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How Local Newsrooms and Organizations Have Become a Lifeline for Immigrants During The Pandemic

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In times of crisis, people turn to news. That is why many local newsrooms across the country have been working nonstop to serve their communities. However, the current situation has not made it easy for local organizations to keep working.

“Everyone is in survival mode at a time when there is a great demand to stay informed and connected,” Graciela Mochkofsky, director of the Center for Community Media at City University of New York’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, told NBC News. “Community media has [sic] lost their revenue, but have more work than ever.”

For many, local newsrooms provide an insight to what is happening in their communities, something that they wouldn’t have were it not for these organizations. Take Osvaldo Salas, for example. When talking to the Associated Press, he expressed his anguish over the lack of Spanish resources in his community.

“Unfortunately, here in Arizona, they turn their backs on Hispanic people,” Salas, a restaurant cook, told the outlet. “Here, many of us speak Spanish, thousands of us, and unfortunately sometimes they put us to the side.”

Salas is just one of many non-English speakers that struggle to get the news. With new data revealing that the virus and its economic repercussions hit harder for people of color in the U.S., it is important that they get all the information they need to navigate the situation. However, some say that is often not the case.

“Every day, I monitor the Facebooks, Twitters, official pages and every other form of social networks of the federal and state authorities and there are very few who make releases in Spanish,” Maria Veronica Sansur, a Digital Producer for Telemundo33 in Sacramento, told Revolution English. “I feel that many times they forget that a large number of Spanish-speakers live in their region, and that is why we as a channel have a duty to do the reporting for our people, because the official agencies won’t.”

Sansur points out that their biggest barrier in informing people is that because they have a very small staff, one person is often “doing the work of 5 people”; and that is in a big company like Telemundo, which is owned by NBC. Smaller outlets have a much harder time making ends meet.

“I don’t even want to talk about it. It’s likely that the money that we did get from some ads won’t be enough to cover the cost of printing our next edition,” Pia Hovenga, the publisher of Viva Iowa!, a bimonthly Spanish-language newspaper serving two counties in rural Iowa, told NBC News. “Right now, I’m just moving forward and doing my best to get our next issue out this week.”

A lot of small newsrooms greatly depend on ad revenue, which has been scarce during the crisis. Nevertheless, most of them are fighting to keep informing their public because they know that without them, information would be very limited. A lot of the time, the issues they cover are not widely reported on by authorities or other networks.

“I feel that during these times, the authorities have chosen to focus almost entirely on how small businesses can survive the pandemic,” Sansur said. “However, we see very little of how farmers and domestic workers can survive this crisis. They still lack a push from the government.”

That is why some organizations have swept in to fill the gaps that the government has left within the immigrant community. Organizations like the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) have long been an important support system for domestic workers in the country, but have become more so during the health crisis.

“Low-wage workers, particularly Black women, are always the hardest hit in any crisis,” said NDWA executive director Ai-jen Poo in a press release. “While domestic work is essential to keeping our families and communities safe and healthy at this moment, domestic workers have been undervalued and excluded from equal protections for decades. Before the pandemic, workers were one emergency away from crisis and now with the pandemic, they have been the first to lose income, and the last to receive support.”

To alleviate the problem, the organization created a fund to help domestic workers get through the crisis. Their goal is to eventually reach $4,000,000 to lend help to over 10,000 workers in the country. 

“A safety net is a necessity,” Poo said on a different press release. “Care is a shared responsibility. Our own health depends on the health of the person next to us, and the person next to them. Times like these remind us how connected we all are. We believe people will appreciate the opportunity to show care for the people who care for us.”’

However, it hasn’t been an easy road, as nonprofit organizations have also been greatly impacted by the pandemic. There are some who’s funding will be a bit more secure since they receive federal loans or industry help. However, those who rely mostly on donations will be especially affected since a lot of people have been financially hit by the coronavirus crisis and cannot afford as many donations as before. Additionally, even those who do receive some help, say that it is not enough. 

“United Way was born from and made for crises like this one,” United Way’s CEO Brian Gallagher told NBC News. “But along with other nonprofits, we need support from the federal government, just like the airlines or the hospitality industry.”

Nevertheless, the organizations persist as most say that their job is valuable enough to their community that they are ready to make arrangements to make it work. Same with newsrooms, who hope to make a difference by informing people the best they can.

“The most important thing to inform people today is how we can help these people, who lost their jobs and what resources organizations and governments offer,” Sansur said. “Highlight small businesses that are trying to survive. Our people need to be able to lift their heads and feel hope and know that someone is listening to them.”

Alexandra Tirado Oropeza is a Venezuelan journalist covering politics, immigration, entertainment and social justice. She moved to the U.S. in 2014 to pursue a Writing degree at The University of Tampa, and after graduating, she moved to Los Angeles where she works in broadcast and as a freelance writer. She’s passionate about equality, freedom of speech, art and dogs.