hanitzsch, 2017). Through this perspective, scholars explored and expanded on our understanding of the connective and orientation roles of diasporic media in the host country (Georgiou, 2006a; Matsaganis et al., 2011; Ogunyemi, 2006, 2007, 2012; Skjerdal, 2011). The connective role reflects cultural and linguistic agenda because it provides media content and other cultural products that celebrate their emotional links to the old country (Karim, 2003; Georgiou, 2006b; Matsaganis et al., 2011). For example, empirical research found that Desi Radio has articulated a cultural and linguistic philosophy that seeks to reconcile the different segments of Panjabi society and to place its culture in appropriate balance with Western modernity (Everitt, 2003).
Further evidence of connective roles is found when diasporic media fosters an opening for alternative visions of the nation and state-citizen relations (Bernal, 2013) mobilizes shared values such as culture, national identity, and community awareness to build up a virtual community among their users (Qui, 2003); fulfills a dual role of national (constructing multiple communities in mediated spaces and local interpreting the mainstream) (Georgiou, 2005); and provides the maintenance of language and culture for those in the diaspora.
The orientation role reflects a nationalist agenda because it provides culturally relevant and locally vital information in the host country (Yin, 2015; Matsaganis et al., 2011; Ogunyemi, 2012). This is evident when diasporic media fosters an alternative platform for their particularistic audience to access news information and entertainment content (Ogunyemi, 2006); reorients migrants in the host country and facilitate a venue to present role models who have integrated well in the new country (Kama, 2008); and acts as their community boosters by sharing their “communities” and “audiences” success stories (Viswanath & Arora, 2000; Bai, 2010).
It seems that orientation role is the most versatile and paramount function of diasporic media because empirical studies reveal that in performing it diasporic media serves as “radars and early warning systems” against external threats (Bai, 2010); delivers “what” is happening in the host country and “why and how” that came to happen; provides alternative news otherwise neglected in mainstream press publications (van Vuuren, 2005); gives voice and empower marginalized migrants with a platform for their concerns (Calbay, 2016); serves as a platform for a self-reflective discourse among migrants (Bozdag et al., 2012); and (re-)creates alternative imaginative space alongside existing mappings (Karim, 2003).
The normative roles perspective highlights the top-down and down-up roles played by diasporic media. These include allowing homeland politicians to get their message across to increasingly multiethnic constituencies and allowing users to voice their thoughts and give citizens an opportunity to speak to power (Matsaganis et al., 2011; Mpofu, 2015; Ogunyemi, 2015). An example of the former was when Tongan politicians used diasporic media as a political tool for conducting part of their campaign in New Zealand (Cass, 2016). An example of the latter was when the Ethiopian diaspora used diasporic media to play critical and creative roles in framing political events and as a gatekeeper for opposition strategies, as well as to provide essential support for the homeland’s opposition parties both during and after the 2005 elections (Lyons, 2006).
However, some scholars criticize that these studies have yet to fully capture the extent to which diasporic media are able to influence the political, social, and cultural discourses that are formed and disseminated by powerful mainstream groups (mainstream media, police and legal institutions, government) (Budarick, 2017). A notable exception were a few studies that identified various ways in which diasporic media bring minorities into contact with mainstream organizations; expose migrants to social debates and issues that affect them and others; encourage ethnic minorities to become involved in mainstream political process such as voting; and bring ethnic minorities and migrants into direct contact with people from both minority and majority ethnic groups through work in radio stations and organized community events (Forde, Foxwell, & Meadows, 2009).
This perspective enables scholars to examine the dynamic power relations that underpin the production, distribution, and consumption of media content. Through this perspective, we gained an understanding of how diasporic people have developed a community sense of ownership over the means and process of communication (Salazar, 2010) and of the nature and impacts of media convergence: that is, the “interchangeability” of media that is allowing all the various media platforms to take on some of the characteristics and functions of others (Crisell, 2002).
