August 11th, 2011
Where Are All The Latinos In The Media?

I remember when I was a young girl dreaming about being a reporter, I used to pretend to be Rachel from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” because she was the only reporter I knew of. As I grew up, though, and began scouring bylines looking for Latino voices, I realized that I may as well still look up to Rachel, because the number of Latino journalists out there was few and far between.

And although more than 20 years have passed since I was running around pretending to be a pretend journalist, not much has changed if you consider newsroom diversity.

News Taco emerged in a large part due to the dearth of Latino journalists, Latino perspective or Latino reportage available in the mainstream media. And, based on the rapid growth and enthusiastic response from our readership, it seems we’re really onto something.

It’s gotten so bad, actually, that in January a bunch of online organizations — major ones like AOL, Salon, TPM, Yahoo and HuffPo — refused to complete a survey of newsroom diversity. The only window into this world were some staff photos from HuffPo, which showed almost no people of color. When I was laid off from my corporate journalism gig, there were several other Spanish speaking Latinos who went with me, so it’s no wonder that the American Society of Newspaper Editors reports that racial and ethnic minorities account for less than 13% of newsroom employees.

Note, that’s employees, not reporters.

So you might ask yourself, why does this matter? Isn’t the news just the news and so it doesn’t matter who reports it? Well, the truth is, it’s not that simple. News is generated by people, and people search for news based on their experience of the world. For example, I read somewhere once that the vast majority of people quoted in the media tend to be white because interviews often take place over the phone.

If you’re sitting in an office all day waiting for the phone to ring, it’s likely that other people sitting in their offices calling you are white. In a world where 1 in 6 of us are Latino, how do you get those Latino voices into the paper when, institutionally, they have not had access to jobs, promotion, marketing, education and a myriad of other resources to help them appear in the media?

And what about people who don’t speak English? People who work from home? People doing advocacy or important work in their communities without a spokesperson? I can tell you from experience that sometimes the best stories happen when you’re having a casual conversation with someone face-to-face, which in my experience is a context much more comfortable for most people, than when you’re waiting by the phone for a spokesperson to call you back with a canned response.

Including Latinos as creators of news is not just a “feel good” gesture that looks dandy on the diversity literature for your particular corporation. It’s much more important than that. Fox has launched a Latino news machine, as has The Huffington Post, and Univisión is set to launch an English service as well. Are all of these sites doing this work because they want to please some invisible PC police, or do they want to make money, to be relevant in the future, to sustain the business model that employs so many people?

Unfortunately, the most important part — the hiring and core inclusion of Latinos as reporters and creators of news — seems to be the last thing they consider as they fight for their own futures as our news outlets.

Follow Sara Inés Calderón on Twitter @SaraChicaD.

[Incidentally, News Taco is looking for an intern, email for more information.] [Photo By News Taco And Here]

5 thoughts on “Where Are All The Latinos In The Media?

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  4. “Are all of these sites doing this work because they want to please some
    invisible PC police, or do they want to make money, to be relevant in
    the future, to sustain the business model that employs so many people?”

    no, what money?, maybe, doubt it – imho

    I also wonder how much work is involved – how many employees (full-time, contract, etc) – and of course my main interest here is in English Hispanic/Latino relevant news outlets

    Fox Latino has mostly AP/EFE stories/rewrites – their RSS feed is over 90% in Spanish filled with wire headlines fyi – I suspect all of their English journalists are on contract but they do produce some interesting things that seem to fly in the face of other FOX entities – also here we have what is considered a right-leaning news org

    HuffPo is infamous for the contract writers, aggregation/curation and using free writers looking to make a point or a name for themselves – so perhaps they have an editor to curate and organize (I don’t know) – I am glad they are doing this but will hold judgement for later – also here we have what is considered a left-leaning news org to balance FOX

    Univision is the gorilla if you ask me. How far into the English-language news realm will they go and where does that leave Telemundo and their recent announcement to launch more local news

    just some quick thoughts

  5. Alfredo Rodriguez Santos c/s

    Latinos have a long history of being part of the mainstream newspaper news. We make the papers as criminals, victims of crime, illegal aliensm domestic workers, revolutionaries, strawberry pickers and once in a while as palateros selling hijacked Ben and Jerry Ice Cream. What you don’t see all the positive stories. What you don’t see are the stories about those who work hard to provide for their families. But these stories are not of interest to those who read the main stream newspapers. So why is it that some Latinos want to get Raza stories in front of people who are not really interested in Raza? More than 200 years ago Hispanics in the United States started printing their own newspapers in part because they felt that el gringo en realidad le importaba madre al Mexicano. And it is for this reason in part, that Latinos have been printing their own newspapers which covers  news about La Raza. Today, in Texas, there are close to 100 hundred newspapers targeting La Raza. The vast majority of the people who own these publications realize that their time  and effort is better spent producing the news en lugar de andar como mosca en leche. 

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