According to a new study released by the Art of Politics Impact Project, Hispanics represent only 2-4% of news commentators and guests on major news programs, while comprising more than 16% of the entire population.
Does the mainstream media think Hispanics are less-than-capable news analysts or are educated and interesting Hispanics really that hard to find?
It’s true: Hispanics are taking over the country. Ok, that’s slightly hyperbolic (and only meant to feed on the irrational fears of our friends at the KKK), but there is evidence showing that our impact and influence on the social and economic structure of the country is growing faster than among any other group. Despite this fact, we are a little hard to find in television advertising and especially in the news media.
From even a purely economic perspective, this just doesn’t make sense. In the last 20 years the Hispanic population has grown 250%. Purchasing power growth is far faster than the rest of the population reaching $1 trillion annually (trust me, we buy a lot more than just rice and beans).
Because of the monstrous growth, in both dollars and population, Hispanics are quickly becoming the highly sought after “swing vote” across the country. Hispanic population growth was responsible for much of the Congressional reapportionment across the country, or attempts to do so (see Texas). The “Hispanic vote” has been discussed before nearly every Republican primary to date. If you listened to the pundits, you might have thought no one else lived in Florida.
As an example of why it’s so important to understand this all-important new voting bloc, let’s consider the implications of “ObamaCare’s” new requirement that some Catholic organizations offer employee healthcare plans that cover contraception and abortions. The vast majority of Hispanics are Catholic – they have made up more than 70% of Catholicism’s growth in the U.S. since 1960. In case you didn’t know, Catholics are not too keen on contraception and really dislike abortion. (Don’t believe me? Here is a picture of the Pope sad.) The President was planning on retaining these highly sought after Hispanic votes through 2012, but after this political faux pas, the campaign is feeling the pushback. I like to imagine that Obama’s campaign headquarters gave out an in-unison “Ay Dios Mio,” but that’s just me.
Given the phenomenal growth and substantial influence now retained by Hispanics, they must be targeted and represented in the media, especially in regards to news and political commentary, right? If you’ve read the title of this article you know what I’m getting at. According to the Art of Politics Impact Project, an initiative launched by several leading national Hispanic organizations representing ideologies from every school of political thought, media and news powerhouses just don’t get it.
Their recently released study shows that “from March to November of 2010, a total of 380 guests and commentators participated in ABC This Week, CBS Face the Nation, FOX News Sunday, and NBC Meet the Press. Only 12 of these were Hispanic.” That’s close to 3%. The same trends continued through 2011.
Perhaps they just assume all Hispanics watch Univision and Telemundo.
Before we over-criticize, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. There are a number of reasons why Hispanics are severely underrepresented. Just like in many professions (see any sport’s racial evolution throughout the 20th century, except hockey, of course), one group has historically been dominant, creating an uncomfortable and unwilling acquiescence of power to what are perceived as “outsiders.” Good or bad, it’s human nature to not want to relinquish your stronghold, especially if it could mean your job.
But it could also be that they are just behind the times. It’s a habit that we have here in America. Sometimes it just takes us a while to catch up. Even after slavery was abolished and African Americans earned the right to vote it took more than a hundred years before they could even drink from the same water fountain as everyone else. Sometimes it just takes us a little while to get used to an idea before we accept it, even if hindsight shows us how blatantly ignorant we were.
Major news media outlets are no different. “Today’s political pundits are nearly identical to the ones that sat on the same chairs 40 years ago,” according to the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts. It looks like the mainstream news media may be Hispanics’ “drinking fountain.” (For all of you comedians out there, no, our drinking fountains would not have tequila and rum instead of water.)
Does mainstream media really have an aversion to Hispanic news commentators and analysts? I doubt it – but for some reason they do not seem to think there is much talent among Hispanics, or at least little interest from an American audience to listen to and watch our talent.
But, just like any other group of people, there is plenty of talent among us. We are an educated population with the potential to draw upon the fastest growing audience segment in the country.
Dr. King successfully led peaceful marches and non-violent protests to get equal treatment for African Americans. But that’s not our style. How about we send a few thousand Puerto Rican and Mexican grandmothers to the sidewalks in front of broadcasters’ doors? Trust me, those house slippers are not quite as comfortable as they look once they start coming off the ground.
But, I am sure the media will come around before that ever happens. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take a hundred years. (If you agree and want to help support Hispanics in the media, feel free to contact my booking agent at the email below.)
JUSTIN VELEZ-HAGAN is Senior Contributing Writer and Commentator for Politic365.com. He is also the National Executive Director of The National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce and an international developer of senior living facilities. He can be reached at Justin@Politic365.com.