City Council To Probe Ad Agency Spending

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[New York: Eye On City Hall]

The New York City Council will examine ad agency spending money with newspapers to determine why ethnic and community newspapers are ignored.

Ethnic and community newspapers’ readership continues to grow, publishers and City Council Members said, at a Feb. 23, hearing before the City Council Committee on Immigration.

The topic was "Ethnic Print Media and New York City's Immigrant Communities," and it was chaired by Council Member Kendall Stewart, who said ethnic newspapers provide vital information to the City’s approximately three million immigrants.

These papers deliver news in a language and format that is familiar to their particular immigrant communities and supply crucial information about their special issues and concerns that are generally not addressed in the mainstream media.

“Representing a predominantly immigrant district and being an immigrant myself, It is clear to me how important ethnic newspapers are to New Yorkers,” Stewart commented. “That is why I, along with my colleagues, am particularly concerned with how the current economic crisis will impact this industry.”

In the testimony and discussion that followed, it was evident that, unlike the daily papers, ethnic and community newspapers are not suffering from a lack of readers. If anything, readership is up. What they suffer from is a lack of advertising revenue, the mainstay of their existence.

As David Keisman, publisher of the English/Spanish Manhattan Times pointed out, it isn’t just a matter of privately owned businesses’ dwindling advertisements due to the sinking economy. All along, the ethnic press has been passed over by city agencies. “I have never received a recruitment ad from the NYPD for our Washington Heights and Inwood editions,” Keisman stated. “Nor have I ever received a Sanitation Department recycling ad in English or Spanish. The MTA bus schedules change constantly,” he continued, “but not only don't I receive anything from them, but their public relations people have told me they don't see us as a viable advertising vehicle.”

What’s more, Juana Ponce de Leon, executive director of the New York Community Alliance, said that city agencies send press advisories to the ethnic press expecting these papers to run them for free – even though they wouldn’t dream of asking papers like the New York Times to do the same.

“There is very little inclination to value what the ethnic and community newspapers are doing and to actually put some money behind it,” Ponce de Leon observed. “City agencies have got to stop trying to get advertising and editorial space for free if they want this media to survive. They have to treat us the same way they treat the mainstream press.”

Council Member Charles Barron declared emphatically that the bottom line is the racism in how dollars are doled out to newspapers, including such ethnic and community papers as The Amsterdam News and The Black Star News that are read by US-born New Yorkers. “This city has a $60 billion budget, and many city agencies have large advertising budgets,” Barron stated. “But when it comes to Black, Latino, Asian, and other people of color, this city just doesn’t want to spend the money. People of color are 65 percent of the city. How come we don't get 65 percent of the advertising dollars?”

The upshot of the hearing is that the Immigration Committee plans to put the City on notice that it must reexamine how its agencies spend their advertising dollars. The committee will send out letters to the agencies requiring them to reveal: what is their advertising budget; what is the breakdown of that budget; and, how do they decide where to spend their advertising money?
Then, most likely in conjunction with the City Council Contract Committee, the Immigration Committee will hold a follow up hearing because, as Council Member Mathieu Eugene stated, along with the financial aspect, this is a simple question of fairness.

Countless immigrant New Yorkers don’t read the mainstream papers; instead, they rely on ethnic media. “This is about providing equal access to information and comparable services to all City residents,” Eugene said.

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