Pacific Citizen surviving times of declining traditional media

Story and photo by Andreas Rivera

The Pacific Citizen exists both online and in a monthly print edition.

In September 1929, a small, Asian-run newspaper was first published in San Francisco and has been in print ever since.

Today, The Pacific Citizen is now available both in print and online, and in these times of declining print media, it is still finding ways to connect with its audience.

The PC was started by the Japanese American Citizens League; members have a subscription to the print version of the newspaper that is published and mailed all over the country.

Jeff Itami, a member of the Pacific Citizen’s editorial board,  said the economic problem has affected the paper like any other business. The PC has had to cut operating costs and do some fundraising. According to the PC’s Web site, only six staff members publish the paper, not including contributors.

Even though the paper is part of the JACL, the PC covers a broad variety of issues such as Asian news, profiles of famous Asian Americans and pieces about historical events. It also has no cultural affiliation, meaning its content is not exclusive to Japanese, but to all Asian Americans, said Paul Fisk, co-president of the JACL chapter in Salt Lake City. “It brings a lot of news coverage others don’t.”

Itami said the print version of the Pacific Citizen is declining in circulation. Fisk said membership is steadily declining to the JACL, which could mean declining subscriptions to the PC.

“A lot of our key members are older,” Fisk said. “They are passing away and not a lot of new members are joining.”

About 30,000 people subscribe to the print version, Fisk said, some of whom were Japanese-Americans who were held at internment camps during World War II.

Other reasons for decline in membership are the many splits the JACL experiences due to its stances on certain issues in the media.

Fisk said the JACL lost members during World War II due to its lack of vocalization and action while Japanese-Americans were being interned in camps.

Another, more recent event, occurred when 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, was discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps because of his vocal opposition and refusal to take part in the war in Iraq. The JACL supported Watada, while many members thought it was not relevant to them, creating another split in membership, Fisk said.

The number of print subscriptions the PC has does not reflect its reach, Itami said. The paper is focusing on expanding its online popularity.

Despite the decline of the print version of the paper, Itami said the PC is reaching out to a younger audience. Recently the PC reformatted to a magazine format to appeal to younger readers.

“We are connecting to a younger audience through blogging, MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube, bringing that traffic to the PC,” Itami said. “Traffic is only going up,”

According to the PC’s Web site, it receives about 450,000 hits per month.

Itami said he is not worried about the PC’s financial future. The PC’s advertising revenue (which accounts for 50 percent of the paper’s income) is increasing.

“The PC is not a luxury,” Itami said, “it’s basic information we all need.”

Media influenced Native American voters

by JESSICA DUNN

The Black Eagle family of the Crow Tribe adopted president-elect Barack Obama, whose new name is “One Who Helps People Throughout the Land,” during his visit to the Crow Nation in Montana on May 19, 2008.

Obama was the first presidential candidate to visit the reservations of the Crow Nation. He was adopted in a private ceremony, and then he gave a speech ensuring Native Americans that their well-being is a priority to him.

He promised to honor the government-to-government relationships and treaties, to appoint an American Indian policy advisor and to host an annual summit with tribal leaders. Obama also vowed to improve trust funds, education and health care for reservations all over the country.

“I want you to know that I will never forget you,” Obama said in his speech to the Crow Nation. “You will be on my mind every day that I am in the White House.”

Obama’s visit and speech had an impact on the early support from Native Americans.

“I think people were impressed with his commitment he showed by just going to the reservation,” said Harlan McKosato, the host for Native America Calling, in a phone interview.

Native Americans overwhelmingly supported Obama by more than 80 percent, according to a poll conducted by Native Vote Washington, a voter advocacy group based in the state of Washington. And like most demographics this election, voter turnout for Native Americans also saw an increase.

“Before a lot of people didn’t vote because they said it didn’t matter who was in the administration because things didn’t change for Native peoples. They were treated the same and ignored the same,” said Donna Maldonado, general manager of KRCL. “The tribes saw promise in Obama. … I think he is our hope for the future.”

Native American support can be attributed to many factors, including Obama’s promise of change and better voter education overall.

Change

Obama has promised change to the Native American community. And while most are skeptical about promises made by a politician, a lot of people think he can change things, McKosato said.