This perspective enables scholars to categorize different types of diasporic media. For instance, the virtual diasporic media organizations are extensions of existing ethnic media newspapers, magazines, and ethnic broadcast media (Matsaganis et al., 2011). An example is the online-only magazines produced by and intended for expatriate Chinese students in the United States, Canada, Europe, and elsewhere (Qui, 2003). Another example is the Somali diasporic media websites that Issa-Salwe (2011) categorized into seven types including the “community/political” websites that focus on political and community news; the “cultural/literacy” websites that are devoted to the preservation and dissemination of literature and culture; the “professional/business” websites that engage in promoting business or organization-related activities; the online newspapers that are similar to professional new media in providing news and information; the “religious” websites dedicated to Islamic teachings and information; the “personal” websites presenting materials in a personal format (i.e., a blog); and the radio/TV websites that are often based online and are online branches of existing radio and TV stations (Issa-Salwe, 2011).
Diasporic media has ownership structures with complex and changing systems of their own, with internal differences in history, self-identity, production process, distribution pattern, and degree of involvement with mainstream media (Shi, 2009). For instance, there are non-profit media organizations such as the New America Media in the United States, an alternative news source providing support for ethnic media voices. Some others provide a public service with little commercial considerations. But some of them use established distribution outlets such as WHM Smith, supermarkets, and airports, while some use alternative distribution outlets such as grocery shops, restaurants and churches. However, they tend to economically depend on community resources. Consequently, they are prone to financial risks because they operate in an environment with a high level of poverty among group members.
Some diasporic media are large commercial organizations such as Univision and Telemundo, which have been influential in the ethnic media market through redefinition of what it means to be a Hispanic media company and innovation (Roth, 2018). Both have been successful in attracting advertising revenues by claiming that their viewers were more engaged and more passionate than viewers of the major mainstream broadcast networks including Fox, CBS, NBC, and ABC. For instance, Univision noted that more than 90% of viewing of Spanish-language shows is done in real time, compared with about 65% for the English-language networks (James & Villareal, 2013). However, both are struggling to survive because the growth of the Latino population comes more and more from people born in the United States who speak English and watch the main television networks, not just the Spanish-speaking ones (Roth, 2018). Another risk to their survival is the lack of advertisement from government and public bodies that are found constantly in the mainstream media (Baffoe, 2012; Ogunyemi, 2012). For example, an empirical study found that there is a widespread perception among Chinese media practitioners and business communities in Australia that the Australian government is not contributing enough resources to foster the development of minority community media (Sun, Gao, Yue, & Sinclair, 2011).
There are some semi-commercial diasporic media organizations that generate income from subscription, self-funding, donation, and are run primarily as business operations, and derive revenue not from circulation but from advertising (Sun et al., 2011). They include the Indonesia Media in California; and the Haitian Times in New York (Matsaganis et al., 2011). However, empirical studies show that many publishers to tone down critical and activist content fearing that these are liable to become unattractive to advertisers (Caspi & Elias, 2011) and that a less desirable effect of relying on donations by some Iranian and Armenian producers is the producers’ practice of accepting money for on-air interviewing of celebrities and newsmakers (Nacify, 2003).
There are some multinational diasporic media enterprises that target multiple ethnic communities that may live across more than one country but have the same country of origin and/or speak the same language (Matsaganis et al., 2011). These include the Cineyama Media Group in New York. And some diasporic media are transnational or global diasporic media that may have headquarters in one country but set out to serve communities dispersed around the globe (Matsaganis et al., 2011). These include the Zee TV in India and the SAT-7 an Arab-Christian broadcaster in the UK.
This perspective also highlights the effects of media regulations (vis-à-vis infrastructures, regulation and government subsidies) in the host country. For instance, an empirical study shows that the practitioners of diasporic media in Australia are constantly negotiating a distinction between assimilation (or integration) and the maintenance of cultural heritage from countries of origin when Australia introduced a top-down policy of multiculturalism as a result of non-British European migrants failing to divest themselves of cultural practices brought with them (Cover, 2013).
