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In the aftermath of the presidential election, it’s time for Latinos to start reclaiming their image

LatinaLista — Now that Latinos have gained credibility in the eyes of mainstream media and Main Street USA by making the difference in Obama’s re-election, Latinos need to start the real work of reclaiming the Latino image.

In the aftermath of the election when Sunday morning network roundtable discussions were busy dissecting, analyzing and commenting about the Latino vote, it was business as usual on most networks — not a single Latino representing the main topic of conversation. The only exception that was brought to our attention was on NBC’s Meet the Press who had Texas congressman Joaquin Castro providing credible insight that went beyond the stats.

Ever since the NBC network started making an effort to include more of the content and personnel from their Latino properties — Telemundo and NBCLatino — the Sunday morning political talk show has included a Latino on their roundtable panel, here and there. Usually, only when immigration or the Latino vote was going to be discussed.

So far, on ABC’s morning political talk show the effort has been minimal and at a time when it would really make sense to have a Latino on the panel — the weekend after the election – it was easier to talk about Latinos rather than hearing from one. Given ABC’s new partnership with Univision, it doesn’t make sense that someone from the Spanish-language network isn’t more of a regular panelist.

All the networks need to realize that while Latinos, tapped as pundits, can certainly deliver a closer picture of the pulse of the Latino electorate when discussing issues like the Latino vote or immigration or the DREAM Act, etc., Latinos smart enough to be tapped in the first place by these networks are smart enough to talk about other issues as well.

Another way to reclaim the Latino image is to call out media who think images of Latinos from south of the border suffice as equitable portrayals of US Latinos. Plain and simple, they do not.

For example, Fox News Latino ran an article today about the rise in the poverty rate of Latinos — U.S. Latinos. Yet, the picture used to illustrate it was clearly an image from somewhere south of the border where the poor are in much more dire circumstances than the poor in our country.

But Fox News Latino doesn’t see the difference in using such a misrepresentation of who are US Latinos. It’s a gross violation of journalistic ethics. Accuracy in reporting doesn’t just include the text but also the pictures.

And then there’s the insistence of the Associated Press (AP) to continue including the term “illegal immigrant” in its stylebooks, both in English and Spanish. They have dug in their heels though they know the term is insulting to Latino readers and in spite of the petitions they’ve received from concerned Latios and even the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

The AP’s defiance to Latino sensitivity has even caused a rift among Latino journalists — one side agreeing with the AP and the other side seeing the term as an inaccurate insult. If the Latino community made a bigger demand over the withdrawal of the term, things might change.

In fact, now that Latinos are coming into our own, it’s time to take command of the conversation when it concerns Latinos and stop letting others define Latinos based on bygone years of stereotypes and assumptions and on a people who never had political clout before.

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  • JoeOrtiz
    November 16, 2012 at 5:34 am

    Dear Marisa!Thanks for bringing this subject back to the forefront. After working in the communications industry for close to forty years, this lack of “image” has been a part of my journalistic concern throughout my career.Not to appear to be boasting (but solely for the purpose of presenting my credentials), I have the distinction of being the first Mexican American to ever host a talk show on an English-Language, commercial radio station, beginning in 1971 at KABC-AM Radio in Los Angeles, the pioneer and most known talk station in the country. I’m also one of the founding members of the California Chicano News Media Association, along with Latino journalism pioneers Felix Guttierez, Frank Del Olmo, Frank Sotomayor, Bob Navarro, Joe Ramirez, Frank Cruz, Joe Ramirez and Joel Garcia, to name a few.
    All of us had a vision that in the near future (we began our quest in 1973), we would have Latino and Latina journalists represented in all of the Los Angeles area media, as field reporters, news writers and editors, and even anchors. Looking back (as can be seen today) we have come a long way. But yet, as you aptly (and sadly) point out, seldom do we ever see ourselves among the those involved in general topics conversations, unless the issues concern immigration, gangs, drugs and inner-city crimes. Believe it or not, most of us are well aware of economic, education, health, sports and other issues including foreign policy.  But to the gatekeepers of talk shows and “Meet The Press” types of programs, you would think American Latinos were an ethnic group located somewhere in New Guinea, Darfur and or Indonesia, whose opinions need not be considered nor included in the conversation. We are the consummate “invisible” ethnic group, which only come to remembrance when watching beer or Tostitos commercials. Why this is so is still a mystery to many Latinos, but not to media moguls, who still view Latinas as “fiery wenches” and Latinos as “moustachiode, sombrero-wearing bandidos.”Since leaving the radio airwaves in 1992 (Prime Time with Joe Ortiz on KPZE-AM in Anaheim, California) there has been virtually no Latina nor Latino talk show hosts on any major radio and television stations. Several years ago we had my friends like Latina Rodri Rodriguez doing a fantastic job on KFI Radio in LA, and Xavier Hermosillo, who was the last Latino to work at my old station, KABC AM Radio about 15 years ago. 
    Today, as the election results proved, Latinos (who have always been a part of the fabric in America’s cultural quilt), made a statement that will resonate in the hearts and minds of all Americans, forever! All the deportations, and the compromised immigration reforms, will not alter the significant role Latinos will play in America’s future, a reality that may have caught many by surprise. Yet, today’s media gatekeepers will still control who participate in the discussions at their stations. However, these folks need to be reminded that the evolving ethnic demographics substantiates that Latinos will play a greater (economic and political) role in American society, and they will never return back to those old passive ways of days gone by.As my fiend Xavier Hermosillo, who in the mid 90’s coined a profound and prophetic meme, that has an even more significant caveat than it did back then, “Wake up America and smell the re-fried beans!” 
    Joe Ortiz, PresidentJoe Ortiz Associates

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