Hispanics not in the news

The Hispanic community receives scant media coverage in the United States, found a new study released by the Pew Hispanic Center this week.

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An analysis of 34,452 stories that included print, online, radio and broadcast outlets found that less than 2 percent actually referenced Hispanics, the study found.

However, most of these stories pertained to event-driven coverage and not to actual stories about daily life in the Hispanic community.

The top four media topics related to Hispanics were the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Mexican drug war, the H1N1 outbreak and immigration. The study examined a 6-month period from February to August 2009.

Latinos are now more than 15 percent of the U.S. population but in media they are seen and heard less than 2 percent of the time. That's an obvious disparity.

The study didn't qualify whether the coverage was more negative or positive. But as a careful observer of media, I think it's safe to say it was more negative.

I think most of these top issues play into the stereotypes about Hispanics. When they are featured in the news it is often in reference to the same issues of drugs, disease and immigration. The coverage of Justice Sotomayor was an exception. However, it started out positive but quickly turned negative as she was attacked for making the "wise Latina" remark.

So what needs to change so that we have a more inclusive media?

It would help if there were more Latino journalists. But the numbers are actually stagnant.

Since 2001, the number of Hispanic journalists working at newspapers increased by only 23 people, according to a recent study by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE.)

The ASNE newsroom census also found 458 newspapers reported they had no minorities on their full-time staff. Zero.

What's frightening is that this number has been on the rise since 2006.

Hispanic and other journalists of color, and journalists in general, have suffered from the economic downturn. I think that plays out in undercoverage of the Hispanic community.

When the media was thriving, however, I don't think the overall coverage was that much better.

That said of course non-Hispanic journalists also can and should write about the Hispanic community, which will grow to 30 percent of the U.S. population by 2050.

But what the PEW Hispanic Center study shows is that we have a long way to go.

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