Through this perspective, we have some insights into their convergence strategy that is top-down and driven by the need to maximize newsgathering, grow audiences, and gain revenue. For example, Pak’s (2017) comparative analysis of newspapers in Korea and the United States found evidence of the adoption of a single newsrooms structure, one editor responsible for newsroom, integrated news production and distribution, frequent multiproduction, and content-focused cooperation.
There is evidence of a bottom-up convergence that is driven by diaspora citizen journalists who appropriate technologies to create websites and blogs to disseminate their personal stories. For example, a study of Hmong diaspora women in the United States found they are able to make use of new technologies in a way that strengthens communication within the group through the format’s openness, accessibility, and participatory nature (Lopez, 2017).
However, scholars note that most diasporic media find top-down convergence challenging. This is evident in the case of the media for the Roma groups in Bulgaria that were constrained by the absence of stable governmental incentive, unbalanced relationships with the host media, a shortage of trained and experienced journalists of Roma origin, and unsustainable funding for the regional community broadcasts (Hristova, 2015). They also find bottom-up convergence difficult because resources and technologies are unequally distributed between and within diasporic groups (Georgiou, 2003). But while the political economy has advanced our understanding of their organizational structures, there is a paucity of research on the impacts of regulations on them, especially in an environment where some states in Europe have one or a combination of resistant/restrictive, pluralist, and accommodating policy (Georgiou, 2003).
This perspective has given an insight into how diaspora journalists appropriate a set of ideas and practices to legitimate their role and to render their work meaningful for themselves and others (Hanitzsch, 2007; Georgiou, 2003, 2013; Kperogi, 2008; Matsaganis et al., 2011; Ogunyemi, 2012; Skjerdal, 2011) and how the homeland politics may prompt them to adjust journalistic professionalism in favor of a journalistic practice characterized by activism and favoritism (Skjerdal, 2011). Through this perspective, most scholars conclude that diaspora journalists practice a hybrid form of journalism, that is, one that draws on cultural background and national identity while also relying on ideology and connections to fellow immigrants (Shumov, 2012).
There are different motives for practicing journalists. For instance, some diaspora journalists use the diasporic media as an entry or reentry point and as a training platform. While some were drawn to journalism because of a passion for communication and the desire to engage in mediated communication as an affinity that was discovered early in their careers (Shumov, 2012). Irrespective of their motives, there is a general consensus among diaspora journalists to accept the journalistic norms such as independence, verification, and accountability because they are useful standards for demonstrating professionalism and defending their professional borders against non-journalists (Singer, 2015).
However, tension exists between their commitment to a professional ethos and allegiance to their diasporic group. For instance, diaspora journalists negotiate objectivity that prescribes that journalists should strive to be impartial, neutral, balanced, fair, and unbiased in reporting (Skjerdal, 2011). To them, an objectivity that insists on detachment and that positions journalists as separate from what they cover (Zelizer, 2004) should be tempered with journalism of attachment (Bell, 1998). On the opposite end, diaspora journalists see objectivity as an accepted dogma but also fluid, negotiable and contested (Hanitzsch, 2007; Ogunyemi, 2012).
Therefore, there is a constant dialectic tension between the desires to remain objective and balanced as a way of maintaining journalistic credibility and the desire to be critical and report on issues from an oppositional standpoint (Shumov, 2012). Empirical research shows that diaspora journalists prefer contextual objectivity which demonstrates a situational position, a way by which collectivism among participants within the same “context”—whether cultural, religious, political or economic—is realized and engaged (El-Nawawy & Iskandar, 2002). For example, a study of Ethiopian diaspora websites found they contest the objectivity dimension through a proclaimed political bias in reporting and analysis on the one hand; and take adversarial stance by carrying a large amount of material critical of the government on the other (Skjerdal, 2011). From this standpoint, diasporic media tends to move away from objectivist norms of representation and remains in close and constant interaction with the ethnic group’s perception of social expectation and intergroup relations (Zou, 2014).
