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Latino Representation in the Media Kyle & Perez 1

Latino Representation in the Media

[Lisbeth Perez and Kelli Kyle]

[Mass Media Research Final Project]

Latino Representation in the Media Kyle & Perez 2


The purpose of this research project to analyze the representation of Latinos in

commercial and independent news and how that representation affects the way the public

perceives Latinos and Latino culture. The goal of this research is to determine what independent

media outlets are doing regarding the portrayal of Latinos in news coverage. When looking at

media companies in a corporate ownership structure, whether at the local or national level, it is

evident that they portray Latinos in a way that reinforces stereotypes mainly as criminals and

illegal immigrants. Mainstream news outlets do not approach coverage of Latinos by actively

deciding to show them in a certain role. Rather, they follow what the headlines are saying; if the

big story is immigration, then these producers are more likely to aggregate ample content on this

subject, thus portraying Latinos in just one role. Independent news outlets, on the other hand,

tend to cover these communities in more nuanced ways, since they are not obliged to only collect

content surrounding the major stories of the day. They do not have to deal with advertisers

funding their reporting, therefore, they approach stories about Latinos differently than the

mainstream media.

If one were to simply watch the evening network news, it would be increasingly evident

that there is a divide in the United States one that separates white people from people of color

in a very peculiar way. Each group has its own niche portrayal; something that defines how

that group is perceived by the rest of white America. For this report, the researchers are focusing

on Latino people. With roots south of the United States border, this group is often narrowly tied

to the topic of immigration. They fall victim to certain stereotypes because of their race and

country of origin, and they are confined to playing very specific roles in life (i.e. the maid, the
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gardener, etc.). How did these images come into existence? Much of this stems from what the

public views in the media.

Literary Review

Utilizing the following review of literature, the researchers will address the question of

how both mainstream news outlets and independent news outlets are covering Latino people in

the United States, and in what roles they are portraying these individuals.

To begin, one first need to learn of the importance of media representation of minorities

especially in terms of how race and ethnicity is viewed. In the article, Why the Medias Role in

Issues of Race and Ethnicity Should be in the Spotlight by Dana Mastro we see her making an

effort to talk about how, "from the policies that regulate media industries to the practices of the

organizations that produce the messages to the usage patterns of the consumers that choose them,

mass media are implicated in real-world interracial/ethnic dynamics." (Mastro, 2015) Mastro

offered a variety of examples where media misrepresented minorities; suggesting in her

conclusion that the way to fix this misrepresentation was education. She explains how with

education through different meanspolitical science, communication, psychology that

perception and representation from the public and mainstream media could change. But only if

that education is firmly implemented. The article, The changing misrepresentation of race and

crime on network and cable news, presents a detailed analysis of the representation of groups of

color on the major networks from 2008-2012. It found that Latinos were overrepresented as

illegal immigrants, while whites were accurately represented. (Dixon, 2015) This research is

vital to this study, as it provides a basis for the first part of this report coverage of Latinos in

mainstream television news. To conduct original research like that would take ample time.
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Reports like this one facilitate the process, and provide the researchers with already vetted

information regarding representation of Latinos on major networks.

A similar report from Media Matters for America, Diversity on Evening Cable News in

13 Charts, provides the researchers with further data and statistics on the coverage of Latinos in

the network news. This report shows vast divides in the race of guests on cable/network news

shows the number of white guests on cable news was much higher than non-white guests. It

also showed that white men were overrepresented on cable news, compared with their percentage

of the U.S. population. Overall, the charts in this piece provided yet more evidence that

mainstream cable news networks are showing less diversity on screen than exists in the

population. The research will prove foundational for the content of this report. Documenting

Portrayals of Race/Ethnicity on Primetime Television over a 20-Year Span and Their

Association with National-Level Racial/Ethnic Attitudes TV Portrayals and National-Level

Attitudes by Riva Tukachinksy, Dana Mastro, and Moran Yarchi is a content analysis of the

345 most viewed U.S. television programs within 12 separate television seasons spanning over

20 years from 1987 to 2009. It focuses on the representation or underrepresentation of Native

Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans. It looked at stereotypical depiction of minorities and

how the quantity and quality of that depiction contributed to Whites racial attitudes and

perceptions. The article points out how Latinos have not gained that same level of inclusion on

primetime television as Blacks today, and yet they are the largest ethnic minority group in the

United States, 16 percent of the population according to the U.S. Census Briefs, 2011.

Currently, Latinos comprise a mere 46.5% of the primetime TV population. (Tukachinsky,

R., Mastro, D., & Yarchi, M. 2015) That representation is fairly relegated to set rolesrevolving

around themes of sexuality, criminality, subservience or intellectual ineptitude. After its content
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analysis and public opinion survey it was found that primetime television representations of

Latinos were correlated with ensuing public perceptions. Especially for controlling demographic

elements, the pervasiveness of hyper-sexualized Latino characters was associated with more

negative attitudes toward Latinos in the United States.

