NAHJ: Net News Lacks Latinos

According to the just-released "Brownout" report by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the network evening newscasts' record of coverage of Latinos was up slightly in 2003 over 2002, but still "dismal," given the growing importance of the community.

Although Latinos are approaching 14% of the total U.S. population, they made up only .82% of the nightly news stories on ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN (NewsNight With Aaron Brown), or about 131 stories. That is up from 121 (.75%) in 2003, but 43% of those stories cited no sources, and a majority (58%) featured no interview with a Latino.

There also were not many Latino faces in non-Latino stories, according to the report, with Latino's appearing as sources in only 1.8% of all stories, with 40% of that total represented by just three people: Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

"NAHJ believes that the lack of diversity throughout the ranks of the network news divisions is a major reason why Latinos remain almost invisible on the evening news," NAHJ said. "[We have] repeatedly called on the networks to make their racial and ethnic newsroom employment figures public. But, so far, they have refused our requests."

On the up side, human interest stories increased from three in 2002 to 15 in 2003, many of those dealing with Hispanic soldiers.

Other positives:

  • Immigration and crime stories more often portrayed Latinos as victims. It was the revers in previous years.
  • Latino soldiers killed or wounded were portrayed as heroes.
  • Several political stories dealt with the increasing influence of the Latino vote.

For the first time, NAHJ did a content analysis of one week's worth of weekday network prime time newscast. For the five days (241 stories), none were exclusively about Latinos and only four used Latino sources.

The study was conducted by Austin, Tex..-based media consultant Federico Subervi.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.