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Ethnic Press Gets Election Fever

In a recent letter to Indian immigrants, Barack Obama wrote of the “special meaning” Diwali, the Festival Lights, holds for him as a “celebration of illumination over ignorance.” His letter is reproduced on the front page of the current issue of Desi Talk, a New York City newspaper.

Inside the same issue, an article examines whether Obama’s race will deter Indian-American voters.  The headline asks, “Remember everyone in India wanted a fair-skinned spouse?”  But another article in the same issue predicts, “It is quite likely that the ghost of ‘Bradley effect’ will finally be laid to rest Nov. 4.”

Not to be outdone, a competing New York Indian paper promises on its front page, “Vote for your favorite candidate(s) and party on November 4, 2008 and get a FREE subscription to News India-Times for next 3 months.”

Electoral Interest

New York City’s growing ethnic press, usually devoted to community-specific concerns, is riveted to the election.

The weekly Haitian Times, the largest Haitian paper in America, is abuzz over the role of Haitian-American labor leader Patrick Gaspard as Obama’s national political director.  A recent article notes that a new advocacy group, the Haitian American National Alliance, “has borrowed Obama’s rallying cry ‘Yes we can’ or ‘Wi nou kapab,’ as its own slogan.”

La Tribuna Hispana USA, the largest East Coast Spanish-language weekly, endorses Obama in its current issue, as do smaller papers like Ecuador News, headquartered in Jackson Heights, Queens.

Socialism Charge

But Republican accusations against Obama ring true to Vladimir Chernomorsky, an editor at the Russian-language daily Novoye Russkoye Slovo. “We feel that Obama is kind of like a socialist” he said.  “His ideas about healthcare, taxes and the spread of wealth sound like socialism.”  His paper endorsed McCain.

The editor of an Italian paper, meanwhile, is looking for a candidate to replicate Europe’s health care, school and pension systems.  “We are Europeans and we feel that the European social structure is more advanced,” said Andrea Mantineo, the editor-in-chief at Italian daily America Oggi.  “Obama’s plan is closer to the European system.”

Martineo’s paper endorsed Obama – in a front-page editorial – despite his belief that “most Italians in New York are Republicans.”

Some immigrants come from countries that have loomed large during the campaign season. In August, The Forward, a Jewish weekly, hired a Washington-based reporter, Brett Lieberman, to cover the election.  His dispatch in the current issue analyzes Gallup poll data and finds that younger Jews, while leaning towards Obama, counter-intuitively lean less strongly towards him than their elders.  He attributes this to a young American population of more conservative Orthodox and Russian Jews.

For the last six months, Dr. Syed F. Hasnat, a scholar at the Middle East Institute, a Washington think tank, has been writing weekly 1,500-word election-themed articles for the Pakistan Post and its sister English-language paper, Generation Next.

Big News

In the current issue, he parses the candidates’ arguments during the presidential debates on Pakistan. He praises Obama’s criticism of the United States’ support of Pakistan’s former president Pervez Musharraf, approvingly quoting Obama saying in the first debate that “we alienated the Pakistani population, because we were undemocratic.”

The Pakistan Post’s editor, Mohammed Farooqi, said in an interview that as long as election results are in by 2 a.m. election night, he will have the news on the cover of next week’s issue, which hits streets the day after the election.

“I think everyone’s waiting for this election,” Farooqi said.  “Everywhere in the world.”