A project billed as the “first-ever online network of ethnic citizen journalists” was launched last week in Los Angeles. Called LA Beez, the effort is a project of New America Media with support from the Ford Foundation. It brings together six L.A.-area ethnic media outlets with the goal of providing a more diverse representation of views. The participating local publications include: Arab-American Affairs Magazine, Asian Journal, Carib Press, Impulso, Los Angeles Garment & Citizen, and the Los Angeles Watts Times.

Despite a healthy appetite in general for locally relevant news and information in ethnic communities across the U.S., it will be interesting to see if such online citizen journalism sites and networks produce results. Which communities will respond to citizen journalism and will they respond differently than mainstream communities have responded? Will they attract new, diverse voices to the field of journalism and will they create entirely different forms of community journalism?

No doubt projects like the Media Mobilizing Project in Philadelphia and the globally oriented Rising Voices, among others, can offer some important pointers for this work.

And lots to learn here from groups like New America Media and others already experimenting in this space. Most importantly, we need to listen carefully to communities themselves and not just throw new tools in their direction to see what sticks. Speaking of learning and listening, here are a couple of California-specific factoids worth considering when pondering the future and tools of online ethnic citizen journalism in the U.S.:

1) Nearly 8 million Latinos in California (approximately 60% of the total) do not have a computer and Internet at home.

2) At the same time, more than 80% of Latinos in California own a cell phone.