Sandy Close, Executive Director of New America Media, at an FTC event at the World Affairs Council, San Francisco. (Amar D. Gupta/Siliconeer)
What once started as a simple mission to give real news about America’s involvement in the wars, back in the early 70s, became the principal support system for numerous ethnic communities in America today. Sandy Close and Franz Schurmann brought forth New America Media and Pacific News Service, a coalition of more than 3,000 ethnic media publishers. It is saddening to see this highly esteemed organization closing its doors after nearly five decades of service, writes our youth editor Vansh A. Gupta.
Back when I was at the prime age of two, I remember a very enthusiastic and vibrant lady talking to an engrossed crowd. At the time, I didn’t understand how significant and influential she was. As the years passed by, I learned more about Sandy Close and New America Media (NAM). Little did I know, Sandy was a catalyst in the success of Siliconeer and other fellow ethnic media outlets all over America.
A brief history of New America Media
The genesis of Pacific News Service originates from a vision. Co-founded by Franz Schurmann and Orville Schell back in 1969, they both had the goal to supply mainstream media with reliable and expert reporting on the United States’ role in Indochina during the Vietnam War, until 1974. Following the end of the war, Pacific News Service had changed its tracks and focused on media development in mainstream America, under the direction of Sandy Close and Franz Schurmann. Pacific News Service established New California Media in 1996 with a strong emphasis on ethnic media and giving them a voice.
In 2005, New California Media had evolved into what we know today: New America Media. This nationwide coalition of over 3,000 media organizations was led by Sandy Close. NAM had only one goal: raise the visibility of ethnic media in mainstream America, promote inter-ethnic editorial exchange and expand the access to advertising dollars. A very aspiring initiative that I want to promote more than ever, especially today.
Sandy had given ethnic media a prominent voice on national issues with NAM. A very noble idea. Because of her, many ethnic media outlets, including Siliconeer, had exposure to many political, social, and ethical issues that were relevant to their respective ethnic communities. Every event she chose dealt with a serious subject that touched millions, one way or the other. Because of her, Siliconeer had the opportunity to come close to influential figures like Congressman Mike Honda, President of University of California Janet Napolitano, Senator Ricardo Lara, and many more. She supplied a platform for publishers to share their unheard voices and opinions on issues like Universal Health Care, the U.S. Census, environmental parks, and, if NAM existed today, Net Neutrality. We thank Sandy and NAM for the infinite opportunities.
The Siliconeer team is shocked and saddened to hear that Pacific News Service/NAM will shut down after nearly half a century of service. To put this into perspective, the one organization that provided ethnic media a voice in mainstream America for almost 50 years is now history.
Over the recovery period, I took the time to appreciate and reflect on the many opportunities and feats New America Media provided for us/me.
It all started with the New California Media Mixer Party that Siliconeer held for the first time, back in 2003. At the time, I was a clueless child who simply followed his parents and family, and seeing them happy with Sandy, I was happy as well. I was oblivious to the fact that this was just the beginning, to a whole new era.
Siliconeer also participated in New America Media’s expos, crisscrossing the continental United States. Many expos were held in cities like Washington, D.C., New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Fresno, and San Francisco. These expos consisted of NAM’s magnanimous network of ethnic publications showcasing their offerings. I regret the fact that I will probably never get to be a part of this, not any time soon.
In more recent times, I was more deeply involved with New America Media. Every year NAM had its annual Christmas party which I was a fan of. It would be held at the Stern Grove in San Francisco, a cozy lodge that added to the Christmas spirit. However, in the last few years, the party moved from Stern Grove to Infinity Club at San Francisco. The last party was at New America Media’s own office and that was the last party I will ever be able to attend, hosted by New America Media. These parties always had a warm and homely vibe. The food, drinks, desserts, Santa, music, fire, and the very warm and loving people of NAM always made me feel special at these parties and this is a part of my Christmas that I will miss. Not to forget, Tinkerbell, the adorable little Chihuahua who was the only reason my younger brother, Janam, ever wanted to go.
Along with the parties, I was given the opportunity to cover some of NAM’s events since 2014. Two of the latest events I helped cover was a conference held by NAM for the Health4All Campaign and a conference on a national poll for the support of National Parks. Even though I had a trivial part of simply recording what was being said and transcribing it, I still felt pride in doing it.
All of this was great, but I felt like I could have done something more with NAM, and then I set forth on an ambitious project.
It started with a phone call to Odette Keeley. I had explained to her that I’m working on this new exciting project for ethnic media and I will need some help and resources from NAM. Because of Odette and Sandy, I was able to bring my project into existence.
The project, codenamed BEAT, now DigEthnic, would have been impossible without NAM’s generous help and encouraging support for the venture. Sandy also gave me the chance to present this project to her and the whole team of NAM. I was taken aback by this honorable opportunity. Clearly, Sandy and the team at NAM have a special spot for the youth. I thank them for motivating me and inspiring me.
On a more personal level, Sandy and the New America Media team has known my whole family for 15 years. She has seen me grow from a thumb-sucking two-year-old to a zealous, yet humble, 17-year old. Sandy is the strongest, sincerest, and the most inspiring lady I have ever met, outside of my immediate family.
When Siliconeer’s Chairman/my grandpa passed away, Sandy had come all the way from San Francisco to meet us over dinner and share her condolences. This level of generosity and sincerity is very rare today, especially in the Millennial era.
The last interaction, I had asked Sandy for a letter describing me. She was very graceful about it and she had told me something that made me teary-eyed and my face shine. She said she would love to give me a letter and that she was very proud of me and how I have grown.
Today, I cherish those words more than ever.
It is very disheartening to see New America Media and Pacific News Service come to its final destination. What once started as a simple mission to give real news about America’s involvement in the wars, back in the early 70s, became the principal support system for numerous ethnic communities in America. Because of New America Media, Siliconeer stands where it is today, DigEthnic has become a reality, and I have grown a great passion for media and journalism.
We thank and salute New America Media/Pacific News Service and Sandy Close for serving the ethnic publishers’ community for over four decades.
Sandy Close is, indeed, the Florence Nightingale for ethnic media.