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Specialized media caters to borough’s immigrants

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Queens’ Caribbean and Indo-Guyanese immigrants are increasingly looking to newspapers and Web sites outside America’s mainstream media to get news of their native countries and maintain business contacts abroad, some local publishers said.

    Richmond Hill is home to more than 60,000 people of Indo-Caribbean descent, according to Taj Rajkumar, a community activist and former political candidate. The community has thus embraced media that focus on their home countries, including Guyana and Jamaica.

The abundance of news and advertising outlets for Queens’ immigrants published by immigrants is a sign that the newly arrived communities want to maintain ties with their home countries, said Rohit Khani, editor of the Caribbean Daylight published in the Bronx.

Khani said his newspaper fills a gap and gives his more than 25,000 readers a perspective they cannot get from American media. He has published his paper since 1992 and gets information from the Caribbean Media Corp., a news agency reporting in English on events abroad, and Inter Press Service, a wire service with journalists in more than 100 countries worldwide.

“I don’t think it’s simply a question of reporting news that isn’t carried, it’s the shift in perspective, in seeing yourself as a citizen of the world with equal rights,” said Khani, whose newspaper focuses on Caribbean politics, including elections, legislation and general news events.

And there is money to be made in Richmond Hill and the Caribbean communities in Jamaica, Laurelton and Queens Village for businesses targeting immigrants.

Indy Bachu, 31, who moved to Queens from Guyana in 1978, runs a Web site called Fuzion.com that caters to the local Guyanese community. She said her site began as a business directory for the immigrants but has since expanded to include international advertising and a dating service.

“We get approximately 400 visitors a day and we’ve been around for more than a year,” she said about her Richmond Hill-based Web site production company. “There are general sites on Guyana, but I thought it would be great to have a hub online.”

There are many things to do on the site, including browse through listings of Guyanese-owned businesses, a visit to Auntie Leela’s matchmaking service, a look at art by a featured Guyanese artist and recipes of Guyanese cuisine.

Bachu, who frames her site as “The New International Guyanese Network” said she started her firm, Kaliweb, because she thought her community needed representation on the Internet. She said she and a friend who founded Fuzion.com have had a good response from the community since they started putting up Guyanese news on their site.

Other newspapers such as Richmond Hill’s Guyana Monitor combine news, business news and advertising from abroad to cater to local immigrants. Its publisher, Justak Rasul, said his paper has been in operation for more than a decade and serves more than 20,000 readers.

“It’s a political paper,” he said of his operation, which is free and targets West Indian immigrants. “It is distributed at local stores, through businesses and by volunteers.”

Rasul said his paper hooks in the Guyanese community by giving them news from their home country. In the November issue of the monthly free paper, the front page contains the text of the speech from the Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo, who addressed a parade Nov. 13.

Other items in the paper include reports on the Guyanese rice crop, the number of graduating students at universities throughout Guyana and advertisements from local Guyanese business owners and immigrant service providers.

Rajkumar, a former state assembly candidate in the 31st District spanning South Ozone Park and the Rockaway peninsula, said he looks at newspapers such as the Guyana Monitor or Caribbean Daylight for advertising or real estate purposes.

“If you look at the papers, the content is mostly business,” he said. “But I also think that people are very concerned about what’s going on here.”

Rajkumar, however, said he would like to see the papers catering to immigrant communities combine their in-depth coverage of news going on abroad with some local coverage of Queens.

“I think the people want to know about these things,” he said. “I think one of the problems is they don’t have reporters.”

Khani, along with other media producers, said he is part of the ongoing movement to expand the direct media link for immigrants to their native countries. In addition to the Daylight, there is also the Caribbean Journal, published in Richmond Hill, the Caribbean Life, published in Brooklyn, and the Weekly Gleaner and Weekly Star, published in Jamaica.

Khani said the importance of the different media outlets is not just what the papers say, but how they say it.

“The shift in emphasis is important for us,” Khani said. “There are just certain things to which we’re culturally attuned.”

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 156

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