US Media Letting Down the Hispanics

Published: 11 November 2014

Country: USA

Hispanic_CultureEvery year Americans get a unique chance to experience and appreciate the diversity of Hispanic culture and acknowledge the contributions of Latino American citizens during Hispanic Heritage Month in the Fall. However, Independent reports suggest that this opportunity may be lost due to stereotypes and bias that exists in media outlets, particularly the right wing media.

“Conservative media’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 – October 15 included smearing migrant children as conveyors of disease, accusing the Mexican president of encouraging illegal immigration, and mocking MSNBC host Jose Diaz-Balart for conducting a bilingual interview,” says Media Matters for America in its report ‘How Right-Wing Media Talked About Hispanics During Hispanic Heritage Month’.

The mocking of the MSNBC host Jose Diaz-Balart was part of The Laura Ingraham Show, which is one of the most popular radio shows in the US. In the same show, conservative commentator Ingraham also called three children of an illegal Hispanic woman “the dreamers”. She commented that they are “illegal alien kids” which caused a reaction from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ):

Laura_Inghram_and_Jose_Diaz_Balart“She spent five minutes of her show mocking Diaz-Balart’s accent, translation and the undocumented. Giggling through harmful phrases like ‘these people,’ she made fun of ‘DREAMers’ and wondered if Cuban-American Diaz Balart, who is also the anchor of Telemundo’s Enfoque and Noticiero, really speaks fluent Spanish”.

During the National Hispanic Heritage Month, the National Review Online also published an article titled: Legal aid for Illegals. Matters America sees the article as trying to argue, “Undocumented children don’t deserve civil rights.”

It wouldn’t be the first time that Hispanic undocumented children are demonised in the media. Last year, the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) issued an open letter to Fox News Channel Chairman & CEO Roger Ailes, which was originally published in Huffington Post.

“Chris Wallace reported false facts linking immigrants to welfare. Even more egregious, however, was the graphic that appeared on screen during Wallace’s remarks, which referred to immigrant children as ‘Children of the Corn’. This phrase likens immigrant children to the murderous cult of fictional children depicted in Stephen King’s horror story and it’s universally familiar film adaptations. It covertly insinuates that Latino and immigrant children are to be feared.”

In 2012, NHMC published a research on the impact of media narratives and stereotypes of immigrants and Hispanics on non-Hispanic opinions. One third of those polled assumed that more than half of Latinos were undocumented immigrants.

“Negative portrayals of Latinos and immigrants are pervasive in news and entertainment media. Consequently, non-Latinos commonly believe that many media-promoted negative stereotypes about these groups are true,” concludes the report.

More recently, ironically during the National Hispanic Heritage Month a cartoon published by New York Daily News depicted mariachis following a man on top of a subway train, as the man is commenting “For the last time, I have no change”. The cartoon created unease amongst Hispanic journalists.  Mekahlo Medina, the president of NAHJ was not impressed.

“Fun to draw? Popular? Neither is an excuse to continue to depict Latinos in negative stereotypes. Our community, for far too long, has been the subject of these stereotypes for the sake of jokes or entertainment. It’s disturbing that a journalism organization like the New York Daily News would allow a negative depiction to be used to engage readers on an issue that is important to citizens.”

Medina also raised the issue of ‘lack of diversity’ in the newsrooms.

“The cartoon clearly proves that diversity is lacking somewhere in the editorial process regarding cartoons at the Daily News. All too often mistakes like these are made because the people making them are not representative of the communities the content portrays.”

The National Latino Media Council has released their progress report on the inclusion of Latinos within four major television networks, ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC. The study was based on the employment of Latino actors, writers, producers, directors, and entertainment executives. It looked into the areas of program development, procurement and commitment to diversity and transparency.  The outcome? A rating of “mediocre”.

The Fox News Chanel contributor Mike Gallagher commented “Go serve in the Mexican army” during the Fox News program ‘The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson‘. He was commenting on the U.S. federal program on allowing some undocumented immigrants who grew up in America to serve in the U.S. military and eventually become citizens.

American Hispanics have a long history of participation in American War for Independence, two World Wars to the Korean and Vietnam War. The contribution of Hispanic women who joined Women’s Army Corps during the Second World War is well-known.

In October, a letter signed by more than 15 Hispanic associations was sent to the top executives of HBO making the following point:

“Latinos have served with distinction in all branches of the U.S. military,” and “In fact, 43 Latinos have been presented with the Congressional Medal of Honour, our nation’s highest award of valor.”

The letter was to protest against the lack of Latino performers in a HBO event dubbed “The Concert for Valor”. According to Texas based newspaper, the Brownsville Herald, Felix Sanchez, chairman of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, a non-profit organization, spoke against the absence of any Latino or Hispanic performer at the HBO event. “It is an example of how mainstream America still has a hard time including Latinos in a mainstream event,” said Sanchez.

According to the same report, Sanchez contacted HBO and he was told that they were not able to book Latino performers due to their unavailability on the concert date. But in his letter to the HBO, Sanchez included a list of Latino performers who were available to perform that day.