Native Americans see Obama as someone they can identify with because of his diverse heritage, said Ella Dayzie, executive director of the Indian Walk-In Center in Salt Lake City, in an e-mail interview.

A follow-through on those promises will first be seen through Obama’s appointments within his cabinet and other positions. He has promised to create an American Indian advisor position to better meet the needs of the Native communities. Obama has also proposed an annual summit with Native American tribal leaders.

“With a Native American cabinet chair, the hope is that the U.S. government can now be well informed about the special set of challenges American Indians face, from issues of sovereignty to access to affordable health/behavioral health care,” Dayzie said. “One cannot ignore what is in front of him/her daily.”

Obama has already named six Native Americans to various transition teams. Mary Smith, Mary McNeil and Yvette Roubideaux have been assigned to work on justice, agriculture and health issues respectively, and John Echohawk, Keith Harper and Robert Anderson will advise Obama on changes within the Interior Department, according to Change.gov.

Obama has also promised money towards improvements for Native American health care and education. His economic and infrastructure development plan includes an increase in the federal minimum wage and adequate funding for the Indian Housing Block grant, according to the First Americans Fact Sheet at Obama’s Web site.

Obama’s promises to Native Americans created greater interest in the election within the Native communities. Voter education on the issues and candidates also influenced voter turnout.

Voter Education

Voters had a vast amount of information at hand about the election, from the newspaper and television to the Internet and YouTube. Most of the sources contained general information on candidates and issues. However, some programs focused on Native American issues and voting.

KRCL-FM is a public radio station in Salt Lake City, Utah, founded in 1979 as a community radio station where all issues could be discussed. KRCL has always been committed to having diverse voices on the air, said Maldonado general manager of KRCL.

Various ethnic groups, including Native Americans, have had airtime since the beginning. Today, the Native American slot is on Sunday mornings. Native America Calling, a live call-in program based in Albuquerque, N.M., that discusses issues specific to the Native American community, is rebroadcast on KRCL at 6 a.m. And, at 7 a.m., Living the Circle of Life plays traditional powwow music and contemporary American Indian music from local and national artists.

Native America Calling is an hour-long program that airs every weekday at 1 p.m. Eastern time on select stations. The program’s topics range from financial issues to a book of the month. During the presidential campaign, the program evaluated the topics and candidates from a Native American point of view.

“Native [America] Calling on KRCL helped in bringing news/reports about the issues that matter to Native American voters,” Ella Dayzie said.

Some of the election topics included discussions about political parties, Native veterans, women’s vote, young voters and planning for Election Day. The program also talked about the reaction to Obama’s win and discussed the promises Obama made to Native Americans.

Native America Calling has had full phone lines each time the election was discussed, said McKosato, the show host.

“People were more interested in this campaign than ever before,” he said.

Native America Calling helped get the issues out to Native Americans. The show used politics related to the community to spark an interest in the election and get people motivated to vote. 

AIROS Native Radio Network also used the radio and Internet to give Native American voters a voice. AIROS is an all-Indian Internet radio that is broadcast 24 hours a day through web streaming. It had audio, video, news articles and podcasts covering the election from a Native perspective. AIROS reporters used their stories to link Native communities to the election. They covered the 2008 Native Vote Initiative campaigns, presidential candidate rallies and Native American support.

The National Congress of American Indians expanded its Native Vote Initiative this year in an aggressive campaign to get more Native Americans to vote. The 2008 initiative had four core plans: provide training to educate, engage and mobilize voters; ensure fairness of voting laws and protect Native voters; educate candidates on issues important to Indian Country; and get the Native Vote message to media and the general public. Volunteers from tribal communities visited with people, even going door to door, to educate individuals about issues and help them register to vote.

“The NCAI’s Native Vote team has done a great job on getting the ‘vote’ out and educating the American Indians about both parties so that [they] can make an informed decision,” Dayzie said.

The End Result

Obama’s goals and promises to better Indian Country have brought a new hope to Native Americans. And due to a focus on the Native American voters and issues, Obama now has the opportunity to keep his promises to them and people all over the United States.

