April 15, 2020
On March 30, 2020, India Abroad published its last issue. The end of this iconic publication in its fiftieth year has sent shockwaves through a community media sector already reeling from COVID-19. As other leading community media outlets face layoffs, reduced print runs, and even consider suspending publication altogether, India Abroad’s legacy reveals not just the fragility but also the resilience of the community media.

“India Abroad has been gasping for breath for some time, and the virus did it in,” says Sunil Adam, the paper’s editor-in-chief. Launched in 1970 from the mind – and pockets – of its founding publisher, Gopal Raju, India Abroad soon became the flagship in a veritable fleet of news outlets by and for South Asian communities in the U.S. In 2001, Raju sold the newspaper to the Indian online portal, Rediff.com, which sold it again in 2016 to an Indian-American entrepreneur named Suresh Venkatachari, who planned to make it the crown jewel of a South Asian-American community news and entertainment empire. What its later owners perhaps lost sight of, according to Adam, was that the paper was “a community-owned entity, a newspaper catering to a niche community and a niche audience, and with a role to play.”

India Abroad was the launching pad for Raju’s charitable and political forays with the Indian American Foundation and the Indian American Center for Political Action, highlighting the newspaper’s central role in giving its community a voice to express its values – and its demands.

Says WNYC’s Arun Venugopal, whose journalism career began at India Abroad, “The passing of India Abroad has raised real concern about who’s going to be our voice – who will be able to hold those in power accountable.”

In its last years, India Abroad was just one of dozens of publications and outlets serving South Asian communities, and many of these – Bangla Patrika, Everest Times, Khasokhas, Vishwa Sandesh, South Asian Insider, Weekly Bornomola, Urdu News, Urdu Times, and Punjabi Duniya to name a few – have told us they have had to suspend publication amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Parikh Worldwide Media, headquartered in New Jersey and with offices in New York City and Chicago, is the country’s largest Indian-American publishing company, and likewise decided in March to suspend printing its five periodicals: News India Times, Desi Talk, Desi Talk in Chicago, The Indian American, and Gujarat Times. Indian Panorama ceased print publication last November.

This roll call of South Asian-American publications underscores just how many voices clamor to be heard from within the South Asian community. Adam describes how, from his vantage point at India Abroad, he saw the Indian-American community grow in size, regional and linguistic diversity, and amid tremendous political polarization both at home and in the U.S. “It would be hard to reach these different audiences without proper resources,” he says, but maintains that “there is a tremendous need for a credible, well-done news vehicle.”

The diversity of perspectives and voices within the South Asian community media landscape is what is lost in mainstream coverage of these communities. “There are so many schisms that are not evident to the mainstream media, and it was so exciting to navigate that as a journalist,” says Venugopal, observing that much of the mainstream media’s difficulty in accurately covering race and immigration is about lack of access to the complexity in communities of color: the inequity, polarization, and diversity that exists within communities.

“Working at India Abroad, I got to see that we’re not a fossilized community, we’re constantly changing,” he says. “There’s something particularly thrilling about being able to voice and articulate that, and in this intimate voice that you can only hear in this corner of the media world. If we lose this good journalism, we’re losing something of our collective narrative – our community’s ongoing story.”


Other communities are losing their essential voices amid this pandemic too. Gazeta Brazilian News, the largest Portuguese-language newspaper serving Brazilian communities in Florida, Boston, New York and New Jersey, has suspended its print edition after 25 years, as have Illyria, a 27-year-old Albanian-American newspaper based in New York City, and the 32-year-old Norwood News, a community newspaper covering the Bronx. World Journal, headquartered in New York City and with offices throughout the East Coast, Midwest, and West Coast, is the leading newspaper published in Chinese communities across the U.S., and has had to drastically reduce its page count; before the pandemic its issues ran upwards of 140 pages. The Indypendent, a Brooklyn-based progressive newspaper, has had to cut its circulation by nearly 50%, and Daily Challenge, which serves New York City’s Black community, has had to decrease its normally five-times-a-week publication schedule.

