SAN FRANCISCO -- Journalists, editors and publishers representing ethnic media across Northern and Central California gathered Thursday night in San Francisco to celebrate the 2012 New America Media awards gala. Hosted by long-time veteran Belva Davis, the event honored those whose work exemplifies this fast growing media sector.
“This feels like déjà vu,” said Davis, who 15 years ago emceed NAM’s first-ever awards event in San Francisco’s Chinatown. She later recalled her own experience as an aspiring African American journalist at a time “when the only place I could work was ethnic media.”
Belva Davis onstage at the NAM Ethnic Media Awards / Photo: Jacob Simas
Thursday’s event was held on the grounds of local public broadcasting station KQED, which helped organize the night’s celebration. Over 20 winners and runners up were chosen from a field of more than 100 entries, in categories ranging from Outstanding Investigative stories to Sports, Commentary and Youth reporting.
Davis, a Louisiana native and longtime host of the local public television program “This Week in Northern California,” was honored for a career spanning more than four decades. Her work has covered everything from the rise of the Black Panther Party to the onset of AIDS and ongoing scandals in City Hall.
With Davis, said NAM founding member Meihuey Huang, editor of the Chinese-language World Journal, “viewers know that no community voice will go unheard.”
Separate awards were also given to both English and in-language coverage in the Hyperlocal and International Reporting categories. A special Community Advocacy Award honoring veteran journalist Chauncey Bailey, who was slain for his work in Oakland in 2007, went to SF Bayview Publisher Willie Ratcliff.
Willie Ratcliff, Publisher of SF Bayview newspaper / Photo: Jacob Simas
“Bailey was a go-getter,” said Ratcliff, who accepted the award alongside Denika Chatman, the mother of Kenneth Harding, killed by police in 2011. Ratcliff urged those in the audience to follow Bailey’s lead in representing and defending their communities. “We are the power,” he exclaimed to loud applause.
The SF Bayview has long served the city’s largely African American neighborhood from which the paper takes its name. NAM Founder and Executive Director Sandy Close said of the publication that it is “the first and sometimes only voice” challenging the official version of events directly impacting the community.
Quoting Bailey, Close said of ethnic media that each outlet is “like a finger… and together, we are a fist.”
NAM Executive Director Sandy Close / Photo: Jacob Simas
In a fragmented media landscape buffeted by challenges on all fronts, the mood among attendees was jubilant. Mike Vang from Hmong TV Network in Fresno said he was “excited to see so much media represented.” Hmong TV Producer Pov M. Xyooj received the award for best Emerging Media.
“I prefer the term localization, instead of fragmentation,” said Jaya Padmanabhan from India Currents, whose piece on how the foreclosure crisis impacted middle-class South Asians in Silicon Valley earned her the award for Outstanding Hyperlocal reporting. Padmanabhan explained that the fragmentation of today’s media is in many ways empowering local communities like her own, every one of which “has something to say.”
NAM Awards Chair, Odette Keeley / Photo: Jacob Simas
Other winners included Weijiang Huang of the Chinese-language Sing Tao Daily. Huang’s piece, “The Lone Surviving Garment Factory in S.F. Chinatown,” explored the roots of California’s Chinese garment industry and its current outsourcing of jobs to – of all places – China.
“As an immigrant,” said Huang, who took the award for best in-language Hyperlocal Reporting, “I am grateful to be able to continue pursuing my dream of being a journalist in this country… I am reaching the dreams of fellow Chinese immigrants.”
Indeed, winning stories spanned a broad array of topics connecting the global to the local, from e-waste recyclers in the slums of Mumbai and immigrants’ struggles with cartels and cops on the buses of Mexico to the hazing death of Chinese-American Marine Lance Cpl. Harry Lew and the effects of “colorism” in the African American community.
“This is really cool,” said Juan Esparza Loera, Editor of Vida en el Valle, who arrived at the event after covering a marathon in the sweltering heat of the Central Valley. “No, I mean it’s really cool here in San Francisco.”
Juan Esparza Loera, Editor of Vida en el Valle / Photo: Jacob Simas
Loera won the award for Outstanding Sports Story. His piece, “Oswaldo Lopez Wins Race, Hearts” focuses on the journey of a Mexican native from trumpet player in a mariachi band to first-place finisher of what is considered the world’s most difficult ultra-marathon.
The night’s celebration ended with a symbolic “passing of the torch” and a nod to the future of journalism in today’s youth media. Retiring publisher of the Globe Newspaper Group Vernon Whitmore spoke of his more than 20 years in the black press before handing the podium over to Malcolm Marshall, executive producer of the Richmond Pulse.
The Globe publisher Vernon Whitmore passes the torch to Malcolm Marshall / Photo: Jacob Simas
Yee Leng Vang of The kNOw Youth Media in Fresno perhaps summed up the moment’s intergenerational dimension best. Accepting the award for Outstanding Youth Voice for his piece, “Long Lost Sibling: My Brother Serving Time in the Pen,” Vang told the audience, “I found my voice” in journalism.
He then added, “I know that I will always have the NAMily with me.”
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