TEA of Utah

by JENNIFER MORGAN

Teinamarie Nelson and Rebecca Wilder were having lunch one day and discussing an issue they heard about from the media regarding transgender people that they thought was unfair. The two women wanted to do something to help transgender people and those who interact with them so they didn’t make the news the same way. They decided to form a nonprofit organization but, it wasn’t until Christopher Scuderi came on board that things started moving.

Transgender Education Advocates, or TEA (pronounced “T”), was established in 2003 as a volunteer organization. It is an affiliate program of the Utah Pride Center and its mission is “to educate the public on transgender issues for better understanding and awareness of discrimination towards the transgender population.”

TEA offers a Gender 101 class, which aims to make people aware of individuals who don’t fit the binary gender system. Scuderi said 50 percent of the classes they teach are requested while the other half are through TEA’s outreach efforts. Because TEA doesn’t have an office of its own, classes are offered in the Utah Pride Center or at the organization receiving the training.

One group that received the Gender 101 training recently was the Public Safety Liaison Committee. PSLC is a group of individuals in service-related professions, including firefighters, police officers and EMTs that aim to educate those in their field about LGBT issues. Rachel Hanson of the Utah Pride Center and Scuderi conducted the training for PSLC, which lasted about an hour and half. Hanson felt it was a success because people openly talked a lot about biases and other subjects that came up during the presentation. Another good gauge for determining whether the training went well, is if participants feel free to ask questions. “I can often tell when people feel comfortable because they ask questions without worrying about sounding dumb,” she said. “A lot of people don’t understand transgender people.”

Gary Horenkamp, PSLC’s co-chair, said the training was “a well-organized, well-presented learning activity” with useful information that he hadn’t heard anywhere before. Horenkamp also is the project leader for OUTreach Ogden, which supports the “personal growth, acceptance and equality” of LGBTQ people and serves Box Elder, Morgan, Weber and Davis Counties. Gender 101 classes are available throughout the year, but TEA also hosts special events.

During November, TEA hosted a number of events in recognition of Transgender Awareness Month. For 2007 it brought in two speakers to provide workshops for medical and legal students and professionals. TEA also observes the Day of Remembrance annually on Nov. 20 with a candlelight vigil. The memorial commemorates transgender people who have lost their lives due to hate-crime violence.

Although it wasn’t a hate crime, Scuderi tells of an individual who was involved in a car accident that died because of a lack of understanding. When paramedics arrived they had to cut away clothing and when they discovered the genitalia of the victim didn’t match the rest of their appearance they were shocked. Apparently they laughed and poked fun but never helped, which resulted in the victim’s death. Some people have a hard time seeking medical help because they don’t know how they will be treated.

In the Salt Lake City medical community there are four family doctors who advertise that they treat transgender patients, but only one, Dr. Nicola Riley, is still accepting new patients. The others had to stop because their practices were too large. Riley received TEA’s 2006 award for Individual of the Year, while Equality Utah was given the Organization of the Year award for its work. Riley received this award partly because of her willingness to continue accepting transgender patients.

If a transgender person decides to have gender reassignment surgery, or GRS, they may have a difficult time finding a surgeon as well. Scuderi estimates there are a dozen throughout the United States, but none are in Utah. The closest surgeons are in Colorado, California or Arizona. Outside of the country, Thailand has the most GRS surgeons because of its progressive views regarding gender.

TEA’s 2007 keynote speaker, Dr. Marci Bowers, has a waiting list of 150 people. Her practice is located in Trinidad, Colo., which is the “transgender capital of the world” according to the city welcome sign. Born Mark Bowers, she transitioned later in life after marrying and having children although she had thoughts about becoming a woman by the age of 5. Bowers has helped more than 500 patients through this process and is considered a world-renowned surgeon. She has been a guest on “Oprah” and “Larry King Live.”

Locating a surgeon is just one challenge facing individuals. Securing funding also can be problematic. Many people can only afford changes from the waist up and can feel incomplete because of it. A few insurance companies cover GRS, but it has to be written into the plan. For male-to-female surgery, Scuderi estimates the cost ranges from $8,000 to $22,000. Female-to-male surgery costs considerably more: $30,000 to $150,000.

