At awards ceremony for ethnic and indie press, Connie Chung describes big media as ‘a very male-oriented, very white-oriented executive suite’

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Connie Chung. (Dan Rosenblum)
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After Connie Chung’s father, a former Chinese intelligence officer, fled for the United States in the 1940s, his lack of English skills forced him to become an accountant.

“He was never able to pursue what he had loved and what his profession was,” she said.

But, speaking at an award ceremony to a room filled with immigrant journalists, the television correspondent said the world has changed. There are more places for women and minorities, and for immigrants, to make their stories heard. But, she said, there’s still a lot to do before women and minorities penetrated boardrooms and reached parity in journalism.

“So what you have is a very male oriented, very white oriented executive suite and the decisions that are subsequently made are in that direction,” she told the crowd of community-newspaper editors and reporters at the Ippies, an awards ceremony for the local ethnic community press presented at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.

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“I can look at various stories that I’ve seen lately, for instance, the Muslim that was brutally beaten in her own home, the Asian student who killed a number of Asian students out in California. I saw very little, quite frankly, on those stories compared to other similar stories that occurred to people who were not either Muslim or Asian. I find that very troubling and I think that if you infiltrate the mainstream media, you might be very effective in raising your voices.”

She continued by commending the ethnic press for giving their communities more details the mainstream media neglected to provide. But she offered some caution.

“I don’t encourage you to incite, to say this should be in the news more because I find - I believe - that there’s too much opinion, too much negativism in this country that it needs to be just reporting,” she said. “Forgive me for inserting my belief but it’s really wrong, what was creeping negativism has turned into I think so much negativism that reporting has been infiltrated by all this negativism and opinion and it’s just plain wrong”

The Ippies are awards that exclusively recognize original reporting from across New York’s independent, ethnic and local press. Though there were some start-ups, many of the papers were hyperlocal before the word became a buzzy branding tool. This year, the award’s tenth, professors at CUNY’s Journalism school judged awarded winners that included well-known papers like City Limits and The Forward as well as a number of Chinese-language papers and web start-ups like The Lo-Down and DNAInfo.

According to the school’s dean, Stephen Shepard, there are more than 350 daily newspapers, magazines, broadcasters and websites that serve non-English speakers in New York. And they often get at stories that aren’t covered by mainstream media for any number of reasons.

But in some key ways, community media is big media. Foreign-born immigrants make up at least 36 percent of New York’s population and many of them speak little English, giving the small papers inroads into big readerships.

(They’re also courted by politicians who recognize their reach: John Liu, the embattled city controller, who spoke during last year’s awards, quickly shuffled through last night's event.)

“I feel your pain,” Errol Louis said to the crowd. “I was not just a worker at community press but I sold ads and pitched to advertisers to keep the enterprise alive. And I know how hard to it is to do.”

Morris, who had a column in Our Time Press, eventually worked his way through more mainstream outlets like the Daily News before becoming the anchor of NY1’s "Inside City Hall."

One of the bigger winners was Feet in 2 Worlds, an effort within the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs, which offers three-month fellowships to train journalists to produce immigrant-centric radio pieces. The project helps them pitch many of the pieces, which focus on issues emerging from the immigrant community, to wider outlets like WNYC or Public Radio International.

“One of the big things that we focus on is integrating the voices of immigrant and ethnic media into public radio,” said the project’s Executive Producer John Rudolph. Last night’s four awards stack up on top of other awards they’ve won including Peabody and Sigma Alpha Chi awards.

“We have a number of Feet in 2 World Alums who have gone through our training and our mentoring and our fellowship programs who now work in public radio,” he said.

Rudolph pointed to correspondent Von Diaz who won for a piece on homeless gay immigrant youth in New York.

“I was initially interested in gay homeless youth, but found that there was this pocket that came from other places in the world whose stories hadn’t really been told, and who came to New York expected something very different from their home countries and ended up without a home,” she said.

If there's a home for the city's ethnic press, it may well be Voices of New York, recently taken on by CUNY, which translates and aggregates many of the articles printed in the city's non-English-language press for wider, English-reading audiences. The project’s director, Garry Pierre-Pierre, said afterward that he wants to see the effort become a streamlined source for budding entrepreneurs to help start newspapers. Pierre-Pierre left a six-year stint at The New York Times to start The Haitian Times, aimed at the half-million Haitians in the New York area.

“I was at The New York Times, enjoying myself, but I felt that all the reason we’ve been talking about voices and ethnic media, that the Haitian community needed its voices and didn’t have one,” he said.

