English speaking Latinos born in the United States are effectively being ignored by media outlets, according to a report released by the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism in New York City.
The State of the Latino News Media report, released during the Latino Media Summit held at the school in late June, found that 77.56 percent of Latino news media outlets deliver the news in Spanish. Yet according to the census, the majority of the country’s 60 million Latinos are U.S. born and English dominant.
Of the 624 media outlets catering to a Latino audience, the report found that only 45 are English only and of these, only nine are digital only — including CTLatinoNews.com
In fact, a report from Democracy Fund put together by California State University Northridge on the state of Hispanic media, found that 44.4 percent of U.S. Latinos prefer their news in English and online compared to 13.9 percent in Spanish and online only.
The challenge of delivering news to these communities is an important piece of the fight to rebuild journalism for everyone, the report said. Yet most “mainstream” media studies and criticism regularly ignore Latino journalism — as well as pretty much all media serving U.S. communities of color, it found.
But news sites like CTLatinoNews.com are helping fill the gap.
“Contracting budgets handicap legacy news media from covering local communities adequately,” said Hugo Balta, publisher and executive editor of CTLatinoNews.com. “They (big media) historically haven’t been inclusive of diverse voices and now they’re failing them geographically; neighborhood to neighborhood.”
Audiences want to have a relationship with the media that covers them. It is paramount for journalists to engage with the community they serve in order to ensure the content produced is relevant and true to their experience, said Balta, who was a guest speaker at the conference where the report was released.
The summit brought together journalists, media industry leaders and digital news entrepreneurs among others, whose focus is the U.S. Latino audience.
Balta spoke about the emergence of entrepreneurial journalism and the importance of audience engagement.
“CTLN is statewide but community focused,”Hugo Balta, Publisher, Executive Editor, CTLN
“We’re filling gaps created by big media that produce overarching coverage ignoring the distinction of diverse communities. Entrepreneurial journalists tell stories at almost a block to block level,” Balta said.
Fair and Accurate treatment of Hispanics in media
Earlier this year, he took over ownership of CTLN from Diane Alverio who founded the site in 2012. Balta is also serving a second term as the president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ). Alverio is a past president of the organization.
“As president of the NAHJ, I champion its mission of demanding the fair and accurate treatment of Hispanics in newsrooms and in news coverage,” Balta said. “CTLN is a new chapter of my lifelong’s work in serving my community.”
The quantity and quality of local news stories are lacking across the country according to a study published in 2018 by Duke University’s DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy. The report found that only 17 percent of stories were about local events. And only 56 percent were about issues such as crime and infrastructure.
“Digital local news outlets play a vital role in the daily lives of communities,” Balta said. The regionalization of content production is a failed one-size fits all practice, he said.
“To underserved communities like Hispanics, Latinos, it (big media) is irrelevant, especially in small markets where information about local government, education, health, and other important issues is indispensable,” Balta said.
This is why CTLN is committed to the 2020 census and making sure Latinos, especially the undocumented population understand the importance of being counted and filling out the form. It will also take a leading role in reporting on the 2020 election.
“Studies have shown that communities without quality local news coverage see lower rates of voter turnout,” Balta said. “So much is at stake with next year’s election, and CTLN will be making sure that the Hispanic, Latino community is well-informed with stories promoting civic engagement.”
Today Connecticut, tomorrow New England
By the end of the year, Balta plans to expand the CTLatinoNews.com concept to other states in New England in order to reach the growing Hispanic, Latino population. The first sites to launch will be in Massachusetts and Rhode Island by the end of the year. By early next year, he plans to expand to all of New England under the Latino News Network (LNN) to report stories of interest and importance to the emerging majority.
The path to success, according to Balta, is quality partnerships and data.
In the past weeks, CTLN has solidified alliances with other digital local media like Identidad Latina and CT Mirror, organizations with the pulse of the community like CT Public Libraries, Community Renewal Team (CRT), and educational institutions like Yale University and Western State Connecticut yielding a larger reach, more information that educates on the complex diversity of the Hispanic population, bridging divides across communities.
In his presentation, Balta shared that in an effort to better understand the needs of CTLN’s audience, he’s overseeing community listening and information needs assessment initiatives.
“The elitist newsroom culture of ‘We know what’s best for you’ is antiquated. We’re having conversations with organizations like Hearken, a consultancy agency, that will help us be better ‘news servants’ in order to invest in the right growth strategies,” Balta said.
For Balta, expanding the CTLN digital news concept comes down to ensuring that Hispanic, Latinos are heard and more importantly, understood; chipping away at one-dimensional stereotypical narratives — criminal, foreign-born, undocumented, uneducated.
“Homogeneous legacy newsrooms lacking the depth of diverse voices and thought are telling stories about the Hispanic, Latino community often riddled with biased misinformation. We are an economic, political, cultural powerhouse; the past, present, and future of the United States of America.”
“Let’s tell our own stories,” Balta said.