Because the costs are out of reach for many, TEA established the Cans For Change program. Aluminum cans are collected for recycling and the money goes toward a scholarship. The scholarship fund was developed to help with a portion of general reassignment surgery costs for an individual on a need basis. You can e-mail TEA to arrange a pick up of clean cans any time. While it has yet to raise enough to consider applicants, TEA hopes to have $1,000 soon for this purpose.

Due to confidentiality and stigma, few statistics are available on the transgender population. But Scuderi and Rachel Hanson believe the transgender youth population is growing. They think this is partly due to the media. Films such as “Boys Don’t Cry” and Barbara Walter’s segment on “20/20” bring exposure to the transgender community. Also, the Internet provides a forum for youth to discuss their lives and issues in a safe environment.

Hanson is the youth director at the Utah Pride Center and facilitates the transgender youth group that meets weekly. She said many transgender people are not receiving support from family or friends so they are at a higher risk for suicide and other self-destructive behavior than gay and lesbian youth.

Utah law doesn’t allow the promotion of homosexuality in schools. Hanson says that when they have approached schools to educate them they often shy away from the training because they’re afraid it’ll fall under the “promotion” of alternative lifestyles.

Scuderi says TEA has had conversations with two school boards. “We’ve contacted most of them, but they’ve either declined or haven’t returned emails or phone calls.”

On campus and elsewhere, the most obvious place transgender people encounter problems is the bathrooms. If a female has male genitalia and goes into the boy’s bathroom she’s more likely to have a problem than using a girl’s restroom.

Another place that is high risk for transgender people is correctional facilities. Currently when someone is picked up they are placed in holding cells based on their genitalia. Because their outward appearance is generally different than those their holed up with, they become easy targets for harassment or worse. Horenkamp said there was a senior officer from SLCPD at the Gender 101 training and he felt it was well received.

Respect, accuracy key to coverage, GLAAD strategist says

by YEVGENIYA KOPELEVA

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation offered a presentation on media essentials on Oct. 16, 2007, in support of Pride Week at the University of Utah. Adam Bass, the Northwest media field strategist for GLAAD, encouraged aspiring journalists to recognize and write effective pro-LGBT messages.

“A good example of an effective pro-LGBT message could be something like this: University of Utah Pride is an opportunity to showcase our diverse student body and let every student know he or she is valued as a member of the community,” Bass said.

GLAAD’s media field strategy teams provide training to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people and straight allies illustrate more effectively the power of local media to encourage respect, inclusion and acceptance. In addition, the teams work closely with organizations and individuals to develop strategies and contacts, create news coverage and train spokespeople. Bass’ role is to be a community and media resource for whoever is writing or speaking about the LGBT community.

He encourages people to correct misrepresentations and factual errors in the media by responding with a message that will educate and inform others. “When you respond to a story or an article, do stay positive and be for, not just against something,” Bass said. “Don’t make it us versus them.” He believes it is vital to stick to what you know, since the message must match the messenger, but also said not to be afraid to be on the offensive. Bass told the audience to remember to reclaim facts and valuable statements with proper language and not to repeat the opponent’s negative message.

For example, when writing letters to the editor, Bass said it’s essential to respond to the defamatory coverage by clarifying the misconception or inaccuracy of an opponent. “The strategies for writing a letter to the editor are: making a strong affirmative statement, tell your personal story, support your statement with facts and strengthen the existing positive message of your organization,” Bass said.

Once you have created an effective message, the next step is knowing your audience. Bass said there is no such thing as a general audience; rather, individuals need to speak to the “movable media,” those who will be affected by the issue or subject. “It’s important to tell your personal story and to let your message come from experience, but to also know your boundaries,” Bass said. He encourages people to use “buzz” words like freedom, justice, democracy, love and commitment to build bridges with readers or the audience. The goal is to convince your audience that your position is reasonable and persuasive.

“It’s simply about taking the personal story and making it a universal message. For example, try using the Oprah effect; ask someone to sit on a couch and tell you their story,” Bass said.

On the other hand, the goal of writing an opinion editorial is to summarize an issue, develop a persuasive argument and propose solutions. The strategies behind writing an opinion piece are: Begin with your personal story, include facts and make the complex issue clear. “Whether it’s a letter to an editor or an opinion editorial, it’s essential to keep it short and concise, to be specific in the response and to not assume audience knowledge,” Bass said.

