Gilbert Bailon is editorial page editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and a past president of both the American Society of News Editors and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

The dearth of coverage of issues involving problems of Latino youth and Latinos in general isn't new but it is getting even more critical and glaring given the growth of the nation's Latino population. For 11 years ending in 2006, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists monitored the content of network broadcasts. In its "brown out report," the NAHJ's analysis of CBS, ABC and NBC network news showed that less than one percent of the coverage focused on Latinos, mainly on stories involving illegal immigration or crime.

An Univision/Associated Press poll released in August, 2010, indicated that 35 percent of English-speaking Latinos in the U.S. believe that the U.S. media mostly portrays Latinos negatively. An annual survey by the American Society of News Editors in 2010 showed that 1,800 minority journalists were laid off in the past five years of newspaper downsizing, including 485 Latinos, 60 of whom were supervisors. The 2009 Radio Television Digital News Association annual survey showed the number of people working in local television and radio fell 10 percent for Latinos, with a sharp decline in news directors.

All of that background gives Latinos ample reason to be concerned that issues like those of young Latino males won't be adequately covered, said Bailon. "The question we have to ask in our media business is why are we still being dismissed as a marginal niche audience when we're approaching 60 million people?


I don't have an answer for you. I can only tell you that's what's happening in the media business."

What's happening is that for too many Americans, the image of Latino males, "is skewed and distorted from bombardment of file video of immigrants swimming across the Rio Grande or jornaleros, the day laborers converged in a parking lot looking for spot jobs."

"Even worse the exaggerated sector of violent Latinos and immigrants tied to drug related crime and mythical beheadings (in Arizona) now have real life and political consequences. Latinos as villains or victims broadly define perceptions for too many Americans. Mainstream news media images apart from the images of Latinos and Latinas in pop culture, entertainment and sports often depict a troubled or threatening people, when they even bother to exist at all. More often than stereotypes however, Latinos simply are absent from the American dialogue."

Bailon said that the media must a basic question, "What the hell is a Hispanic issue."

"I think about that because when we talk about healthcare reform Latinos are the most uninsured group in this country. We never hear about that."

"These are not Latino issues, but they pertain to Latinos. Unfortunately a lot of editors don't make that leap from broader issues pertaining to specific groups.

This isn't unique to Latinos. As we grow, and we're more influential in some parts of the country it is more vital. Public policy is forged. Government dollars are allocated, and problems are addressed in a democracy only when common citizens recognize issues and then act."

Bailon said there are "interventions" that can help Latinos get more and more accurate coverage.

"It's going to have to be harnessed because we have to work around the traditional media. Not against, but find ways to get our stories out differently, including things at this conference, public advocacy."

Here are Bailon's suggestions for improving Latino coverage:

1. Social Media. "Some voices are now under the radar. They exemplify how Latinos can grow their own. Examples include websites, niche publications, webzines, blogs."

2. Self-publishing. "Too many Latinos are passive and polite despite many more ways to self publish or communicate directly with the news media. You don't need a big checkbook to write letters to the editor, go on a blog, write a guest column or request an editorial blog. Why don't we do it?"

3. Workforce. "The news media industry must retrain and re-patriot some of our journalists of color who are discarded through these massive budget cuts. Their experience and their cultural insights would have immediate effects if they reentered the professional newsroom."


4. Content audits. "You can't prove what you cannot quantify. Academia and the news industry must embark on more research on this topic while also aiding those preparing the pipeline of new multi-media and multifaceted, multicultural journalists."

5. Learn from the Spanish-language media. "We don't need to go out and create 500 page books and fancy presentations. Watch them and read them. Get some ideas what they're doing differently. A big difference is in Spanish language media they embrace cultural and historical context. Things are more familiar."

6. Develop Latinos as news sources. "There are Latinos in your community that should be, could be on TV. There are people in this room who could be, should be writing column, who could be on TV. You're going to have to get in people faces to get it done because they're not going to come find you. It's not rocket science, but its aggressiveness."

7. Multicultural training of journalists."Unfortunately as budgets get cut there is very little multi-cultural training going on. Things that various ethnic groups know are not getting translated (into mainstream media) and there is a dearth of information."

Discussion/questions from participants

QUESTION:

For young Latino males, I don't think we watch Spanish language television…I think television…we just have it on the background when we're

on our laptops checking Facebook. Then journalism itself—when you talked about diminishing numbers of Latino journalists in the newspaper and diminishing numbers in Latino newspapers. Newspapers are diminishing period. They're disappearing. As far as good journalists, investigative journalists—they're a rare thing. For the cost of one investigative journalist it could pay 20 kids with a camcorder to get some footage for TMZ. They're so—I mean the whole media—what is mainstream media? It's like everything has just changed so much in the last five years.

BAILON:

"You're right. The demographics for any market—if we took Anglos, African Americans—young black men are not watching the same thing their grandma is watching. I mean the habits are different… I'm talking about news programs. I'm talking—there are programs that are devoted to more daily news. There are a lot of Spanish language newspapers. I mean I would argue that newspapers are not going away. There is a real simple reason for that, and it's called online. Our audiences are bigger than they've ever been… People want good information more than ever because there's so much crap out there… Everyday you're getting inundated with crap. What can I believe? What decision—a lot of you are going to go vote here in a month. Where are you going to get that information? It's not going to be some guy on TMZ."

RICK RODRIGUEZ, WALTER CRONKITE SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM, ASU:

"Can I add something to that? When you're doing a media role, it's not necessarily all about reaching the Hispanic male even though this—it's about getting the issue of Hispanic males before a broader audience, so we can ultimately make a difference, whether that be political decision makers, whether that could be grant makers, whether that would be…your neighbor next door to understand what folks are about and to accept differences in building a community."

QUESTION:

"I mean—I don't—most of us don't get our news from the news. I feel bad for the news anchors…"

BAILON:

"Let me challenge that..Where do they get their news from? The Associated Press. Yahoo gets it from the Arizona Republic. They get it from Channel 4, Channel 5. Most newspapers are the biggest—local newspapers are the biggest contributors to news outside the areas as much as they are local."

QUESTION:

"I guess what I'm trying to say is I think that technology—we've reached the point now..We can bypass the mainstream media, and just have these niche vendors… As far as like, what is mainstream media? I just think that that's just this figure now that is going to slowly disappear with technology and—but do we need good content? Yes. As far as the avenues, there's no hub anymore."

BAILON:

"I agree with you. That is happening. I would say it's just different from what we're trying to do. If all I care about is gardening…a local Arizona Phoenix gardening blog and just cover the hell out of it. I can do it—and I have to bypass the Arizona Republic, and I do it. I find all the people who like that kind of stuff. It's happening in a lot of places. You're right. The question is, for the bigger audience covering news."

QUESTION:

"The other thing I want to know about is what's your thoughts in terms of what impact (Latinos had)… in pushing Lou Dobbs out of CNN,

holding CNN responsible for having fair, more accurate media?"

BAILON:

"I thought it had a huge impact of him leaving, yes. I mean there's no doubt about that. He was making lots of money, and had good ratings up to a certain point. Then the community spoke out. I think our community just< doesn't do a lot of that. You can do it on a local basis. It doesn't have to be Lou Dobbs. It could be local things…I wish our community got as excited about—'why aren't you covering us?' Yes, pressure can be (applied effectively) —you know they're not going to come find you. Right now people in our business are already pretty busy and under a lot of pressure. They're generally not going to come looking for more things to do. If you get in front of them and say, 'Here are some things that can make you turn your business around. We have a whole lot of people here who are interested. We want to work with you.' Not to be friend, but to say our community is being deprived. There will be people who will listen."