NEWYORK - Indians trust tribal newspapers more than the mainstream press.
This not altogether startling statement is now borne out by a major new
survey released June 7. Pollster Sergio Bendixen found ethnic media to be a
significant force among a number of minority groups.
His report, subtitled "The Giant Hidden in Plain Sight," used 10 different
languages to interview members of 14 racial subgroups Reflecting his
California base, five of the groups were Asian; but the national sample of
1,895 respondents also included six Spanish-speaking subgroups, Arab- and
African-Americans and American Indians.
The 114 American Indians made a large enough sample to draw statistically
significant conclusions, Bendixen said. (The poll had a margin of error of
The sample represented 64 million ethnic Americans, or nearly one-quarter
of the population. Some 29 million of these, almost 13 percent of all
Americans, preferred ethnic media to mainstream outlets, showing the
"striking impact" of news sources generally overlooked by the dominant
In a teleconference with ethnic journalists, poll co-sponsor Sandy Close
said, "the cutting edge of journalism isn't the blogs, it's the ethnic
Close is the executive director of New California Media, which commissioned
the study along with the Center for American Progress and the Leadership
Conference for Civil Rights Education Fund. Karen Lawson, executive
director of the Leadership Conference, said the poll would guide its
efforts to win support for its agenda, including civil rights issues and
opposition to judicial appointees she described as "right-wing."
The panelists also said the findings should interest advertisers and the
major political parties.
According to the survey, conducted by political consulting firm Bendixen &
Associates, 23 percent of the American Indian population are "primary
consumers" of Native newspapers. Some 39 percent are "secondary consumers."
Indians in the poll said they relied on a variety of publications, naming
national papers like Indian Country Today and tribal publications like the
Apache Scout, the Cherokee Phoenix and Windtalker.
Nearly half of the American Indian population has internet access, said the
report, and 14 percent regularly visited Native Web sites. But American
Indian radio and television had a much smaller audience than their
equivalents in other groups, presumably because their reach was more
The national and international Spanish television networks, by contrast,
reached 87 percent of the Hispanic population, but only one-quarter of it
had Internet access.
Perhaps the major conclusion was that ethnic news sources inspired more
trust than did mainstream news outlets. The American Indian population
preferred Native publications for news "important to their community" by 49
percent to 41 percent, actually a lower margin than the Hispanic, Asian and
Arabic population. Most groups, however, turned to the general press for
news of politics and government. About 60 percent of American Indians
relied more on national papers, about the same as all the other groups
except Hispanics, who preferred their much more extensive Spanish sources
by 64 percent.
The panelists suggested that this finding might inspire ethnic papers to
strengthen their general reporting.
Bendixen said his survey underscored a changing model for immigrants in the
United States. Instead of a "melting pot," he said, "we have a salad."
Newcomers, he said, felt they could retain ties to their original country
and maintain its language and culture while being good Americans. He said
the importance of the non-English press also reflected the increasing
percentage of families who spoke their native language at home. "They are
not comfortable in English," he said.
Bendixen acknowledged the different situation of African-American and
American Indian newspapers, which appear in English. He also called them
the historic originators of the ethnic press.