He said he approached the editor of the Daily Utah Chronicle at the U about publishing the word “homosexual” in a story. In response, the staff committed to altering their pre-existing style rules to appropriately address the LGBT community. “The explanation of the term as a scientific branding propagated by a number of anti-gay publications made it clear to me that we should include more specific instructions on use of the word in our own style guide,” said Matthew Piper, editor-in-chief of the Daily Utah Chronicle.

GLAAD, the third largest LGBT civil rights group in America, strives to change hearts and minds by altering the way media portray the LGBT community. “We are a media advocate and watchdog for the LGBT community,” Bass said.

The organization was founded in New York City in 1985 in response to the defamatory anti-gay media coverage during the beginning days of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the United States. GLAAD’s mission is “to promote and ensure fair, accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.”

GLAAD strives to meet people where they are and to foster broader conversations with anyone and everyone. “We talk about stories to open hearts and minds,” Bass said.

Stuck in the middle: Some bisexuals struggle to overcome stereotypes

by MISSY THOMPSON

They are called fence-sitters, undecided or confused. Generally they are not accepted by straight or gay people, although the straight community lumps them in with the LGBT community.

Bisexuals have been marginalized for many years because they are underrepresented within the LGBT community. Stereotypes surround them like a cloud.

One misconception is that they are promiscuous because they are attracted to both sexes. However, many don’t fit this stereotype because they believe in monogamous relationships, whether it’s with a man or woman.

“There is not a lot of respect for bisexuals,” said Bonnie Owens, a senior at the University of Utah and an intern at the campus LGBT Resource Center. “Some people believe it’s just a transition period.”

Bisexuals are included in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) acronym that has become the most widely accepted term for describing members of this population. But, the problem with bisexuality being part of the LGBT acronym is that they are not accepted by either gays or straight individuals, Owens said.

“There’s a saying: ‘Bi now, gay later,'” she said, referring to the misperception that bisexuals will eventually become gay or lesbian.

Owens and LGBT Resource Center Director Cathy Martinez are working to reaching out to misrepresented LGBT communities — including bisexuals — by making them feel as if they are part of the community. Although no definite plans have been made, Owens believes they need to be included considering they are part of the acronym.

“We are bringing bisexuality into a light of inclusiveness,” Owens said. “[The media] have sexualized bisexuality.”

But making bisexuals feel included in the LGBT community will be difficult because they are looked down on by gays, lesbians and straight people.

“Female bisexuality is more acceptable,” Owens said. “For males it is more of an issue of if you are [gay] or aren’t. A man is questioned more and thought of as testing the waters. It’s much less accepted.”

Bisexuality in younger males is questioned even more. Tom Campbell, 17, a senior at Tooele High School in Tooele, Utah, has been out about his bisexuality for a year. He has seen some people be completely supportive of his lifestyle, while others are less inclined to treat him the same as they did before they learned he is bi.

“There are a lot of people who treat you different in high school,” Campbell said. “Kids give you a lot of crap [for being bisexual]. My doctor even put me on anti-depressants.”

Campbell believes it’s difficult for people, especially high school teenagers, to understand that having equal interest in males and females is normal for him.

“I’m asked if I’m gay a lot and I say, ‘No, I’m bi, there’s a big difference between the two,'” he said. “I have a strong attraction to both [men and women]. I like variety.”

He has also seen the difference in the way bisexual women are treated compared to bisexual men.

“When you’re at a dance club and two girls are dancing together in a cage it’s OK,” Campbell said. “But when I’m up there with another guy, it isn’t.”

Campbell is a member of the Tooele High stage crew where he helps build and design scenery for the plays the school produces. Some of the crew members who know he is sexual orientation have treated him differently.

“It’s funny because when you’re with [stage] crew it’s like your family, but I’m not myself,” he said. “It’s the people you’re around that make you feel comfortable and OK with your sexuality.”

Although lesbian and gay have overshadowed the ‘B’ in LGBT, it is a lifestyle that bisexuals accept despite pressure from both the LGBT and straight communities.