The Pew Research Center provided a vital piece of reporting for this research. The 2013

article, A Growing Share of Latinos get their news in English, shows a vital trend among

Latinos in the United States. As the children of immigrants come of age learning both English

and Spanish, their English-language media consumption increases. Additionally, Latino adults

are consuming news in English as well as Spanish, and in almost equal quantities. The report

also reveals that while television is still the most popular form of news among Latinos, the

popularity of online media is on the rise. This provides this research report with additional

context of how Latinos are consuming the news, and how they are portrayed within that

coverage. For example, many independent news outlets exist exclusively online, with very few

independent outlets available on cable television. With this in mind, Latinos who consume

mainly television media may not see themselves covered in the same way that an independent

online outlet is covering them in the news. The same goes for white audiences if they are

consuming mainly television news, then they are seeing Latinos portrayed much differently than

in online independent publications. Reports on media consumption among the general public as

well as among Latinos are essential to understanding who is viewing which media. This will also

provide context for the survey results. Another report from the Pew Research Center in 2011

detailed that Hispanic media was doing better than media in the mainstream. Although the

original report could not be found online, a press release from the unveiling of the report was

available on the Poynter Institute website. Entitled, Study: Hispanic media fairing better than
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mainstream media, the press release detailed how Hispanic newspapers lost circulation in 2010,

but the loss was much less than the circulation lost amongst English-language papers. It also

revealed that Spanish-language television news like Univision received more viewers

compared to what network television was receiving. This report is especially interesting when

contrasted with the previously described Pew study introduced two years later on how a growing

number of Latinos were turning to English-speaking media. The change suggests that English-

language media outlets began to cater toward Latino audiences, raising a new question over how

Latinos were being portrayed in those media.

Moving forward, an article from 2015, Latino Voices Call on Media to Improve

Hispanic Representation, further emphasizes the point that while more Latinos are watching

mainstream media, they are less-satisfied with the ways they are being represented. This article

links to reports and points out how Latinos are usually connected to the single issue of

immigration, when past reports have shown that they do have other concerns i.e. economy,

healthcare, and education. The report also makes an interesting point about the mainstream

medias tendency to extensively cover and sensationalize anti-Latino comments made by Donald

Trump and others, which can ultimately further stereotypes of Latinos, and reiterate those

sentiments. This article demonstrates how Latinos are portrayed in mainstream news, and how

those portrayals are harmful.

Primetime television films also portray stereotypical and generalized views of Latinos

and minorities in general. Social Identity Threat in Response to Stereotypic Film Portrayals:

Effects on Self-Conscious Emotion and Implicit In-group Attitudes by Toni Schmader,

Katharina Block, and Brian Lickel talks about how disadvantaged ethnic groups are repeatedly

portrayed stereotypically in films. Due to this they conducted two that examined the reactions of
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Mexican and European Americans to stereotypes in film clips of Latinos. For both studies

presented in this article undergraduate students were taken at random from a southwestern

university. The race and ethnicity of participants was determined by a questionnaire and

reactions were calculated by direct observation by the observers. The results indicated that,

"Study 1 stereotypic films cue negative affect among Mexican AmericansStudy 2, both

Mexican and European Americans felt more self-conscious when another in-group member

openly laughed at negative Latino stereotypes in a comedy." (Schmader, Block, & Lickel, 2015)

The result of this experiment clearly show the important roles that media plays on the

representation and recreation of social characters. However, what this experiment fails to do is to

further express the opinions of the white Europeans and explain why the Mexican students acted

differently in both scenarios.

Media Consumption, Perceptions of Crime Risk and Fear of Crime: Examining

Race/Ethnic Differences by Valerie J. Callanan is a study that compares the impact of numerous

forms of crime- based media and white, Latino, and African American response on their

perception of crime risk in their own neighborhoods and fear of crime. The researcher used a

survey to gather her data for this research and was able to obtain a wide range of answers

because of the multitude of participants. Latinos are mostly absent in mass media accounts of

crime, but when they are depicted, it is more negative than positive. (Callanan 2012). What she

concluded from this is that media does have an effect on the peoples perception of things, in this

case it was crime rate in less developed areas and of Latinos and Blacks. Another article that

discusses the Media stereotypes of Criminology in terms of race and ethnicity is Race to

Judgment: Stereotyping Media and Criminal Defendants by: Robert M. Entman and Kimberly

A. Gross. This report put together a list of ways in which media reflects on the actuality of race
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and ethnicity in terms of criminology. A couple of things mentioned was that Latinos are more

likely than Whites to appears as lawbreakers particularly in violent crimes. Due to what is

considered newsworthy Blacks and Latinos in criminal roles are more likely to be published then

those in positive roles. Also that side from crime the next biggest portrayal of Latinos in the

news is poverty. The issue with this news again I while it takes the chance to view public effects

it does not use examples of news clips that explain the perception.

