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Latino Media Subject of Michigan State Conference

By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent

East Lansing: Latino members of the Michigan and Ohio media gave their takes on how the community is covered and how a growing audience of Latino families are served by mass media and journalists during a day-long conference at Michigan State University on Friday, July 15,2016.

The theme of the conference was The Mass Media and Latinos:  Overrepresentation and Underrepresentation.” The event was hosted at the Kellogg Center by MSU’s Julian Samora Research Institute.

“Latinos are overrepresented in the majority of stereotypes, particularly by t (he mainstream media and they’re underrepresented in terms of the industry itself,” said Dr. Rubén Martínez, Director of the Julian Samora Research Institute, who called any on-air talent ‘window dressing.’ “They have some minorities out there to be the ‘face’ of the particular outlet, but behind-the-scenes, it’s about 90-plus percent white and most of them are male.”

Dr. Rubén Martínez (above, left)

So the conference could not have had a better keynote speaker to draw out those points. Alex Nogales, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, is an advocate for Latinos and how they are represented in the media, and has implemented several initiatives focused on improving the status of the media in Latino communities.

Nogales was critical on how the Main Stream Media misrepresented the population at large in his speech entitled: “Latinos: Missing in Action in Film and Television.”

Nogales is currently evaluating the diversity features of four major TV networks, pushing for more diversity in the industry’s workforce and increased representation of Latinos in their shows. Nogales is also challenging the portrayal of Latino immigrants by mainstream media.

Renowned Efrain Gutiérrez came with his family from San Antonio, Texas to speak on: “Chicano Filmmaking: The Need and its Impact.”

The participants were also treated to comments by Bing Goei (Michigan Office for New Americans) and Prabu David (Dean, College of Communication Arts and Sciences, MSU).

But the same can be done by local Latino media representatives, combating the stereotypes portrayed in local newscasts and telling stories of racism, separatism, and oppression in the way services are delivered and the continued language barriers and cultural incompetence experienced by the fastest-growing segment of the US-American population. The conference was aimed at addressing those disparities in some way.

“I think the major thing was to have the members of the Latino media develop a network and have an understanding of the different approaches they have in their respective outlets,” said Dr. Martínez. “Another was to develop some sense of commitment among participants who are not members of the media and the importance of having input, particularly with regard to the mainstream media and to explore ways in which they can have input with Latino media.”

The conference featured prominent Latinos in all fields of Southern Michigan and Northwest Ohio media—from Internet radio to traditional radio stations, Latino-owned newspapers and magazines, and Latino news reporters from mainstream TV stations. The overwhelmingly majority advocated painting Latinos in a positive light as much as possible during panel discussions throughout the day.

Journalists included:

Internet Radio:  Dennis Medel, midwesttejanoradio.com (Saginaw); Angie Morales, lamejorgr.com (Grand Rapids); & Richard Castañon, Jr., fiestacalienteradio.com (Saginaw).

Newspaper (Hardcopy and Digital)José Flores (monthly, La Voz, Grand Rapids); Rico Neller (bilingual weekly, LaPrensa, Michigan and Ohio distribution); & Joel Morales (El Informador, Grand Rapids). 

Traditional RadioManuel Medina (La Poderosa Radio Station, Grand Rapids); Luis Peña (La Mejor 88.1FM, Detroit); & Alex Reséndez (La Explosiva 1480AM, Detroit).

Mainstream Media: Ed Fernández (E.W. Scripps, Detroit); Eva Aguirre Cooper (WOOD TV8/WOTV 4/WXVU Public Media, Grand Rapids); & Marino Avila (WGVU Public Media, Grand Rapids).

Many of the panelists complained of underrepresentation in the media, and of mainstream media stereotyping Latinos by its overuse of crime features. Complaints were also made of mainstream media using the word “American” to refer to only citizens of the United States; the use of the words of “illegal” or “alien” when referring to undocumented immigrants, and of describing Cuba as a “communist” nation.

A group of professors and experts from around the country met at Florida State University last year to create the Association for Latino Media, Markets and Communication Research (ALMMACR), a nonprofit whose mission is to enhance the teaching and research of this growing arena of the field of communication.  That group is likely to provide the numbers necessary to bolster the fight for stop Latino stereotypes and ensure better representation in the mainstream media.

