One in eight U.S. residents is an immigrant. In the next generation, the number could rise to as many as one in five. The demographic shift is most evident in California, where one in four residents is foreign-born.
However, news stories do not reflect this diversity. Coverage of immigrants has been “episodic” and made up just 2.8 percent of news stories in 2007, according to a study from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. The bulk of that coverage is limited to deportation controversies, rather than the inclusion of immigrants in every aspect of news, from healthcare to education to religion and business.
Many journalists would like to include immigrant voices in their reporting, but it’s difficult. Finding people to interview takes time, and language is often a barrier. Journalists have a few hours – if they’re lucky, maybe a few days — to produce a story. It’s easier for reporters to turn to the same sources over and over again.
Cultural organizations and nonprofits that provide services to immigrants are established in nearly every community and can be valuable resources. These groups have news tips and leads to compelling personal narratives. But most organizations are too small, too busy or too reluctant to reach out to the media. Many don’t have websites, so journalists do not even know they exist.
Phuong Ly experienced those issues firsthand as a journalist for the Washington Post. She began developing Gateway California while she was a Knight Fellow at Stanford University during the 2010-2011 academic year. Gateway aims to bridge the cultural and digital divides between journalists and immigrant communities.
Offline, Gateway is holding media trainings for nonprofits, teaching them how to pitch stories and respond to interview requests. Networking events are being planned to help journalists and nonprofits develop their relationships.
Online, more than 80 reporters and editors are part of California Immigration Journalists, a networking group that Phuong founded. Gateway is developing a searchable database of nonprofits so that journalists can find sources quickly. Other plans include an online forum for journalists and nonprofits and a daily digest of links to news, reports and studies about immigrants in California.
Our organization’s name refers to the term used by demographers when describing places that have large immigrant populations. Gateway also means a passage to something larger. In that spirit, Gateway California will be a portal to better journalism.