This is a follow-up note about the Communication Revolution’s role in farm labor immigration, which I posted about last night, since it’s at the heart of my scholarly interest in the role of mass media in migration and immigration. Lucila Vargas of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and I have speculated that the Communication Revolution has an effect that Martin does not address.

As we argue in the New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, the immigrant-media landscape has fundamentally changed in the United States. Before the emergence of Spanish-language media, each generation of non-English-speaking immigrants to the United States had developed a foreign-language press, but subsequently assimilated and acculturated to American life by learning English and becoming involved in their communities. As a result, their attention shifted to English-language, mainstream media, which led to foreign-language publications to fade out. The seminal work in this topic is University of Chicago sociologist Robert Park’s classic The Immigrant Press and Its Control.

But in the twenty-first century, we argue, foreign-language media may be slower to die out because more migrants think of themselves as transnationals with dual national identities —  they’re not solely American and they’re not solely citizens of their home countries. The reason is that the personal networks they maintain keep them connected to both communities.

This transnationalism could combine with the proliferation of satellite, Internet, and other communication technologies to make it less likely that the current wave of immigrants will abandon Spanish. As a result, Spanish-language newspapers, for example, could endure longer than the foreign-language publications that served previous immigrants. Thus, their role as preserver of native heritage will take on greater significance as print media’s dominance fades and digital media industries reach maturity.