My opinion by Margo Hernandez: Are growing Hispanic numbers the new elephant in the room?
For years, I have been writing about the lousy educational opportunities available to the American Hispanic, especially if that Hispanic also happens to be poor.
And for years, I'm pretty sure my voice from this little corner of the newsroom was pretty much lost in the greater world of public policy.
But I have never felt smaller than I did after a seeing the report from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists showing that of all the network television news stories in 2004, a total of 115 were exclusively about Hispanics.
To put that in perspective, that was 115 stories out of more than 16,000 aired by ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC. Fox News and MSNBC were not included in the report because their newscasts are not fully archived at the source for the numbers, Vanderbilt University's Television News Archive.
To give you a little more perspective, those 115 stories exclusively about Hispanics represents 0.72 percent of the news stories. Let me say that again - less than 1 percent.
What may be more discouraging is that NAHJ's Brownout Report shows in 2004, the networks aired even fewer reports on Hispanics than they did in 2003. That year, the networks aired 131 stories about Hispanics - about 0.82 percent.
This isn't a positive trend in a nation growing browner very quickly. But it also isn't anything new. This report was released at the NAHJ convention last month, but NAHJ has been producing the Brownout Report for 10 years now. Have you ever heard of it?
OK, so the report might be a little esoteric for the average American. Still, it does seem to capture the attitude of the country and its aversion to things Hispanic, except for maybe the food. And sometimes the music.
And to be fair, network news is much different from local news and the news you'll find in newspapers.
Still, it does seem that with the changing color of the country, the networks would have found a way to include news about Hispanics. And to find news other than Hispanic involvement in crime and immigration - legal or illegal.
Did I mention that immigration was the focus of much of that coverage? Or that since 1995, immigration and crime made up 36 percent of all stories on Hispanics?
Here are some of the findings, in a nutshell, from the 2004 report provided by NAHJ:
● "Overall, Latinos were viewed as problem people and burdens to society in 2004."
● "As in 2003, Latinos were portrayed as patriots and victims willing to sacrifice for their country."
● "Stories on Latinos and politics focused on the use of Spanish by the presidential candidates and portrayed Latinos as a monolithic group of voters. Issues important to Latinos were virtually ignored."
● "Networks continued to use the theme of the American dream to frame stories about Latinos, without providing more substantive coverage."
The answer may lie in hiring Hispanics. But both print and broadcast media throughout the country have been working for years to build stables of Hispanics among their reporter ranks.
Yet finding Hispanic workers to fill the lowest rungs in news organizations only exposes another problem - the lack of Hispanics in decision-making positions.
What's the point of hiring Hispanics if powerful news outlets are just going to ignore that population?
Meantime, some of us will continue to write about the inequities we see among Hispanics and the larger American population. We do that to give cover and courage to policy-makers charged with doing what's right for Hispanics - and everyone else.
But we'd rather have the national media as allies. If we could, we might be able to make the perception of Hispanics something more than the focus of crime and immigration stories.
Margo Hernandez is an Arizona Daily Star editorial writer. Contact her at 573-4236 or