Despite the spectacular growth of the Latino population over the past decade, Latinos continued to be marginalized on the evening newscasts of ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN in 2001, according to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists seventh annual Network Brownout Report.
The report found that out of approximately 16,000 stories that aired in 2001, only 99 (0.62 percent) were about Latinos. In 2000, only 84 stories (0.53 percent) were about Latinos.
“The network’s dismal record of covering the nation’s fastest-growing minority group undermines the information needs of all U.S. residents and distorts the public discourse so necessary for any democratic society,” said NAHJ President Juan Gonzalez, a columnist with the New York Daily News. For the second consecutive year, the protests over the military bombings in Vieques Island in Puerto Rico was the largest story topic, with 25 stories. After Vieques, the largest story topics were government (15), migration (11) and sports (11).
The report found significant improvement in the percentage of Latinos interviewed in Latino-related stories. Of the 99 stories about Latinos that aired, 67 (67.6 percent) featured interviews with Latinos. In 2001, out of 84 stories, 31 (24.4 percent) featured interviews with Latinos.
For the second consecutive year, the Network Brownout Report included a qualitative analysis of Latino-related news stories. It found that stories on Latinos frequently used the image of the border to suggest a divide between the Latino and non-Latino populations and to define Latinos as illegal immigrants.
Latinos are the fastest-growing ethnic or racial group in the country and currently make up 12.5 percent of the U.S. population. The Latino population grew by 57.9 percent since 1990 to 35.3 million.
NAHJ believes that the lack of newsroom diversity is a major reason why there continues to be a brownout of Latinos on the evening news. The Association has no idea how many Latinos work at the networks.
“Network jobs are among the most important and coveted positions in television, yet we have no regular public survey similar to those from the Radio-Television News Directors Association or from the American Society of Newspaper Editors that monitors how well the networks are doing when it comes to diversity,” said NAHJ President Juan Gonzalez. “I urge the network news chiefs to adopt the same openness about their employment record that the majority of local television and radio stations have been practicing for years.”
The report was prepared by Serafin Mendez-Mendez, an associate professor and chair of the Department of Communication at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Conn., and Diane Alverio, a communication consultant and co-owner of Baldwin/Alverio Media Marketing, a media research, marketing and public relations firm. Alverio is also a past president of NAHJ. With 1,700 members, NAHJ is dedicated to the recognition and professional advancement of Hispanics in the newsroom.