However, scholars fault both mainstream and diaspora journalists on their perception of objectivity. They argue that the mainstream media are too often constrained by a strict compliance with professional standards of objectivity that largely limits their capacity to represent (and thus to adequately serve) minority audiences (Awad, 2011). For example, a study of Canadian media found that people of color are underrepresented and largely invisible in the media; that when people of color do appear in media coverage, they are often misrepresented and stereotyped (Henry & Tator, 2002). And scholars argue that the diasporic media cannot be objective because the minority audiences’ social and cultural needs simply cannot be satisfied by impartial reporting due to crucial issues concerning the representation of cultural minorities cannot possibly be registered (Henry & Tator, 2002).
Diaspora journalists accept the professional ideal of news values but contest its application. For example, Mandell’s (2015) study on Jewish press in the United States found a general sensitivity among readers against publishing news coverage of Jewish scandal in their newspapers, even if the general press is already covering the story. Similarly, Ogunyemi’s (2012) study of a study of African diasporic press in the United Kingdom found that some taboo subjects restrict storytelling and put a burden on practitioners to be sensitive to audiences’ cultural sensibilities. And Karim’s (2003) study found that Univision and Telemundo seek out Hispanic perspectives on national news stories and adhere to Latin American news values that favor greater analysis than that offered by mainstream American television. This discursive negotiation conforms with the claim that news is a sequence of socially manufactured messages that carry many of the culturally dominant assumptions of our society (Glasgow Media Group, 1976).
The practitioners of diasporic media believe that they provide a public service, and findings of empirical research seem to support this claim. For example, a study of Venezuelan journalists in the United States found that being a journalist is much more than a career: it is more about providing an important service (Shumov, 2012). Another study of African diasporic press in the United Kingdom reveals a similar orientation in their rationale, leading to the allocation of more space to public service content in frame packages (Ogunyemi, 2015). And a study of migrant ethnic community media publications in Australia shows that they negotiated the sometimes-competing discourses of minority identity through a sense of service to a group who are otherwise not well served by mainstream media publications (Cover, 2013).
The sourcing practices at the diasporic tension is similar to the mainstream media. Ngomba’s (2015) research shows that their reports about migration and migrants do not seem to be too different from those of the mainstream media with regard to their preference for “elite” sources. And Osman’s (2017) study notes that elite sourcing creates unequal levels of accessibility and hierarchical mindset amongst the Somali pubic and reinforces the existing social inequality, which further marginalizes the voices of the voiceless and gives legitimacy to the elite members of society being more important than ordinary citizens. This is because their sourcing practices revolve around monitoring the mainstream media for breaking news (Ogunyemi, 2012) which tend to over rely on elite sources.
Overall, it is pertinent to note that these perspectives are not exhaustive but exemplary. Scholars will continue to use these and other relevant perspectives to provide a nuanced understanding of production, distribution and consumption of diasporic media in the contemporary global world.
The evidence of methodological pluralism in diasporic media studies could be attributed to the adoption of interdisciplinary perspectives. A trawl of literature reveals a wide range of methodological approaches including textual analysis, framing analysis, case study, document analysis, content analysis, discourse analysis, rhetorical analysis, in-depth interviews, uses and gratifications, survey questionnaires, semantic features, and ethnographic studies among others.
Through media ethnographic studies, Diminescu (2008) conducted an analysis of “access-providing” objects worn about the person and which equip individual mobilities, sociological interviews that act as an empirical basis for a transversal understanding of mobility behaviors and communication. Some scholars used grounded theory to analyze interview data (Budarick, 2017) and Oiarzabal (2012) combined discursive and rhetorical analyses with self-administered online survey to research the Basque diaspora presence on social network sites.
