We’re missing a lot in covering NC’s AAPI communities: Hear how that can change

News has a short attention span, but a recent panel turned into a forward-looking, insight-rich session showing the way for North Carolina media to build better long-term coverage of Asian American and Pacific Islander people — and support AAPI journalists — to make and deepen connections in our increasingly diverse state.

That was the NC Local News Workshop’s aim in bringing together five journalists and a community leader on May 14: To look beyond the immediate. We wanted to learn from the journalism discussion that followed the murders of six women of Asian descent in Atlanta, amid new attention to the reality of anti-Asian violence and rhetoric as an ongoing reality.

I hope you will watch it for yourself, because no summary is as good as hearing these panelists’ insights in their own voices and words, led by WUNC host Anita Rao. We were joined by Chavi Khanna Koneru, cofounder and executive director of NC Asian Americans Together; WRAL-TV anchor Renee Chou; News & Observer reporters Julian Shen-Berro and Ashad Hajela; and Waliya Lari, a former WRAL executive producer who now is head of programs and partnership for the Asian American Journalists Association, our cosponsor.

In North Carolina, where the diverse population of AAPI people represents one of the state’s fastest-growing groups, our panelists pointed out opportunities for better journalism that also helps newsrooms build relationships and audiences. Yet many newsrooms lack key resources for being able to cover these communities — language skills, relationships and sources — and don’t realize the gaps till they’re in the midst of a breaking news story.

Some takeaways:

Words and language matter

AAJA responded to the events of spring by publishing updated guidance for covering AAPI people and issues, an an audio pronunciation guide to the Atlanta victims’ name, and additional resources for understanding and reporting accurately.

Waliya Lari AAJA
Waliya Lari

Yet mistakes often happen at that basic level, Lari noted: Mentioning a detail that is ordinary in one culture as noteworthy, for instance. She referred to a 2016 piece she wrote for RTDNA, “The Words of Journalists Have Power,” that offered descriptions of two men — one a suspected terrorist, and one her husband — with details such as having recently grown a beard, having emigrated from Afghanistan, and other elements often used in descriptions of terror suspects.

Read moreWe’re missing a lot in covering NC’s AAPI communities: Hear how that can change

How NC media can connect with BIPOC communities, from outlets that serve them

How can North Carolina local news outlets gain credibility and audience reach with Black, Latino, and Asian American people and communities? How can media organizations — especially those whose content, audience, and staffing have been mostly white  — expand their coverage and representation to include more of North Carolina?

We invited three North Carolina media leaders who’ve built their success on serving BIPOC communities to share their insights during a recent workshop for the NC Media Equity Project — six mainstream media outlets that are partnering with the NC Local News Workshop to share knowledge, experience, and resources toward advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion.

We heard from:

  • Glenn Burkins
    Burkins

    Glenn Burkins, founder and publisher of QCityMetro.com, which he launched in 2008 to add coverage and connection for the Charlotte area’s Black residents, currently through the website, newsletters, social media and events

  • Paola Jaramillo
    Paola Jaramillo

    Paola Jaramillo, cofounder and executive editor of Triangle-based Enlace Latino NC, which launched in 2018 and provides state and regional public affairs news, information and resources for Spanish-speaking and bilingual audiences

  • Samir Shukla
    Shukla

    Samir Shukla, who cofounded Charlotte-based Saathee magazine (a glossy print magazine and digital site) 23 years ago with his brother to provide cultural connection and news for South Asian communities, primarily in the Carolinas but also with reach in other parts of the Southeast

Here are a few takeaways from these media leaders:

1. ‘You have to be there for the long run’

QCityMetro’s Burkins, who built a career as a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, Philadelphia Inquirer and Charlotte Observer, among others, said the outlet’s website traffic jumped amid the COVID pandemic — and that it has continued to grow afterward, reflecting hard-won trust built on its coverage. Early on, Burkins and QCity pressed Mecklenburg County health officials on the pandemic’s heavier impact on Black residents, and it continued to cover that impact and other aspects of the crisis in ways that told readers the outlet was looking out for them, he said.

“Mainstream media — and that is where I kind of earned my bones — is largely reactionary: It goes wherever the hot story is and stays for awhile, and then it leaves,” Burkins said. “If you want to forge true relationships with communities you cover, you can’t be reactionary. You have to be there for the long run.”

Read moreHow NC media can connect with BIPOC communities, from outlets that serve them

After Atlanta: How can NC newsrooms respond, not just react, to anti-AAPI violence and its aftermath?

in the days and weeks after an Atlanta-area gunman killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent, news coverage prompted a national discussion about journalism’s gaps and blind spots in covering AAPI people and communities.

The Asian American Journalists Association‘s staff and members stepped up quickly to provide invaluable guidance and accountability for media, many suddenly trying to cover people and communities where they had little grounding, and also to mobilize support for AAPI journalists.

Now the NC Local News Workshop is teaming up with AAJA for a Zoom workshop May 14 from 2-3 pm to help North Carolina media and communities gain from lessons learned through this coverage and the ensuing conversation.

Moderator Anita Rao, WUNC journalist and host, will lead a panel featuring NC journalists, national and state AAJA leaders and the head of NC Asian Americans Together, and taking on key questions:

  • How can North Carolina news organizations make better connections and develop sources, understanding and trust among the diverse and growing ranks of AAPI people in our state?
  • How can we support AAPI journalists in our newsroom and benefit from their contributions in shaping coverage?
  • What resources can inform coverage in an ongoing way?

We want your voice in this conversation, which can help North Carolina media move from reaction to response and long-term improvement: Find details here, or register right away here.

New slate of Workshop events address AAPI coverage and NC media, source diversity, and Census coverage prep

We’ve added three programs to the NC Local News Workshop events and training calendar. All will be offered via Zoom and are free for participants, but registration is required. Check out the events pages (linked from event titles) and click the registration button to reserve your spot.