New book explores unique opportunities and challenges facing American Hmong media

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A day before the pandemic, Lori Lopez, associate professor of media and cultural studies at UW-Madison, joined a Hmong teleconference with more than 1,000 listeners.

The call was not a meeting or presentation, but a live radio show where people could share their stories, listen to conversations, or get news from their community.

She said it was a radio station – without being a radio station.

“I was like the Hmong are really enterprising and come up with all kinds of really cool media solutions to the fact that they are such a small community and they can’t really have a traditional media structure,” the director of the Asian American Studies Program told Madison365.

Now, seven years later, she released her book titled “Micro Media Industries: Hmong American Media Innovation in the Diaspora” on August 13.

Lopez wanted to name something that was already happening, she said. “Media micro-industries” with only one or two employees are opportunities that are increasing in number and importance. She said the outlets are limited by resources, but produce content like fully staffed media through writing, podcasts, Facebook, conference calls and Youtube.

Screenshot: Original news from Suab Hmong

She gave the example of Suab Hmong News which is an online media managed by one person. The creator, Richard Wanglue Vang, writes stories and posts Youtube videos at least once a day. Some of his videos have 16,000 views. The site looks professional and up to date.

“I wanted to draw attention to these types of media that were not recognized and underline how difficult it is for this diaspora community which has no country of origin to be able to keep its language alive, its history and culture, living through media, ”Lopez said.

One of her favorite media that she studied for the book was Hoochim, a podcast run by four Hmong women that Lopez describes as politically savvy and just plain fun to listen to. The name is a combination of two words – Hwjchim is the Hmong word for prestige and / or honor and generally applied to men and Hoochie is used to describe a woman who is “easy” or dresses provocatively, according to the Hoochim website.

“We have not seen or heard our voices or the topics that interest us in the Hmong or American media that we consume,” says the Hoochim website. “Instead of waiting for others to make room for our voices, we decided to step into the mix.”

Lopez also argues that these media should be seen as models of media innovation that can counter the growing power of mainstream media.

“We kind of assume that everyone wants to be big and everyone has to be big and that constantly increasing your audience is the only way to survive. And I just want to say, if you look at all these micro-media cases, you can see that’s not true. The media don’t have to grow to be important and survive, ”she said.

The book includes over 100 interviews with Hmong media professionals and participants from Wisconsin, Minnesota and California. She has traveled to cities like Appleton, Minneapolis and Fresno to attend Hmong community events.

Lopez said that although the Hmong are the largest Asian population group in the state of Wisconsin, there has not been much research into the Hmong media. As someone who studied Asian-American media even before coming to UW from Los Angeles 10 years ago, she knows that media is important to how people see themselves and what types of stories people do. learn. She added that who makes the media really matters.

An interview with influencer and writer Phillipe Thao particularly marked her.

“There are so many things that no one wants to talk about, there is no space to talk about it as an American Hmong,” Thao told Lopez. “So that’s what I bring to Twitter and my podcast, to really talk about my own experience and my own field. I have spoken very openly about my depression and my failure in school and those kinds of difficulties. I know everyone’s experience is different, but if I can speak very candidly, maybe it will inspire a queer Hmong person who struggles with their sexuality.


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