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These inequities are rooted in racially biased systems and structures that foster the unequal treatment of Latinos and other people of color.
News institutions play a powerful role in shaping conversations around racial/ethnic equity, but a new study by the Berkeley Media Studies Group (BMSG) in collaboration with UnidosUS shows that Latinos are underrepresented in news coverage on this topic.
Let’s explore the implications of Latinos being underrepresented in racial/ethnic equity news, and how to best showcase the contributions, challenges, and needs of Latinos among policymakers, racial equity advocates, and the general public.
Why Study Racial Equity News?
Journalists cover many topics that inform policymakers and the public about events, trends, social injustices, and other developments at the local, national, and global level.
Journalists’ coverage of these topics can have a large influence on the way we view the world.
Therefore, “knowing how issues are discussed in the media, then, gives us a baseline for understanding how people are – or aren’t – thinking about our world’s challenges, who is affected by them, and what solutions seem possible,” according to the new study.
If Latinos are not fairly represented in racial/ethnic equity news coverage, their contributions, challenges, and needs may be overlooked or poorly understood by those who can serve as allies in the fight for racial equity, such as policymakers.
The general public may also be affected in a similar way, further contributing to the unfair treatment of Latinos, according to the study.
How Often Are Latinos Included in Racial Equity News?
Latinos represent 18.9% of the U.S. population.
Unfortunately, researchers found that less than 6% of national news about racism and racial equity referenced Latinos.
This lack of representation remained evident in regions heavily populated by Latinos, such as California (40.2% Latino).
Latinos were underrepresented in racial/ethnic equity news in several ways, according to the study.
- Only 14% of articles quoted sources who self-identified as Latino.
- Latino organizations rarely appeared in coverage.
- Researchers found no authors who self-identified as Latino.
- Only about 15% of authors could be identified as Latino using contextual information, like surnames.
These alarming findings suggest that Latino perspectives and voices are being left out of conversations on racial equity and systemic racism.
Another concerning finding was the framing of stories about racial/ethnic equity issues facing Latinos.
These stories tended to focus mostly on problems, with less than 40% of the stories discussing solutions.
“When the news focuses only on problems without also exploring solutions, people – including policymakers – have a harder time envisioning next steps,” Pamela Mejia, head of research at BMSG, said in the study’s press release. “Readers need to see the work that organizers and advocates are doing to improve their communities. Those are the kinds of stories that encourage action and instill hope.”
Latino Representation in the News: A Persistent Problem
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first study by BMSG to identify problematic ways Latinos are portrayed in the media, or the lack of Latino perspective on issues that affect their community.
For example, although Latinos suffer a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 infections and deaths, they barely made up 2% of all COVID-19 news between Jan. 1, 2020, and May 31, 2021.
Another BMSG study revealed shocking ways the California media portrays Latino immigrants. Derogatory descriptions are used regularly, while issues that directly impact Latino immigrants, such as healthcare, are rarely covered.
The same study also found that immigrant voices are seldom represented in stories covering immigration, just as Latinos are frequently left out of stories on racial/ethnic equity.
How to Increase Latino Representation in Racial Equity News
The new study’s findings highlight the need for diverse journalists and newsrooms.
Only 11% of analysts, reporters, and journalists are Latino, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
More diverse newsrooms can help tell a more comprehensive and inclusive narrative about America’s racial/ethnic equity challenges and highlight opportunities for improvement.
Journalists can also avoid perpetuating racial/ethnic inequities by telling “fair, accurate, and complete stories” that include various perspectives, including those of Latinos.
“Doing so is a critical step toward building and maintaining an inclusive, just, and transformative narrative about racial equity in the United States,” according to the study.
Other parties can also take responsibility for inclusiveness of racial/ethnic equity news coverage.
“We know change is possible,” Viviana López Green, senior director for UnidosUS’ Racial Equity Initiative, said in the study’s press release.
“Journalists, publishers, advocates, and philanthropists can all play a role. For example, journalists can rethink the questions they ask and sources they speak to; publishers can reexamine hiring and recruiting practices; advocates can build stronger relationships with local outlets; and philanthropy can provide support for Latino organizations and help grantees forge connections with the media to tell their stories. Together, we can create a more inclusive narrative.”
What Else Can You Do to Promote Latino Health Equity?
You can also play a role in advocating for health equity by downloading the Health Equity Report Card from Salud America!
Email your Health Equity Report Card to community leaders and share it on social media. Use it to address health equity issues where help is needed most!
You can also help promote racial/ethnic equity by helping your city declare racism a public health crisis.
Download the free Salud America! “Get Your City to Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis Action Pack”!
The Action Pack will help you gain feedback from local social justice groups and advocates of color. It will also help you start a conversation with city leaders for a resolution to declare racism a public health issue along with a commitment to take action to change policies and practices. It will also help build local support.