To regular readers of Being Latino, it will come as no surprise that Latinos are underrepresented in many professions. A logical extension of this is the lack of Latino representation in the news; indeed, anyone who consciously inspects their nightly news show of preference, provided that it isn’t on a Spanish-language channel, will notice it.
Most of us have realized this, yet we’ve ignored it.
However, Extra!, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting’s monthly magazine, recently revealed some numbers that were slightly depressing and highly distressing. Whether you look at column writers, regular commentators, sources or “experts,” Latinos have among the lowest representation comparative to their population size.
Extra! reports that “Latinos are rarely turned to as ‘experts,’ the researchers, academics and analysts who add insight to a story.” Our numbers among sources is equally low, increasing slightly when the “newsmaker” is Latino. Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination back in 2009 garnered 28 percent of Latino sources in stories by the New York Times. However, over half of those Latino sources were Sotomayor and her friends and family.
Even when Latinos make up a majority of the population in a city, they are still underrepresented in their local newspapers. For example, the Miami Herald, in a city that is 70 percent Latino, only manages to employ 27 percent Latinos in their newsroom.
Extra! attributes part of this gap in representation to the disparity between Latinos working in Spanish- and English-language news shows. Latinos have supported large and prosperous Spanish-language media. Univision, which has a predominantly Spanish line-up, is the fourth-largest network in the United States, according to NPR.
And according to a Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism 2011 report, “Spanish-language media tended to fare better overall than their mainstream English-language counterparts” during this recession.
Still, we are also seeing an increase in bilingual or English media aimed at Latinos. In the news world, major players have created separate pages to specifically target a Latino audience. Among these are The Huffington Post’s Latino Voices, NBC Latino and Fox News Latino. Univision has forayed into this territory by creating Univision News, a English-language Tumblr site that is clearly meant to appeal to younger, often bilingual or English-preferring Latinos.
As we are reminded of the importance of the media in affecting our view on issues, it is important for those lacking representation to not just create their own media, but also reach the mainstream audience and have our viewpoints fully included in the nationwide conversation.