Ethnic newspapers, both the old-fashioned kind
and online editions, are alive and well and thriving across Manitoba
Sunday, August 14th, 2005
By Carol Sanders
THERE is no word for "sexuality" in Chinese, but that doesn't
stop ethnic press sex-health columnist Anna Ling from writing about it.
"It's a way to reach out to people on sensitive topics that people
feel uncomfortable talking about in person," said Ling. She and her
colleague, Linda Plenert, work for the Sexuality Education Resource Centre
and write Ask Auntie Anna in the Philippine Press and Sex
Information Zone in the Manitoba China Times.
Sex is such a taboo topic that sometimes the words to describe it don't
exist in Chinese, said Ling. And if they do, they aren't uttered in public
-- especially not by a woman, said Ling, who came to Winnipeg from Hong
Kong in 1987.
"In some communities, women don't know how their own bodies
work," said Plenert.
Ling's and Plenert's columns have set out to inform newcomers about
health issues such as menopause and the fact that pap tests are free in
Canada, said Ling.
The columns are breaking ground in the two ethnic newspapers in
Winnipeg -- part of a thriving stack of 17 publications in Manitoba.
"In Manitoba you have more publications than any other western
province (except B.C.)," said Thomas Saras, president of the National
Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada.
Folklorama ended last night, but the glue that keeps the province's
multicultural mosaic intact from year to year keeps plugging along. Most
publications are run by volunteers trying to keep their cultural groups
alive and together.
Alberta has nearly three times Manitoba's population, but Manitoba has
nearly three times as many ethnic newspapers, Saras said from Toronto.
"I do believe there is a stronger feeling of community down there
with Manitoba than in Alberta," said the publisher of Canada's Greek
newspaper, Patrides. "I believe in Alberta integration is
faster. Down there in Manitoba you have a government that's much more
friendly to ethnic communities than in Alberta."
And Friendly Manitoba has a long tradition of ethnic newspapers.
"Some die and some are coming out," said Saras, who says
immigration and integration patterns have a lot to do with the lifespan of
an ethnic newspaper.
The older, established German community's Kanada Kurier went
bankrupt last year. This year, the Philippine Press and the
online newsmagazines africancommunities.ca and overseasafrican.com
were born thanks to an influx of Filipino and African immigrants.
Economist Chrispin Ntungo, who came to Winnipeg as an international
student in 1988 from Zambia, has launched two online newsmagazines here --
one for Africans living in Manitoba and another for Africans who have
migrated to Canada, Australia, Europe and the U.S.
"It's just a way of keeping the community together," said
Ntungo. When he first arrived in Winnipeg 17 years ago, Manitoba had a
tiny African community, Ntungo said, but since then it has ballooned to
Two months ago, he set up africancommunities.ca for Manitoban Africans.
It lists coming events and attractions like the African pavilion at
Folklorama and fundraisers for the African-Canadian Cultural Heritage
Centre, which the community is planning to build. Companies that sponsor
the African pavilion are advertised on the website, he said.
"It's to unite the African community here in Manitoba," said
Ntungo, who is secretary-general of the Manitoba African Community
Secretariat, the umbrella group for African organizations in the province.
"And it's a marketing tool."
Since overseasafrican.com started in January, it has received
up to 10,000 hits a month, said Ntungo. It provides a forum for immigrants
and refugees to talk about everyday life in their new countries and
current events like the G8 Summit and its impact on Africa, said Ntungo.
The economist said the electronic format of the ethnic newspapers makes
them affordable to produce and accessible to readers and contributors.
Like the African e-zines, the Manitoba Chinese Tribune
highlights the highs and lows of life in a new country, said
editor-in-chief Helen Wong.
"A lot of people write and say they can relate," said Wong, a
social worker who works with international students at the University of
Manitoba. About 2,000 copies of the glossy-covered Manitoba Chinese
Tribune are published every two months, she said.