These losses are happening even as the demand for community-based journalism continues to rise. Publishers are innovating and thinking creatively to continue meeting this demand. Rick Ho, the general manager of Sing Tao Daily, which serves the Chinese-American community in New York City, told us that his team began preparing for quarantine as early as December, linking laptops to the outlet’s server in preparation for the advertising and circulation departments to work remotely. Hank Levy, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Jewish Post began offering deeply discounted special ads to local businesses, and for politicians to communicate with constituents. Khalil ur-Rehman, editor of the Urdu Times, organized a back office in Pakistan to design a PDF version of his publication for his readers to download and print.

Creativity, innovation, and resilience are hallmarks of this sector after all. After his long and illustrious career at India Abroad, Sunil Adam is still not done. “I want to retire not as the guy who ended a 50-year paper, but as the guy who started something new, with a future.” He’s launching a platform for commentary and personal essays by Indian Americans. “I want the Indian-American perspective to come out.”

Introducing CCM’s Partner in Chicago

In January, we kicked off our first strategic national partnership with the new Chicago Independent Media Alliance (CIMA). Already, CIMA has brought together 60 independent media outlets into a network of mutual support and collaboration. It has conducted the first-ever survey to map out Chicago’s community media landscape, organized joint ad-buys on behalf of member outlets, and secured grant funding for an editorial project with 26 of its member outlets.

At the end of this month, 40 of CIMA’s member outlets are launching a coordinated fundraising campaign to support Chicago community media amid COVID-19, which will be hosted on a joint fundraising portal CIMA is developing. CIMA is currently raising funds to match funds raised during the 30-day online campaign. To learn more about how to support Chicago community media, please contact Tracy Baim, publisher of The Chicago Reader: [email protected]

Upcoming at CCM

We’re staying in close touch with community media outlets as they continue to report from the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic during a worsening economic crisis. We’re rolling out programming to help them access funds and get great ideas from experts – and each other. 

Last week: 

  • We hosted a webinar with step-by-step guidance on applying for relief funding through the SBA Loan Program for Small Businesses. A recording is available here.   
  • Our Advertising Boost Initiative, which helps New York City-based outlets access a greater share of city agencies’ advertising budgets, held a two-day remote training on developing a professional media kit and reaching out to advertisers. If you are the publisher of a New York-based community news organization and would like to participate in this initiative, please contact Darlie Gervais.

Next week, we’ll launch our conversation series with publishers from around the country who will share best practices and ideas for maintaining revenue streams during the COVID-19 crisis. On April 21, we’ll be in conversation with John Wotowicz, publisher of THE CITY. Register to attend here.

Congratulations to the Community Media Awardees!

Please join us in congratulating the many of CCM’s constituent community media outlets named this week as recipients in the first round of The Facebook Journalism Project’s $5,000 FPJ Community Network grants. A full list of awardees can be found here.


COVID-19 Emergency Grants and Relief Funds

For Organizations:

  • Google News' Journalism Emergency Relief Fund will support small- and medium-sized media outlets producing original news content for local communities. Funding will range from the low thousands for small outlets to the low tens of thousands for larger ones. Details here.

  • Institute for Nonprofit News is partnering with the Facebook Journalism Project to launch a $25 million COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund, to provide grants to local news organizations across the U.S., ranging from $25,000-$100,000. Learn more here.

  • LION Publishers is offering mini-grants to its members for consultant assistance in applying for the federal paycheck protection program. Apply here.

  • Society of Environmental Journalism’s Fund for Environmental Journalism now accepting proposals for story grants on climate, conservation and environmental health in North America. Rapid Response Grants (including stipend) are available up to $2,500 per individual or $5,000 for team or news outlet projects. Read more here

For Individuals:

  • CUNY Newmark J-School is launching Newmark J-Corps, a professional news service to report on the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City and in communities across the country. Up to 70 current Newmark J-School students will be deployed to report with the J-Corps, and each student will receive a living stipend of $4,000, increased this year from $1,000. Learn more here

  • Economic Hardship Reporting Project announced on Twitter that it has created an emergency fund dedicated to covering COVID-19 and financial hardship. To apply, contact [email protected]

  • The Fund for Investigative Journalism has launched a new emergency grant program for U.S.-based freelance investigative journalists working on stories on COVID-19 that break new ground and expose wrongdoing in the public or private sector. Grants of up to $10,000 will be made on a rolling basis. Learn more and apply here.

