I read the Sun-Times series "Nuevo Chicago. How young Hispanics are
reshaping the region" with great interest. I commend reporters Kara
Spak, Dave Newbart and Laura Emerick for reporting on this three-day
series that wrapped up Monday.
But three days of coverage of the
Latino community does not go far enough. Latinos account for more than
one-quarter of Chicago's population and the 2010 census will show
considerable growth throughout the city and state.
neighborhoods, leaders and issues that impact the Latino community
shouldn't be reserved for special sections once a year. They should be
part of the daily metro coverage.
The Latino community is rarely
seen or written about in the pages of the Sun-Times. And a three-day
series does not make up for the lack of regular coverage.
of the problem is that as far as I know, there are no Latino reporters
writing for the metro desk at the Sun-Times. I know this because I used
to work at the Sun-Times part-time. I was once on their editorial board. I was laid off in fall 2008 due to the economic cutbacks at the paper.
Esther Cepeda, who was the only Hispanic reporter in metro, was laid off prior to me. She now writes a once a week freelance column on the op-ed pages but she doesn't just focus on Latino issues.
I know that the paper has faced hard economic times and lost many other reporters and editors.
I'm not saying that you have to be Latino to write about Latinos or that Latino reporters should only write about Latino issues. But it is shocking to me that in a city the size of Chicago that there aren't more Latino bylines in the Sun-Times. I admire Suzanne Ontiveros, who writes an occasional op-ed column but not usually about Latino issues. And I also admire Laura Emerick, who writes occasional pieces about Latin music, and she wrote the third part of the series about music.
But both Ontiveros and Emerick are full-time editors of feature sections, and in my opinion the coverage of Latinos is needed in the metro or city section of the newspaper.
Now the Chicago Tribune has by my count at least five Latino reporters in metro and at least three photojournalists who are Latino. The Tribune Co. also publishes Hoy, a daily Spanish-language newspaper.
Having that number of Latino staffers does make a difference in the coverage. The Tribune has a reporter writing regularly about immigration, a beat that the Sun-Times ignores except for when there is big news like in the case of undocumented student Rigo Padilla.
For full disclosure, I was a metro reporter at the Tribune from 1995 to
2002 and this blog is on Chicago Now run by the Tribune Media Co.
Now don't think I'm picking only on the Sun-Times. I made this same argument in a blog post about CNN when they aired Soledad O'Brien's two-part special "Latino in America." Her commendable reports do not make up for the lack of daily coverage about Latinos on CNN. And this was needed even more to counterbalance the Lou Dobbs show. Thankfully, he left CNN.
The Latino community is not new in Chicago and shouldn't be covered as if the Sun-Times was noticing it for the first-time. My only critique of the series is that the angles on the stories such as Latina teen pregnancy and dual identity are not fresh. They have been covered by other media before.
What the paper needs is beat reporting about immigration, Latino neighborhoods and issues. It doesn't matter to me if the reporter who covers these issues is Latino or not.
A few days on the front page can't make up for virtually ignoring the Latino community the rest of the year.