Their readership keeps growing thanks to immigration from China. Of the
2,500 international students at the U of M, 1,400 are from China, she
Without a steady stream of new immigrants to bolster readership, the
ethnic newspapers that survive are the ones that can adapt, said Saras.
The Icelandic community hasn't seen a wave of immigration in decades,
but its newspaper, Lögberg-Heimskringla,
has kept plugging along for 119 years. North America's oldest continuously
published ethnic newspaper announced in June it is setting up a
$1.5-million foundation to make sure it keeps going.
It began publishing in Manitoba in the late 1800s as two separate
papers, Heimskringla, beginning in 1886, and Lögberg in
1888. In 1959, the two newspapers merged as Lögberg-Heimskringla.
It published in Icelandic until the 1980s, when it became half English.
Now it's published entirely in English, with an "Icelandic for
beginners" column being one of its most popular features, said
assistant editor David Jon Fuller. He takes over as managing editor Aug.
24 from Steinthor Gudbjartsson, who is moving back home to Iceland.
For the past year, Gudbjartsson has travelled to Icelandic communities
throughout Canada and the U.S. looking for stories from the people. That
boosted circulation figures, said Fuller, who wouldn't divulge them.
His mission as the new editor will be to attract more young readers.
"I want there to be something for people under 50," he said.
"I'm 32. People of my generation are interested in their heritage but
they don't know about their heritage," said Fuller. "I'd like to
see more material on popular movies, literature and music from
Iceland," he said.
Fuller wants to profile Icelandic personalities like filmmaker Guy
Maddin and John K. Samson of The Weakerthans.
It's not celebrity or youth that's keeping CZAS, the
91-year-old Polish Times, alive.
"There's a spirit of pride of heritage that you want to preserve
and share," said Krystyna Gajda, president of the Polish Press (which
owns the Times) and a contributor to the paper.
"Financially, it's always a struggle," she said.
"I vacuum. I clean toilets. I do everything," laughed the
woman, who works full time and spends her evenings putting out Manitoba's
only Polish-language newspaper.
"I'm doing it because I see the need in the community," said
Gajda. CZAS has been a part of her family since her parents came
to Canada from Poland in 1948, she said. Today, most of the newspaper's
readers are "older to middle age." Some never learned English,
"In 1914, people who came with nothing started it," she said.
It shouldn't be left to die, especially in these more affluent times, she
said. The Polish paper has survived by merging with a Polish publication
in Toronto, she said.
"Sometimes ethnic papers have a narrow profile," she said.
"You need to have a broad spectrum and give readers a broad scope of
The 80-year-old Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada's newspaper Visnyk
is broadening to add a third language to its publication in September --
The Ukrainian Herald, as it is called in English, is reaching
out to Ukrainian Orthodox people around the world, in out of the way
places like Madagascar, said editor Fr. Andrew Jarmus. Now it's connecting
with new Ukrainian immigrants who have settled in Montreal.
"Those who stay there learn French before English," he said.
"Their kids speak French and Ukrainian. Their working language is
French. We want to be able to address that."
But Ukrainian is still vital to the church paper and the next
generation, Jarmus said.
"We do have a younger readership and many immigrants from Ukraine.
The use of Ukrainian is important -- there's an actual need for it."
press by the numbers:
536 -- The number of ethnic publications (excluding online
publications) in Canada; Manitoba has 17, Alberta seven, Saskatchewan six
and British Columbia 29.
10,000 -- Number of hits a month received by the locally based
online newspaper overseasafrican.com, which serves an estimated three
million Africans living abroad.
2,000 -- Circulation of the Manitoba Chinese Tribune,
which publishes every two months and caters to newcomers from Asia,
including the 1,400 University of Manitoba students from China.
119 -- Age of North America's oldest continuously published
ethnic newspaper, the locally produced Icelandic journal, Lögberg-Heimskringla.
3 -- The number of languages in which the Ukrainian Herald,
as it is known in English, is published. The Herald is also
published in Ukrainian, of course, and in French.
Sources: National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada and various
ethnic press publications
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