MSU journalism students launch 3 new ethnic guides

BIG NEWS: Students at the Michigan State University School of Journalism are dramatically expanding their popular series of books: 100 Questions and Answers About … Individual readers, nonprofits, companies and other schools are ordering these books to encourage “cultural competence”—helping Americans from diverse backgrounds to build positive relationships.

Your Opportunities …

Come to Detroit in August for the North American Interfaith Network (NAIN) annual conference and you’ll meet MSU project director Joe Grimm. At NAIN, Joe’s MSU team will announce another expansion of this project—and invite NAIN participants to help shape that next phase. (Here is the NAIN-Detroit-2014 website.) The ReadTheSpirit team, including authors Wayne Baker and Lynne Meredith Golodner, also will be presenting workshops. We’ve already published one earlier story about some of the key people coming to NAIN from across the U.S. Please, join us!

Many groups are ordering special quantities of these books for incoming students, employees and other new residents. Unlike other publishing projects, these books can be modified to include the sponsoring group’s logo and background information. That makes these books a valuable form of outreach for your group. Learn more here.

Thousands of books have been published about ethnic groups. So, why are readers snapping up these slim new books from MSU? Because they answer the questions real people are asking every day. We invited MSU’s Joe Grimm to explain this distinctive approach …



Students at Michigan State University have been busy using new publishing tools to help increase cultural competence. This spring, they published two new 100-question guides. There will soon be six guides in the series. In a program we call “Bias Busters,” MSU journalism students conduct interviews across cultures to surface the simple, everyday questions that people ask in coffee shops and cafeterias. Some Google analysis also helps find the questions people are asking.

The students select and research the questions and write the answers, which are then vetted by experts nationwide. After everything is edited and polished, these slim paperback guides are published in print and digital formats. It takes about 10 weeks from when the students first meet each other to when the guides are listed for sale on Amazon. The speed and flexibility, which comes from Front Edge Publishing tools, means “Bias Busters” can respond to current events—just perfect for journalists. At a time when so many people are pessimistic about journalism, these young creators find that traditional skills and new tools mean they can publish information that helps people, do it quickly and explore a promising business model that they can carry with them after school.

The guides are intended to be just the first step toward deeper conversations about race, ethnicity and religion. Besides the guides, the students have built a website, Facebook and Twitter accounts. A facilitator’s guide is in the works.

Let me introduce three of our new guides …

100 Questions and Answers
About Hispanics and Latinos

100 Questions and Answers about Hispanics and Latinos was created by 14 students in the spring “Bias Busters” journalism class. About the time the guides went to press, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that Latinos became the largest group in California, our most populous state. Other nuggets in the guide:

  • WHAT’S IN A NAME? Hispanics and Latinos go by a wide variety of names and, except for in Texas, do not show much preference for either of those labels. Many prefer names like “Mexican American” or Puerto Rican.” The guide uses Hispanic and Latino interchangeably. Other names described in the guide are Tejano, Boricuano, Chicano and even [email protected] and [email protected] Some academic departments have begun using those terms to reflect the fact that Spanish refers to males as Latinos and Chicanos and women as Latinas and Chicanas.
  • DID YOU KNOW? We were surprised to learn that the quinceañera, a celebration that signifies a 15-year-old girl’s transition to adulthood, is now being used in some families for boys who turn 15. Then, it is called a quinceañero.
  • We were reminded about the complicated status of Puerto Ricans, who are American citizens by birth, but who cannot vote in presidential elections if they are living on the island because only people living in states have that right.
  • Pope Francis is the first pope from Latin America, but many Latinos do not consider him to be the first Latino pope because his parents are Italian.
  • By 2050, Hispanics will account for about a third of the U.S. population.
  • Most Hispanics in the United State were born here.
  • The state with the highest proportion of Hispanics is New Mexico, with 47 percent.
  • About a quarter of public school students in the United States are Hispanic.
  • The Hispanic market in the United States was $1 trillion in 2010 and is projected to be $1.5 trillion in 2015.
  • Hispanic people should not be lumped into one political camp. Their political affiliations mirror the country overall. Although they usually vote for the Democratic presidential candidate, they are as likely as the overall U.S. population to identify themselves as socially conservative.
  • The large number of eligible Latino voters who do not vote is widely regarded by political analysts as a sleeping giant.


100 Questions and Answers
About East Asian Cultures

100 Questions and Answers about East Asian Cultures had the benefit of a cross-cultural creation team. Members were students in an international advertising class taught by Dr. Dawn Pysarchik in the MSU Department of Advertising and Public Relations. This team included students from China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and the United States. They worked in cross-cultural pairs, learning from each other as they researched. This guide was done, in part, because Michigan State and colleges and universities nationwide have large enrollments from East Asian countries. Americans have questions. These are some of the answers.

  • DID YOU KNOW? Asian countries, cultures and languages are incredibly diverse. While there are some shared cultural values, the differences among countries are incredible.
  • Differences between China and Taiwan or South and North Korea are profound. Millions of Asian people learn English, but do not know Asian languages other than their own.
  • Value systems such as collectivism, Confucianism and high-context communication play out in everyday activity.
  • In Japan, it is not uncommon for people to practice more than one religion.
  • Colors and numbers can have special significance in gift-giving, weddings and ceremonies, commerce and luck.
  • Japan gave us anime, manga, karaoke and Hello, Kitty.
  • South Korea gave us Psy’s “Gangnam Style” and K-Pop, part of the “hallyu” wave of pop culture.
  • China gave us eight major cuisines, not just the one or two you have heard of.
  • Speaking of food, chopsticks are not traditional in all Asian countries.
  • East Asians are adaptable, with Japan having become a strong U.S. ally since World War II and China easing its one-child rule and greatly enlarging its education system.

100 Questions, 500 Nations:
A Guide to Native America

100 Questions, 500 Nations: A Guide to Native America, originally published by the Native American Journalists Association in 1998, helped inspire the Bias Busters series. It has now been updated, redesigned and republished to reflect developments of the past 25 years. These are a few:

  • DID YOU KNOW? As the title reflects, there are now more than 500 federally recognized Indian nations. The guide includes a list of 566.
  • The tribes are sovereign, a concept that has been in the news in recent stories about Ukraine, Taiwan and the Middle East.
  • Tribal sovereignty is affirmed in treaties, court case law and the U.S. Constitution, but is still the subject of dispute.
  • It is OK to use the term “Indian Country” and many prefer “Indians” to “Native Americans.” Many prefer to identify themselves by their tribal affiliations.
  • Of the estimated 350 Indian languages that once existed, about 200 remain. Navajo has about 80,000 speakers, about 40,000 speak Chippewa and some others, in danger of extinction, have just a handful.
  • Indian casinos had $27.9 billion in revenue in 2012, but most tribes do not have casinos and this is only 8 percent of total gaming revenue in the country. Some Indians oppose gaming; some see it as a traditional activity.
  • Some people oppose the nickname of the Washington Redskins professional football team because, they say, it is on a racial par with the N word.


Other guides in the series

  • 100 Questions and Answers about Indian Americans has been available from Amazon since mid-2013.
  • In 100 Questions and Answers about Americans, we flipped our reporting perspective 180 degrees to produce a book intended for newly arriving students, workers and immigrants—answering the real questions newcomers to these shores commonly have about puzzling aspects of our American culture.
  • 100 Questions and Answers About Arab Americans (Coming in May)

COME TO NAIN in Detroit in August to learn about the next expansion of our project! Want to follow plans for the NAIN conference on Facebook? Here is NAIN Connect.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email