LatinaLista — The big story being picked up from the new report jointly released yesterday by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) and the Pew Hispanic Center is how, given the 47-million strong U.S. Latino population, mainstream media coverage of Latinos remains poor.
According to the report:
From February 9 to August 9, 2009, only a fraction of stories contained substantial references to Hispanics--just 645 out of 34,452 studied. And only a tiny number, 57 stories, focused directly on the lives of Hispanics in the U.S.
While that revelation is definitely a sad commentary on how the mainstream media values coverage of the Latino population, the bigger story seems to be that the only times mainstream media thought Latino coverage was worth something was when it was negative.
The top four storylines that referenced Hispanics were stories dealing with: Justice Sotomayor, Mexican drug war, H1N1 outbreak and immigration.
In each of these cases, personal observation shows that the majority of coverage was presented negatively. Stories dealing with Sotomayor dealt overwhelmingly with her "wise Latina" comment and attempts to draw comparisons between races.
Stories dealing with the Mexican drug war, while documenting the bloodbath that is happening south of the border, attempted to create an impression that it had crossed the border in the U.S. - though average border residents didn't see the violence that was being reported in Mexico.
Mexicans were universally blamed for the H1N1 virus and among the first cases that happened in the United States were either Hispanic residents or Mexican nationals here in this country for treatment.
And last, but not least, is the issue of illegal immigration that is identified more as a Latino issue.
None of the topics when covered had anything good to report, in bulk, about Hispanics -- not even the selection of Justice Sotomayor. So, it's extremely disturbing to know that the only times Latinos are attractive to mainstream media for coverage is when they are linked to poor statistics, racial stereotyping, crime or sensational comments.
Stories that illustrate how the vast majority of the 47 million Latinos in the country are law-abiding, have educational goals, are hard workers, create more businesses, etc. are of no interest.
Even the highly touted CNN special about Latinos felt the bigger story was first-generation, poverty-ridden and incarcerated Latinos. While those situations exist for some, as so with whites, blacks, Native Americans, and Asians, they're not the typical stories of Latinos as much as mainstream media, who has little insight into the Latino community, portrays.
If there is a clear lesson from this report, it's not that the Latino community should strive to increase coverage of Latinos -- but strive to increase the quality.