State and City Agency Partnerships with Community Media for Outreach

Multicolored newsboxes on the sidewalk with newspapers in each one.
Pakistani newspapers on Long Island, NY (Photo by Jehangir Khattak)

State and city agencies have successfully partnered with community media to reach their readers with messages about vital health, civic, housing, and voting messages:

  • Voting and Elections: Community media advertising was part of a critical initiative of DemocracyNYC and NYC Civic Engagement Commission (CEC) in the lead-up to the November 2021 general election. They informed residents in 25 languages of the stakes of the election and crucial information on the ballot proposals. In Spring 2021, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) “increased ActionNYC Hotline staff capacity and funded a public anti-fraud informational campaign” by placing educational advertising in community media.10
  • COVID-19 Vaccinations: The campaign to get residents immunized with the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 may have been “one of the largest public education campaigns in US history, with reaching minority communities a priority.”11 NYC officials hosted Community and Ethnic Media Virtual Roundtables to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, including the City’s Vaccine for All efforts and COVID-19 resources from testing and quarantine to care and paid sick leave.” 
  • Census: Mayor Michael Bloomberg called on New York City’s community media in 2010 to help get an accurate decennial census of all New Yorkers when only 48% of households in the city had completed their census forms compared to 62% nationwide. The mayor briefed community media on neighborhoods that had the lowest response rates and enlisted them “to spread the word that all New Yorkers have something to gain and nothing to fear by filling out the census form, as all information is kept confidential.”12 Washington Heights had one of the highest 2010 Census participation rates in the nation at 75%, which was the highest in Manhattan. State Senator Adriano Espaillat said, “Reaching out to New Yorkers through local and ethnic media was also key.”13
  • Housing and Foreclosures: The New York State Attorney General enlisted community media as partners in a 2005 awareness campaign to warn communities vulnerable to mis- and disinformation of foreclosure rescue scams and deed theft cases on the rise across the state. Community media published stories about the scams and connected audiences to services and programs designed to help anyone facing foreclosure. The outlets also scoured all foreclosure rescue ads to ensure they complied with the law.
  • Tax Credits: The Bloomberg Administration’s Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) partnered with community media outlets as part of a push to encourage and help all eligible New Yorkers to apply for the “refund-boosting” Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

The COVID-19 pandemic and the housing crisis have made clear how critical it is for state agencies’ messaging and outreach efforts to reach all audiences, especially those engaged by community media. Here are some examples of missed outreach opportunities where partnering with community media could have made a difference:

  • Rental Assistance
    • Furman Center’s September 2021 analysis of the applications and disbursements of the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) funds suggests that additional outreach efforts may have been needed in rural and non-metropolitan communities to reach very low-income (VLI) renters who would qualify for the program.
    • According to May 2019 testimony from Rebecca Gerard, who was the Statewide Organizer for Housing Justice at Citizen Action of New York, 46% of New York State’s residents are renters, about half of those renters are rent-burdened, and a quarter are severely rent-burdened.14 “Only the District of Columbia has a greater percentage of residents who are tenants, even in…rural counties.”
  • Importance of Immigrants to NYS Economy: In their recent report “New York Needs an Upstate Strategy for Immigrant Inclusion,” the Immigration Research Initiative, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank on immigrant integration, states that “immigrants today are playing an enormously important role in the New York State economy, representing 23% of the state population and a similarly large share of gross state product. Extraordinarily diverse and robust immigrant communities help make New York what it is today.”
    • Population Decline in NYS: The report says, “a central challenge for Upstate, particularly the region’s cities and rural areas, is decades of population decline…Upstate New York is not getting its share of the nation’s newcomers: immigrants make up six percent of the population in Northern and Western New York, seven percent in the Capital Region, and 10% in the mid-Hudson Valley—while the national average is 13% and the New York State average is nearly double that. Mayors and economic development officials in Upstate cities feel the urgent need to attract more people to the region. Yet, somehow immigration, the one part of the population that is growing, tends to be an afterthought in economic development discussions.”
  • Homeownership Rates: A 2022 Comptroller report found that New York “has racial homeownership gaps that are higher than the nation, with Latino homeownership rates particularly low in our state. While these gaps originate in historic injustices against communities of color, their persistence is troubling. Homeownership remains an important vehicle for building wealth, reducing inequities in real estate practices, and boosting homeownership should be important priorities for maintaining New York’s competitiveness as a place of opportunity.”

New York State is increasingly multicultural and multiracial

As New York State becomes increasingly multicultural and multiracial, community media outlets are crucial to their audiences as trusted news sources. New York Health Foundation, an organization committed to improving the state of New York’s health, reported that “New York State is projected to become majority-minority by 2035. The Hispanic population is projected to grow faster than the non-Hispanic Black and non-Hispanic white populations…these demographic shifts can potentially exacerbate existing health disparities by race and ethnicity.”

The most recent Census estimates that 30.5% of New Yorkers speak a language other than English at home. As a result, Governor Hochul announced in October 2022 the launch of the new Office of Language Access to implement the expanded statewide language access policy. The policy requires that state agencies translate vital documents into the 12 most commonly spoken languages in New York State based on Census data: Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Yiddish, Bengali, Korean, Haitian Creole, Italian, Arabic, Polish, French, and Urdu.

From mid-2020 through mid-2022, according to a December 2022 Empire Center article citing Census estimates, “New York has lost a net 651,742 residents to other states — exceeding the combined populations of Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse.” From mid-2021 to mid-2022, “New York State gained 77,923 foreign immigrants, the largest number since 2017, following a steep drop during the post-pandemic period.” New immigrant communities rely heavily on community media to navigate their new lives and find in-language resources to thrive and contribute to New York State.



10 ONENYC 2050, April 2022 Progress Report

11 Public health messaging vital for COVID-19 vaccine uptake: Leaders partnering on communications, The Nation’s Health February/March 2021, 51 (1) 1-6; The American Public Health Association.

12 Mayor Bloomberg Details Neighborhood By Neighborhood 2010 Census Response Rates In Final Push To Raise Participation Rates, States News Service, April 7, 2010, accessed via NexisUni.

13 Making It All Count: Vols Make Sure Immigs (sic) Fill In Census Forms, Daily News (New York), April 1, 2011, accessed via NexisUni.

14 Gerard is now Deputy Executive Director-Campaigns and Movement Politics at Citizen Action of New York.