For instance, Wendy Lynn, 43, an environmental studies student at the U, never questioned her bisexuality and has embraced her lifestyle.

“I didn’t realize I was different,” Lynn said in the Ray Olpin Union building over a cup of coffee. “I thought it was acceptable if men were with men and women were with women. I reasoned this as an 11-year-old.”

Lynn was raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and during a
Primary lesson — a Sunday school-like teaching session for children — challenged a teacher who couldn’t give her the answers she wanted. She was taken to the Bishop, who told her not to vocalize her thoughts.

“I didn’t realize I was voicing an anti-opinion,” she said. “I stopped attending church at age 12.”

Her sexual orientation didn’t come up again until after she was married at the age of 18. When she was driving with her husband one day, Lynn saw a woman who she believed was beautiful. Lynn didn’t think twice about telling her husband that they should ask the woman to go out to dinner with them. Later, she wondered, “What was I thinking?”

“I was in a marriage and at that moment [of seeing the woman] all I wanted to do was spend time with her,” Lynn said. “A time came when it was clear to my husband that I was different. But I didn’t plan on pursuing it.”

Lynn and her husband divorced after three years of marriage. Eventually she began a 10-year relationship with a woman. Lynn said they would still be together if it weren’t for her partner’s alcohol abuse.

The only time Lynn felt accepted by the LGBT community was when she was with a woman. Her life revolved around this community while she was with her girlfriend. She hung out at bars that her friends frequented. But, once she began a relationship with a man, Lynn lost the majority of her friends.

“[Gays] have their own social network,” she said. “It was my social life. When I chose to be with a man [my life] was gone and now I have very few friends. [Bisexuality] is not a choice for most people,” she said. “Because it was for me, people can’t accept that.”

Lynn has been in a relationship with the same man since 1998. They were married, then divorced. Now, they are living together again, but are no longer married.

“For me, I grow more spiritually when I’m in a committed relationship,” Lynn said. “You don’t learn enough about yourself when you’re not. You have to find a partner who mirrors you, it’s easier to survive that way. I commit everything I can to one relationship, otherwise I get lonely.”

Since she has been with a man, her parents have been more supportive about her sexuality. Because they don’t see Lynn with another woman it’s as if they can pretend she is straight.

“I can be honest with who I am,” she said. “My boyfriend doesn’t care what [other people] think. He will always support who I am.”

Ultimately it doesn’t matter to Lynn whether her partner is male or female.

“I will never stop being attracted to men and women,” she added.

Lynn’s philosophy is that in any population, 10 percent are gay and 10 percent are straight. Everyone else – mainly bisexuals – fall in the middle. That large gray area is where she, and many others, fit in.

“Some people who are bisexual may just be experimenting,” she said. “Sexuality is fluid and more people are deciding that it’s OK to be different.”

Because Lynn is older, she has seen many of the hardships bisexuals have faced over the years. Most of the time, she said, they weren’t necessarily persecuted, but definitely had a hard time fitting in with both the LGBT and straight communities.

Lynn has lived in Utah, California and Montana, but the only time she felt her life was threatened was in Wyoming where LGBT individuals have been killed because of their orientation. On another occasion at the gay club, Sun, in downtown Salt Lake City, a group of men surrounded the exit. Lynn, unaware they were there, nearly walked out but was pulled back inside before she could get hurt.

“I look conservative, I’m never dishonest,” Lynn said. “I’m not one of those in-your-face people. I feel safe sitting here in the Union when a few years ago, I never would have.”

Nevertheless, bisexuals still have to fight for approval from society.

For instance, the Utah Bisexual Support Group was only recently allowed to hold meetings at the Utah Pride Center in downtown Salt Lake City.

“We are viewed with as much suspicion in the gay community as in the straight,”
Lynn said. “Bisexuality for me has very little to do with who I choose — whether male or female. I don’t take sex seriously, but there has to be a serious attraction. In that case I don’t want to limit myself.”

Campbell and Lynn are just two of many bisexual individuals living in Utah who don’t feel at home in the gay and lesbian or straight communities. Until one, or both, sides decide to accept them, bisexuals will continue to live in limbo.