Now in its 35th year, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists has largely maintained its original mission, to help improve diversity in newsrooms and to advocate for the fair and accurate representation of Latinos in news.
“It’s about perspectives. It’s about your audience. It’s about the demographic, who we are as Latinos and other groups that continue to grow in population,” says Alberto Mendoza, the group’s executive director. “It’s really smart business to be inclusive and to include those voices and that perspective. We really come from so many different cultures and we’re all immigrants. Find the beauty and intersectionality between all the cultures and that’s who’s going to win. It’s going to win in viewership, it’s going to win in revenue and it’ll set the leadership role in how other news outlets should do it.”
He admits that, unfortunately, the needle hasn’t moved too far in the past three and a half decades.
“The challenges are many, sadly. The reality is Latino journalists have to compete and be better to even get a shot,” Mendoza says. “We find that Hispanic and Latino journalists are often the only one in the newsroom. They end up getting all the stories about the Latino community or trying not to get those stories so they’re not pigeonholed. They don’t have allies or other partners in the newsroom that can help them pitch stories that are really about the community in a favorable way.”
Many journalists have shared stories about being hired for their different perspectives and experiences, only to feel pressure to assimilate once they join a newsroom. Or they’ll pitch a story about the Latino community in their town and the news director will urge them to take a different angle.
“If that journalist wants to talk about the community and how the Latino community is targeted by police and what happens on Saturday nights, they’ll be told to go interview the police department because the police department will say the Latino community is harassing them,” Mendoza says. “That’s when the journalist says that’s not what’s happening, this is what’s happening. That starts creating the conflict for the journalist who thought they’d be able to tell authentic stories about where they come from. They really have to sell it, to pitch it, and then something else happens and the story never makes the air.”
He notes that, as reporters around the world are learning how to cover the coronavirus epidemic while protecting themselves and their families from getting sick, the Latino community is facing other very personal challenges.
“A lot of Latinos are in service positions. They’re the ones still working in the field to get food to tables and the ones still packing things,” he says. “In many ways, we’re telling stories about our own community and our own friends and family. The story becomes very personal and very intimate.”
It’s All Journalism host Michael O’Connell is joined this week by Alberto Mendoza, executive director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, to discuss the challenges faced by the Latino community and especially in light of coronavirus.