My opinion by Margo Hernandez: Are growing Hispanic
numbers the new elephant in the room?
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
For years, I have been writing about the lousy educational
opportunities available to the American Hispanic, especially if that
Hispanic also happens to be poor.
And for years, I'm pretty sure my voice from this little
corner of the newsroom was pretty much lost in the greater world of public
But I have never felt smaller than I did after a seeing the
report from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists showing that of
all the network television news stories in 2004, a total of 115 were
exclusively about Hispanics.
To put that in perspective, that was 115 stories out of more
than 16,000 aired by ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC. Fox News and MSNBC were not
included in the report because their newscasts are not fully archived at the
source for the numbers, Vanderbilt University's Television News Archive.
To give you a little more perspective, those 115 stories
exclusively about Hispanics represents 0.72 percent of the news stories. Let
me say that again - less than 1 percent.
What may be more discouraging is that NAHJ's Brownout Report
shows in 2004, the networks aired even fewer reports on Hispanics than they
did in 2003. That year, the networks aired 131 stories about Hispanics -
about 0.82 percent.
This isn't a positive trend in a nation growing browner very
quickly. But it also isn't anything new. This report was released at the
NAHJ convention last month, but NAHJ has been producing the Brownout Report
for 10 years now. Have you ever heard of it?
OK, so the report might be a little esoteric for the average
American. Still, it does seem to capture the attitude of the country and its
aversion to things Hispanic, except for maybe the food. And sometimes the
And to be fair, network news is much different from local
news and the news you'll find in newspapers.
Still, it does seem that with the changing color of the
country, the networks would have found a way to include news about
Hispanics. And to find news other than Hispanic involvement in crime and
immigration - legal or illegal.
Did I mention that immigration was the focus of much of that
coverage? Or that since 1995, immigration and crime made up 36 percent of
all stories on Hispanics?
Here are some of the findings, in a nutshell, from the 2004
report provided by NAHJ:
● "Overall, Latinos were viewed as problem people and burdens
to society in 2004."
● "As in 2003, Latinos were portrayed as patriots and victims
willing to sacrifice for their country."
● "Stories on Latinos and politics focused on the use of
Spanish by the presidential candidates and portrayed Latinos as a monolithic
group of voters. Issues important to Latinos were virtually ignored."
● "Networks continued to use the theme of the American dream
to frame stories about Latinos, without providing more substantive
The answer may lie in hiring Hispanics. But both print and
broadcast media throughout the country have been working for years to build
stables of Hispanics among their reporter ranks.
Yet finding Hispanic workers to fill the lowest rungs in news
organizations only exposes another problem - the lack of Hispanics in
What's the point of hiring Hispanics if powerful news outlets
are just going to ignore that population?
Meantime, some of us will continue to write about the
inequities we see among Hispanics and the larger American population. We do
that to give cover and courage to policy-makers charged with doing what's
right for Hispanics - and everyone else.
But we'd rather have the national media as allies. If we
could, we might be able to make the perception of Hispanics something more
than the focus of crime and immigration stories.