But the presidential campaign paints a disturbing anecdotal picture of how Latinos are portrayed by candidates, while both major political parties acknowledge their clout as a voting bloc and seek their support in the upcoming national election. Dr. Martínez points out those election results will determine how Latinos fare economically over the next few years.

MSU Study: ‘Latinos 2025: A Needs Assessment of Latino Communities in Southeast Michigan’

MSU recently released a study on Latino communities in southeastern Michigan. That study showed 30 percent of the Latino population in Michigan living in poverty between 2009 and 2013, significantly higher than the overall state population at 17 percent. Among Latino  children, that poverty rate soared to 35.5 percent, compared to the statewide rate of 24 percent.

“That particular study is intended to highlight the particular challenges that different segments of the Latino community are experiencing and how important it is for agencies to close the service delivery gap,” said Dr. Martínez. “There was some emphasis on young adults, there was emphasis on working adults, immigrants, and also on seniors. There are different stages of life and they have different needs and challenges that they are experiencing within the current context of the social order in which we live today.”

The MSU researcher termed that current social order as “neoliberalism,” a policy model of social studies and economics that transfers control of economic factors to the private sector from the public sector. The ideology  emphasizes the value of free market competition. In particular, neoliberalism is often characterized in terms of its belief in sustained economic growth as the means to achieve human progress, its confidence in free markets as the most-efficient allocation of resources, its emphasis on minimal state intervention in economic and social affairs, and its commitment to the freedom of trade and capital.

“I think we have experienced a shift in the last 40 years of a social democratic order to a neo-liberal order,” said Dr. Martínez. “The neo-liberal order is what has concentrated wealth at the top among elites in society and it has increased poverty and increased poverty among children.”

With just 17 percent of Latinos in Michigan attaining at least a bachelor’s degree, according to the study, lifting the economic situation of those Latino families will be severely constricted in the future, particularly if neoliberal policies continue to concentrate wealth among a small group of US-Americans. In other words, Latinos will likely remain in poverty for the foreseeable future.

“It’s increased an emphasis on diminished government and the functions of government in providing for the common good, the public good” said Dr. Martínez. “So we live in a completely different social order today and we need to understand what we’re up against as we try to envision a better reality for people—not just Latinos, but all people, because the shift from social democracy to neo-liberalism has impacted everyone.”

The MSU researcher points out the current presidential race boils down to whether that economic ideology would continue or not. Latinos will have a big say at the polls in that outcome, that is, if they both register to vote and show up on election day. He believes Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump comes down to economic philosophy.

“I think Trump, in particular, would keep that intact. I think Clinton would recognize that the pendulum is moving in the other direction and has taken up a populist agenda and is more willing to move the needle to the center, with the neo-liberals having moved the needle from the center to the right,” said Dr. Martínez. “I think she believes in the social good, the public good. I don’t think that he cares at all about it.”

Clinton’s task from in the waning months of the presidential campaign will be to reach Latino voters with that message—enough to draw them to the polls, as well as vote for her. Clinton campaign leaders nationally and regionally are hiring Latino leaders to work in battleground states with large Hispanic populations and monitoring states that may eventually come into play, like Arizona.

“I think the last time she ran, when she ran against Obama, I think Latinos were brought in very late in the campaign. I think there was the assumption that Latinos were in her camp and it turns out that they were not,” explained Dr. Martínez. “It turns out they were the deciding segment of the electorate and have a lot of influence.”

Consider that a lesson learned and changes have been made in the 2016 presidential campaign by the Clinton camp. According to a recent Buzzfeed article, the Clinton campaign has brought on a Latino leadership team to ensure the final months of the campaign don’t ignore Latino voters or take them for granted this time. That is partially fueled by the anti-Trump sentiment among Latinos for the billionaire businessman’s comments on immigration and building a wall to keep Mexicans out of the U.S.

“The overwhelming majority of Latinos support her. Latinos believe that government ought to have a strong presence in terms of promoting the public good,” said Dr. Martínez. “They know he doesn’t represent any of that.”


Copyright © 1989 to 2016 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 07/19/16 12:36:40 -0700.




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