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last year with 21 network stories or 18 percent of all stories that aired on Latinos.There were, however, some encouraging trends.Among them were:
The use of Latinos as interview subjectsincreased. Out of 120 Latino-related stories,89 (74 percent) featured interviews with Latinos,with ABC leading other networks by a noticeablemargin.
The average length of Latino-related storiesincreased significantly, from an average of twominutes and 25 seconds in 2001 to two minutesand51 seconds in 2002. The length of CNNstories far surpassed the other networks andshowed a significant improvement from its ownnewscasts from the previous year.
Latino politics and the growing Latino vote wasthe topic of eight network stories (7 percent of all Latino-related reports). Those news accountsgenerally depicted Latinos more positively thanothers, though they averaged the shortestlength of time.
For the first time, several network correspon-dents covered the Latino community a numberof times, allowing them to become moreknowledgeable about issues affecting the Latinocommunity. ABC’s Judy Muller led the way withsix stories.Much more disheartening, however, were the resultsof the qualitative analysis of news tapes. It showedthat:
Latinos continued to be portrayed as a dysfunc-tional underclass that exists on the fringes of mainstream U.S. society.
Latinos were once again typically portrayed asliving in poverty and as criminals. The number of Latino-related crime stories in 2002 was grosslyexcessive when compared to statistics on crimesinvolving Latinos.
Illegal immigration continues to be an importantfocus of network news coverage of Latinos.Illegal immigrants are often depicted as a securi-ty threat to the country. Stories rarely addressedthe many positive contributions made by Latinoimmigrants or provided viewers with a greaterNAHJ’s eighth annual
reportexamined news stories about Latinos that aired on theevening newscasts of CBS, ABC, NBC and CNN during2002.As in prior studies, we first conducted a quantitativereview of the number and length of stories aboutLatinos, as culled from the Vanderbilt UniversityTelevision Archive. In addition, we conducted a qualita-tive analysis of a random sub-sample of tapes of actualstories. For the first time this year that analysis wasexpanded to include the results of focus groups thatthe researchers conducted with Latino television view-ers in New York and Los Angeles. Focus group partici-pants were provided with a random sample of newsstories and asked to provide their impressions of theway those stories depicted Latinos.The newscasts examined were the
CBS EveningNews, ABC World News Tonight, NBC Nightly Newsand CNN NewsNight.
Other network newscasts,including those on Fox and MSNBC, are not includedin the study because they are not archived at Vanderbilt University
Among the most troubling findings of the quantitativepart of the study were:
Latino-related stories continue to make up lessthan one percent of all stories that appeared onthe network newscasts. Of the approximately16,000 stories that aired on ABC, CBS, CNN andNBC in 2002, only 120 or 0.75 percent, wereabout Latinos. While that was an increase from2001, when there were only 99 Latino-relatedstories, or 0.62 percent, it still remains a dismalrecord given the growing size and importance of the nation’s Latino community. Latinos now makeup more than 13 percent of the population.
Crime, terrorism, and illegal immigration account-ed for 66 percent of all network stories aboutLatinos last year. There were 47 news reportsalone dealing with Latinos as either perpetratorsor victims of crimes. Twenty-four stories wereabout kidnappings, including 18 on the kidnap-ping and murder of five-year-old SamanthaRunnion in California. In those stories, AlejandroAvila was a central figure. He was arrested andcharged with the kidnapping and murder of Runnion.
The arrest of suspected terrorist José Padilla, forallegedly plotting to detonate a “dirty bomb,”occupied a central role in the coverage of Latinos