Through media discourse studies, scholars found that the main specificity of diasporic media content lies in the proactive discourse about immigration, and especially in the construction of migrants as political subjects (Vecino, Ferrer, & Dallemagne, 2015). Through discourse analysis, scholars have found that diasporic groups are cast in the role of villains, which implies that mainstream journalists unconsciously tell us stories about who is important, who is trustworthy, who is a troublemaker, and who is likely to endanger the security of the nation (Baffoe, 2012).
Through media framing studies, scholars demonstrate the peculiarities and reconstruction of news in the diasporic media. For example, a comparative study of the U.S.-based Chinese diasporic media World Journal and the mainstream counterpart USA Today about Obama hosting a naturalization ceremony found that the former displays a different value judgment when narrative U.S. news events, especially those closely relevant to the interest of Chinese diaspora. Specifically, it portrays Obama as concerned and friendly to Chinese immigrants; the immigrants are depicted as highly valued and praiseworthy, the immigration reform is narrated as almost ready to materialize and those opposing the immigration reform are portrayed as malicious and aggressive (Zou, 2014).
The evidence of methodological pluralism testifies to the diversity of approaches to studying diasporic media and enriches the quality of empirical data for analysis.
Gaps and Future Research
The geographical spread of literature on diasporic media is mostly concentrated in the Global North such as the Anglosphere that encompasses most of United States, Europe, and Australia. However, there is a paucity of literature in the Global South including on the diverse linguistic perspectives such as the Anglosphere that encompasses most of North America, the British Isles, Australia, and New Zealand; the Spanish sphere that encompasses the Iberian peninsula as well as a large portion of Central and South America; the Francosphere that encompasses France, its imperial possessions and much of West Africa; and the other linguistic spheres that encompass North India and Pakistan (without necessarily including South India) and another that conjoins mainland China, Taiwan, and Singapore (Athique, 2014).
There is a tendency in literature to analyze a single diasporic media platform and to generalize from its findings. This is problematic because most diasporic media are small enterprises with minimal influence on the wider society, unlike their mainstream counterparts. Hence, there is a need to conduct comparative analysis of different models of their journalism genres (including literary, campaigning, investigative, environmental, and ethics); and of their historical, national, and global contexts; and also of their market orientation including the contradictory market logics between commercial and public service imperatives. Moreover, research needs to focus on the extent to which the diasporic media are influenced by issues such as profitability, cost containment, and evolving ownership patterns including the issues surrounding the impacts of free speech and the effects of the regulation of ownership, media policies, technology, and commercialization on content and distribution.
There is a need to readapt theoretical perspectives to fit the contexts of diasporic media. In addition to the aforementioned dominant perspectives, some other perspectives that will advance diasporic media studies include literary criticism (historical framework, text reader- response theory-oriented empirical studies); and class and gender facets within the diaspora problematic (Anthias, 2018). These will enhance our understanding of how forms of diasporic media production and consumption are intertwined with diasporic experiences and connections and of how gendered relations are constitutive of the positionalities of the groups themselves and to different locations and trajectories (Anthias, 2018).
Moreover, scholars should focus on the use of diasporic media as a resource for constructing meaning by the diaspora audiences and on the benefits of using different diasporic media platforms (e.g., culturally specific news, self-representation, cross-cultural understanding) and the negative consequences of using these platforms (e.g., audience fragmentation, stereotyping, cultural insularity).
The concentration of studies on the Global North fails to reflect the changing diasporic media maps and the diversity of their production and consumption. Future research should focus on diasporic media in the Global South and assess the impacts of globalization: including the intensification of connections in response to geographical locations and physical distance. Moreover, more studies should focus on diaspora journalists as the subjects of studies; on diasporic media’s relationships with their mainstream counterparts; and on their capability to mobilize diaspora audiences for political actions. Crucially, further research on diaspora audiences will provide useful measurements relevant to both the media organizations and advertisers. And finally, a journal of diaspora media is most needed to showcase this subfield as an integral part of journalism studies and to serve as a focal reference source for scholars.
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