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Words from home: Newspapers

Chinese-American News offices in University City. 2008. 300 pixels wide
Courtesy of the News

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 5, 2008 - Area residents don't have to go online or to another country to read ethnic newspapers. Publications here have been breaking news and keeping the region informed in languages other than English for decades.

Today, the Bosnian Sabah, Spanish Red Latina and Chinese-American News along with national publications like Il Pensiero are keeping that tradition alive. The papers are also looking to the future and possible reinvention as English language publications - or dual language publications - with a specific ethnic focus.

Chinese-American News

The Chinese-American News has been the area's Chinese-language newspaper since 1990. Run by a staff of four, the paper has a circulation of about 6,000-8,000.

According to Director May Wu, 21 of the paper's 22 pages are in Chinese. One is in English. The paper serves a population that speaks such dialects as Mandarin and Cantonese. Although they sound quite different, both are written with the same characters, Wu said. That means people who speak differently can read the same newspaper.

Wu said she does not expect her paper to begin a shift into English any time soon. Part of it has to do with new readers from outside of the Chinese community.

"The second generation may not be able to speak or read Chinese, but more and more Americans are learning Chinese," Wu said.


Sukrija Dzidzovic came to New York in 1995 with $10 in his pocket. The Bosnian journalist had spent years covering the bloody conflict in his country before fleeing with his family. During that time, about 5,000 Bosnians were in New York, Dzidzovic said. They had no newspaper to call their own.

"Because I am a newspaperman, I figured out my community needed a news sheet about Bosnia," Dzidzovic said.

SabaH, meaning sunrise, was first published in December 1997. While its focus was on New York's Bosnian community in the beginning, Dzidzovic realized that his coverage area might need to expand. Of the roughly 300,000 Bosnians in the United States, more than a third live in the Midwest, most in St. Louis.

"Later on, I figured out people in other cities ... would be interested in having this paper," Dzidzovic explained. Eventually, Dzidzovic's paper's scope became national. Two years ago, he and his family moved to St. Louis. It is still a family operation: His wife serves as copy and technical editor while his daughter handles the paper's marketing and ad sales. Freelancers in Bosnian communities across the country join Dzidzovic in writing SabaH's stories. For the moment, the paper remains entirely in Bosnian.

"Even though Bosnians are now speaking English, they are not able to read and write as they can in Bosnian."

In about 10 years, though, Dzidzovic expects that up to 75 percent of his paper will be in English. Younger Bosnians may speak their parents' languages, but, like other immigrants before them, they have been brought up reading and writing in English.

Amelia Flood is a freelance journalist.