MEDIA: PROFILE - India West's growing demographic makes it a primepitch target

With readership four times its circulation, India West should not be overlooked when seeking coverage. Moreover, finds Anita Chabria, it's small enough that the editors still welcome calls from publicists.

With readership four times its circulation, India West should not be overlooked when seeking coverage. Moreover, finds Anita Chabria, it's small enough that the editors still welcome calls from publicists.

A close look at the diverse coverage in India West shows just how deeply East Indian immigrants have assimilated into American culture. Many of the stories that make headlines in mainstream papers have Indian angles that are elaborated on in the thick weekly paper. For instance, coverage of a recent scandal over questionable campaign contributions for Gov. Gray Davis (D-CA) by Oracle focuses on the Indian bureaucrat who accepted the donation on Davis' behalf. Other stories include a new lawsuit by vegetarians against Pizza Hut for putting beef extract in their cheese, a profile of an Indian woman named volunteer of the year by an organization that represents children in court, and a science article about a new process that allows a computer chip to guide the actions of rats - based on a study conducted by an Indian scientist.

"We're a family newspaper,

explains editor-in-chief Bina Murarka, who started the paper with her husband in 1975. "We really cover everything."

While India West, with a circulation of 30,000, may not be the first outlet on press agents' radar, its potential for reaching a very targeted and important demographic shouldn't be overlooked. In California, where the paper is published, Indians are one of the fastest growing and most affluent and educated minorities, with strong community ties.

"Readership is probably four times circulation,

says Murarka. She points out that India West is often passed around among readers, so each copy is likely seen by multiple consumers. While most issues go out by subscription, the paper is available on stands in ethnic grocery stores and other shops.

The paper runs between 100-150 pages each week, divided into three sections and is also available in part online at www.indiawest.com. The main section focuses on general news and features, drawing from events in both the US and India. A recent look at this section found everything from an article on a convenience store owner who sold a winning lotto ticket to coverage of the battles in Kashmir.

Section B covers business - and is a good place to pitch stories of new companies, products, and profiles. "We try to do profiles of people high up the corporate ladder, CEOs and other role models,

explains Murarka.

This section also holds book reviews and stories about religion, as well as a briefs section for executive moves.

The last section of the paper - entertainment - is often the heftiest.

"Indians are becoming more and more active in Hollywood,

says Murarka.

"Coverage has become a lot more intense. The entertainment section is almost one-third of the paper."

Indians have a long-standing love affair with cinema and arts, and this section often reads like the South Asian version of the New York Post's Page Six. Gossip about the doings of Indian celluloid stars is always a hot topic. But the section is also a great place to pitch young South Asians in television, film, or sports. Recent profiles included college tennis champion Vinu Mankad and up-and-coming female stand-up comic Vijai Nathan.

Perhaps the best part of pitching to smaller ethnic outlets, such as India West, is that staff is usually less inundated by ideas, and more likely to pick up the phone when a publicist calls. "It's a good way of finding out more information,

says Murarka of getting pitched. "We can always say no."

Based in San Leandro in Northern California, the main office has seven reporters. Additional freelancers cover areas such as Southern California, Seattle, Phoenix, Washington, DC, and New York. While the paper's main concentration is on California, it is disturbed nationally and seeks to cover the entire country.

Since reporters often cover overlapping beats, especially within news, pitches can either go to Murarka, or in the case of entertainment to Lisa Tsering. Michel Potts covers Southern California, Rashmee Sharma is in charge of the Pacific Northwest, Lavia Melwani covers New York and Mantosh Singh Devji handles Phoenix.

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