After going international, a good transition is to go glocal: both global and local. When you're back home, seek out immigrant communities, under-reported groups, the undocumented, the often misrepresented and apply the same techniques you did to international journalism to be a bridge as a reporter.
So-called "ethnic media" has gone up and down in cycles for years, but seems to have gotten a boost of quality recently. There are conferences about "ethnic media". But there's also been a glaring lack of research on ethnic media and its reach. Here's an NPR report called "The Ethnic Media in America: The Giant Hidden in Plain Sight." Here's a series of articles analyzing Arab-American and Latino media in the U.S..
Here's an interesting example of a documentary filmmaker going glocal in a diverse New York area.
More and more in-depth work about immigrant communities is taking place in mainstream media. The importance is to avoid cliches, the lens from far away, going only for the sensational story to grab headlines, but focusing on issues which are really important to the community. Sources can be found in places of worship and on sports fields in immigrant neighborhoods, in schools with large immigrant communities, in ethnic supermarkets, in ethnic media, rather than focusing on police reports or fears peddled by politicians. Here's an interesting series of articles on communities in transition.
A reporter I've always admired, Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, currently investigates Veterans issues for the Washington Post. Previously though, she was a correspondent in Africa, who made sure to focus on ordinary, exceptional human stories rather than just headline-grabbing violence. She also did a lot immigrant community reporting when back in the United States. Here's one on the Bolivian community in Washington, D.C.. She's also written about the experiences of immigrant students in U.S. public high schools, not just settling for cliches, or blanket stats, but actually investigating, researching for herself, meeting people, interviewing them, and telling their stories, rather than the expected story. She did an entire series called "A School Divided/Una Escuela Separada".
Case Study: A Multi-Lingual Expose Gone Wrong? The NY Times and nail salons
This series of articles in several languages on nail salons in the New York City area seemed to have everything for an award-winning expose. At first, the reporting was applauded and summarized by other media. But then, the reporting was called into question by other media, with an ex-staffer lobbing accusations. It was blasted for misquotes and factual errors. The controversy made the rounds. There was analysis of the whole issue, and counter-analysis of the analysis . Now it was the whole saga which was being summarized by other media, which always like to take down the New York Times.
My Own Forays
After returning from Africa, one of my beats for Voice of America, was the "diaspora beat" especially reporting on African communities in the United States. One story which pertains to borders and bridges, refugees from war zones and the transience of people is about an artist from Sudan, I met while working on other Sudanese stories. These types of stories are much harder to "sell" sometimes, especially as a freelancer, since they are sometimes more underground and hidden to mainstream culture which like mainstream media tends to feed just onto itself. Anyway I was able to do a radio, television story, of which the web version with pictures survives. I also did a mini-documentary web video version.
Going media on media, I also reported about Nollywood in America, an Ethiopian diaspora radio star, and a more traditional tv report on competing ethnic media from Ethiopia in the United States. (not my best voicing effort...) As I tried to move more and more into documentary mode, here is another video from the Ethiopian diaspora, from the view of an exiled opposition protest.
If you enjoyed this lesson plan, here are all the chapters in My Guide to Teaching International Freelance Journalism.
Part 1, Geographies
Part 2, A Brief History Until Today
Part 3, Before You Go
Part 4, Potential Clients
Part 5, When You First Arrive
Part 6, Surviving the Game
Part 7, Books and Films To Educate and Inspire
Part 8, Perceptions
Part 9, Ethical Considerations
Part 10, Migrations and the Other
Part 11, Going Glocal
Part 12, Musings, Behind the Scenes and Critiques