That particular paper’s importance within the Haitian community was laid bare two years ago when families reached out to the paper after the devastating Part Au Prince earthquake.)

“It was a labor of love, I worked 12 hours a day, and I was never happier in my life,” he said.

“I mean, the evolution is that we’ll be a repository for resources, continue to do that, and when you have entrepreneurs study newspapers. This is the place that they come and say, ‘OK, I’ll come to CUNY, I’ll get the Bible of how to do it,’” he said. “And you know, we can help you launch and manage your business.”

A full list of last night's winners:

Best investigative/in-depth story: Investigates an issue overlooked by mainstream media or one that has great community impact

1st place: Meng Fang, Tu Yichen and Law Wai Ki for “Aftermath of September 11: New York’s Chinatown Ten Years On,” World Journal

2nd place: Jacky Tik Wong for “Private Danny Chen Allegedly Subjected to Physical Abuse and Racial Taunting before Death,” Sing Tao Daily New York

3rd place: Megan Finnegan (Our Town) and Stephon Johnson for “Elite Racism,” New York Amsterdam News

Best article on immigration or social justice: Critical look at economic, political or social issues that affect disenfranchised communities

1st place: Dan Coughlin and Kim Ives for “Washington Backed Famous Brand-Name Contractors in Fight Against Haiti’s Minimum Wage Increase,” Haïti Liberté

2nd place: Yuwei Zhang for “Talent hunters mean business,” China Daily USA

3rd place: Neil deMause for “One Woman's Plan to Beat Poverty,” City Limits

Best editorial/commentary: Presents a convincing and compelling perspective

1st place: Marco Salazar for “Scam U,” YCteen

2nd place: Cristina Pastor for “Looking Back at the Scandal of 2011: The Seductive Frenchman and a Feisty Hotel Maid,” Feet in 2 Worlds

3rd place: Kung Li­ for “A History of Georgia’s 1%: Why You Must Face Race to Occupy Atlanta,” Colorlines

Best overall design of print publication: Use of typography, art, images and layout in conveying a publication's editorial message

1st place: Kurt Hoffman, The Forward

2nd place: Nick Sadowski, Nowy Dziennik

3rd place: Anthony Smyrski, City Limits

  • Best overall design of an online publication: Use of typography, art, images and layout in conveying a publication's editorial message

1st place: Nick Sadowski, Nowy Dziennik

2nd place: Gabrielle Birkner, The Forward

3rd place: Phong Bui and Walter Chiu, The Brooklyn Rail

Best photo essay or online slideshow: Photographic series that best conveys a storyline or concept

1st place: A. Jesse Jiryu Davis for “The LD Presents ‘Strangers,’” The Lo-Down:

2nd place: Peter Yan and Rick Ho for “911: The 10th Anniversary - At Ground Zero: Then and Now,” Sing Tao Daily

3rd place: Elizabeth Borda, Amelia Holowaty Krales, Ashley Marinaccio and Julie Turkewitz for “We Contain Multitudes,”The Indypendent

Best photograph: Goes beyond headshots or posed formal shots

1st place: Karsten Moran for his photo accompanying the story “Albany Votes to Approve Same-Sex Marriage,” The Riverdale Press

2nd place: Carl Glassman for his photo accompanying, “Parting Shots: A Beloved Tribeca Ping Pong Club Shuts Down,” The Tribeca Trib

3rd place: Andrew Stern for his photo accompanying “Taking it to the Street,” The Indypendent

Best video: Best use of visual storytelling to highlight an issue of importance to a local community

1st place: Nate Lavey for “Living Apart in Crown Heights,” The Forward

2nd place: Nate Lavey for “Naming Mushky,” The Forward

3rd place: Lan Trinh for “Immigrants and Native-Born Seek Chinese Language Instruction in NYC Public Schools,” Feet in 2 Worlds

Best audio: Best use of audio storytelling to highlight an issue of importance to a local community

1st place: Monica Miller for “Newark Roll Call,” WBGO 88.3FM

2nd place: Von Diaz for “LGBT Immigrant Youth Struggle in New York,” Feet in 2 Worlds

3rd place: Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska, with help from Mohsin Zaheer, for “With an Eye on the Sky, Immigrants Revive Practice of Pigeon Tending in New York,” Feet in 2 Worlds

Best multimedia package: One that integrates multiple elements

1st place: DNAinfo.com staff for “Crime and Safety Analysis Delivers Surprises Across the Five Boroughs,” DNAinfo.com

2nd place: Gal Beckerman for “Crown Heights 20 Years Later,” The Forward

3rd place: El Diario team for “Sept. 11 – the Latino experience,” El Diario/La Prensa