More Invisible Americans: Bias in Media Reporting on Latinos

The Pew Hispanic Center’s useful Excellence-in-Journalism website reports a survey of the media’s skewed reporting on Latinos, and severe under-reporting of numerous matters of importance to Latinos and others, but falling outside the white-racial-frame’s concerns with Latinos.
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From early February to early August 2009 they examined 34,452 news accounts on 55 major U.S. news outlets– 13 newspapers, 15 cable programs, 7 broadcast networks’ news programs, 12 prominent news websites, 9 news radio/talk programs. Among thousands of news accounts were only 2.9 percent (645) dealing substantially with Latinos at all. Of these

only a tiny number, 57 stories, focused directly on the lives of Hispanics in the U.S.

The most covered event was the nomination and confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, 39 percent of all accounts dealing with Latinos:

The Mexican drug war came second at 15%; the outbreak of H1NI flu (with its origin in Mexico City) was third, at 13%. . . . Immigration, the number four topic, accounted for just 8.4% of the coverage involving Hispanics during these six months. . . . Immigration, which from 2006 through 2008 had been heavily debated in Congress and on the political campaign trail, was the subject of fewer than one in ten stories involving Latinos, a reflection of the degree to which the issue largely fell off the radar during the early months of the Obama Administration.

I guess the mostly white controllers of the mass media think Latinos are these days mostly about drugs, the flu source, and problematical immigration. The everyday stuff of Latinos’ lives gets little attention–even though there are now about 48 million Latinos in the United States:

In the small portion of coverage that dealt with the experiences of Hispanics living in the U.S., the most common storyline was the effect of the recession. Next was the immigrant experience, after that was population growth and changing demographics, and then the question of fair treatment and discrimination.

And this for a group growing in significance in 90 percent of U.S. counties and forecast to be 129 million (29 percent of Americans by mid-century). The researchers also found that other Americans of color (Asians, Africans/African-Americans) got even less serious media attention in this period. Whites’ power and privilege again?

(For some stories rarely covered in mainstream media see, just to take one example, the
United Farmworkers website, and listing of recent successes in improving farm workers lives. Also see their worker news blogging at dailykos here.)