  • A group of journalists have created the Journalist Furlough Fund on behalf of fellow journalists who have been furloughed, or had their hours or income reduced in response to COVID-19. You can give here, or apply for financial assistance here.

  • A group of individual journalists have created a Microloans for Journalists program, offering interest-free $500 loans for professional journalists who have been laid off, furloughed, or had their pay cut in response to COVID-19. More information here.

Ongoing Emergency Assistance Programs

  • Authors League Fund offers emergency grants for authors, dramatists, journalists, and poets. Apply here

  • Carnegie Fund for Authors offers emergency grants for American authors who have published at least one full-length work. Learn more here

  • The Committee to Protect Journalists’ Gene Roberts Fund for Emergency Assistance provides financial support to journalists at risk. Only journalists approved to receive assistance from CPJ's Journalist Assistance program will be awarded emergency grants. Details here

  • International Women’s Media Foundation’s Journalism Relief Fund is open to women-identifying journalists who urgently need assistance, and will provide small grants of up to $2,000. Special consideration will be given on a case-by-case basis to those who have greater financial need. Details here

  • PEN America is expanding its longstanding Writers’ Emergency Fund, and will distribute grants of $500 to $1,000 based on applications that demonstrate an inability to meet an acute financial need, especially one resulting from the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. Information here

Local Opportunities

  • Philadelphia: The Lenfest Institute for Journalism is committing $70,000 in support to Asian American Journalists Association Philadelphia Chapter (AAJA Philly), the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Philadelphia Chapter (NAHJ Philly), and the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists (PABJ). Learn more here.

  • New Mexico: The New Mexico Local News Fund is making available emergency grants (capped at $750) for journalists impacted by COVID-19. Learn more here.

  • New York City: The New York City Community Trust has launched an emergency fund for local nonprofits providing critical services on the ground. Learn more about donating or receiving funds here.

  • Virginia: The Tidewater Media Guild, Timesland Media Guild and Blue Ridge NewsGuild have launched the Virginia is for Journalists Relief Fund. For more information, go to the fund’s GoFundMe page.

Trainings and Tools

American Press Institute has compiled a list of free tools, content, and funding opportunities for local newsrooms.  

Fiscal Management Associates has created a Paycheck Protection Program Toolbox for nonprofits, including a Mutual Aid Fund, templates and calculators, and upcoming free clinics for nonprofit managers on applying for federal SBA loans.

Freedom Forum Institute has compiled a resource page with webinars, surveys, funding opportunities, and COVID-19 resource guides.

LION Publishers has launched the LION Expert Network to connect local outlets with expert news-management consulting services.

Local Media Association has created a resource page with coverage and funding opportunities for local media outlets, including a webinar on how to set up a Local News Fund. 

Poynter has compiled a resource page of upcoming remote training opportunities.

Umbrex has developed a pandemic playbook, offering pro-bono coaching and consulting for small businesses and nonprofits.

Freelancers can also find guidance on benefits and relief for freelancers under the CARES Act, and can connect with other freelancers for resources and advice in this Support for Freelance Journalists Slack Workspace.

Food for Thought

As COVID-19 continues to devastate the U.S. news media, and unemployment assistance for freelancers in California stalls, we’d like to direct your attention to a recent report by the Native American Journalists Association, analyzing mainstream media coverage of Native American communities.

Share with Us

We’d love to know what’s making you think about community media in new ways too, so we encourage you to share any reports, databases, opportunities, or visualization projects you want us to know about. Please send them to our newsletter editor, Kavitha Rajagopalan: [email protected].

Sign up for our newsletter.

Subscribe Today
Copyright © 2020 Center for Community Media, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
219 West 40th Street
New York, NY 10018