In Extra!’s recent study of the opinion pages of the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal (4/12), Latinos were granted less than half a percent of the op-ed bylines over the two-month study period—writing two columns in the Times, one in the Wall Street Journal, and none in the Post. None of these papers has a Latino among their staff columnists.
In more than a year of political book interviews on C-SPAN After Words and reviews in the New York Times Book Review (Extra!, 8/10), not a single U.S. Latino appeared among the 432 authors, reviewers and interviewers.
Among U.S. sources on the PBS NewsHour in 2006 (Extra!, 9–10/06), Latinos, who were 14 percent of the U.S. public at the time, represented a strikingly small 2 percent; George W. Bush administration Attorney General Alberto Gonzales accounted for 30 percent of those Latino sources. An earlier study (Extra!, 5–6/02) found commercial networks doing even worse, with Latinos representing a stunningly low 0.6 percent of sources on the nightly news programs of ABC, CBS and NBC.
At NPR, only one of the outlet’s 46 regular commentators in 2003 was Latino—making them the most underrepresented group we looked at among NPR commentators next to Native Americans, who were not represented at all (Extra!, 5–6/04).
Even when the coverage directly involves and impacts Latinos, their voices are scarce. In a year’s worth of cable coverage of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio—who was recently sued by the Justice Department for unlawful discrimination against Latinos—those actually targeted by his policies were included in the conversation only two out of 21 times (Extra!, 6/09).
Latinos are rarely turned to as “experts,” the researchers, academics and analysts who add insight to a story. In FAIR’s 2007 study of poverty coverage (Extra!, 9–10/07), for example, Latinos were 5 percent of all sources, but all were people in poverty; none of the 114 non-poor sources identified in the study period were Latino.
Often the only time Latinos are included in stories is when newsmakers themselves are Latino. In stories on the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, for example, 28 percent of New York Times sources whose ethnicity could be identified were Latino, while no sources identifiable as Latino were quoted when Robert Bork was nominated (Extra!, 8/09). (More than half of those Latino sources in Sotomayor stories were the nominee herself and her family and friends.)
In a study of six months of content in major print, broadcast and online media outlets in 2009, the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Pew Hispanic Center (12/7/09) found that only 3 percent of the news content contained substantial reference to Hispanics (using a broad definition that included non-U.S. Latinos like Vene-zuelan President Hugo Chávez), and 39 percent of that coverage was of Sotomayor.
That report concluded that “most of what the public learns about Hispanics comes not through focused coverage of the life and times of this population group but through event-driven news stories in which Hispanics are one of many elements.””