Latinas experience much stereotypes especially in Hollywood due to the

hypersexualizing of their bodies. In the article Stereotype or Transgression? Rosie Perez in

Hollywood Film by Angharad N. Valdivia we see the production of Latinas in Hollywood

films, especially in regards to traditional ethnic fixes. The researcher uses film reviews, film

clips, and interviews with Rosie Perez to investigate Hollywood and its typical Latina image. She

was able to find multiple stereotypes. One is their ability to dance. This is fortified by the fact

that Rosie was a dancer before she became an actress. But the most important thing that the

researcher discovered was that, Her ethnicity as Latina/Puerto Rican is collapsed into working-

class status in an inextricable manner. She is at once Latina because she is working class and

working class because she is Latina (Valdivia, 1998) She realized how Rosies Latinness

impacted not just her life but simply roles that she was type-casted, or better yet pre type-casted

in. However, what is missing from this article is the perception of the public. It is important to

critic the media but in order to that you need a response from those who interact with the media,

the public.

Aside from crime and hypersexualizing Latinas, one of the biggest portrayal of Latinos in

the news is immigration. In the article From Coverage to Action: The Immigration Debate and

Its Effects on Participation by Jennifer L Merolla, Adrian D. Pantoja, Ivy A. M. Cargile and
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Juana Mora there is an interesting fact noted that with the proliferation of immigration in the

United States there seems to be a strong mobilizing effect among Latinos however there is little

to no mobilizing effect among Asians, African Americans and Whites. But even while stating

this fact they fail to investigate why. In fact, they state that, little is known about how media

coverage of a particular issues affects propensities to participate and whether this varies across

different segments of the population. (Merolla, Pantoja, Cargile, Mora. 2013). Much of the

article was based on direct observation of group mobilization and of media proliferation of

immigration. However, in the article, Immigrant criminalization in law and the media: Effects

on Latino immigrant workers identities in Arizona by Cecilia Menjvar, there is much more

analysis of the way the issue of immigration is documented and how that in turn affects the

negative connotations associated with immigration. This article examines the effects of two

forces in the context of reception: the legal regime and enforcement practices and media

portrayals of immigrants as they combine to shape the lives of immigrants, particularly Latinos,

directly and indirectly. In the article The Mexicans in the news: Representation of Mexican

immigrants in the Internet news media by Etsuko Kinefuchi analyzed 60 articles from

mainstream outletsABC, CBS, NBCto discover their format of covering immigration. The

researcher discovered that the analysis led to the emergence of 5 tones by which the online

network news portrays Mexican immigrantsempathetic, sympathetic, informative, impersonal,

and opposing. (Kinefuchi, 2015). From this, the researcher was able to make the connection that

the representation of Mexican immigration is problematic, but fails to implicate the public in this


When analyzing media representation of Latinos, it is important to take a look at Latino

based (Spanish language) media outlets to compare and contrast the ways in which media
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represents Latinos. In the article Spanish-language print media in the United States: A critical

multimodal social semiotic exploration of ideological representations by Megan Marie Strom

tries to show how unlike mainstream English language US media Latino Spanish led media in

the US expresses ideology visually, verbally, and across the visual and verbal modes in Spanish

as a minorities language, as well as the potential for these ideologies to challenge mainstream


An essential focal point in this research is the analysis of how the media influences their

perception of Latinos. This research utilized these references as a starting point to understand the

wide discrepancies that exist in the way that mainstream network news covers Latinos. An

understanding of the materials in the literature review was essential in analyzing how

independent outlets cover Latinos in relation to the mainstream news media.


To conduct the research for this report, three methodologies were used in order to ensure

that all conclusions could be upheld. As mentioned previously, the researchers found multiple

reports evidencing the portrayal of Latinos in the mainstream news media (Marchi, 2008).

Therefore, in order to conduct research revealing how news outlets outside of that corporate

structure cover Latinos, two separate interviews were conducted with experts in this area. The

first interview subject was Val Zavala, an anchor and the executive producer of the news

program SoCal Connected on KCET, a public television station in Burbank, California. Before

pursuing journalism, Zavala received a B.A. in Latin American Studies from Yale University.

She then made the move down to Washington, D.C., to pursue a Masters degree in Journalism at

American University. Throughout her nearly thirty years of journalism experience, Zavala has

worked in both commercial media and independent or public media. She is also very active with
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Latino news organizations, including the California Chicano News Media Association and

Hispanic Americans for Fairness in Media.

Given her extensive background in both journalism and the Latin American community,

the researchers found Zavala to be the ideal individual to comment on how non-corporate media

portrays Latinos in the news. Her program does not have to hold advertisers as the number one

priority; therefore, the need to incorporate superfluous news stories or generic coverage of

Latinos is not present. SoCal Connected can pursue the stories that they find important to the

community, and may do so in a way that includes an organic representation of the people within

that community, including Latinos. Additionally, she is actively producing this content in Los

Angeles, the second largest broadcast market in the country home to 9 percent of the Latino

population in the United States. Much of the SoCal Connected viewing audience is composed of

Latinos, or people who interact with those identifying as Latino on a regular basis. Reporters and

editors working on the program also tend to comprise several racial and ethnic identities. The

demographic of the SoCal Connected team and its viewership contributed to the necessity of Val

Zavala as a prime interview candidate for this research.

There are, however, a few biases that exist with Zavala as an interviewee. Because she

works for one singular news outlet in Los Angeles, it is difficult for her to comment on the

entirety of Latino portrayal in the market. She is not an avid consumer of local news, and stated

that her conclusions about that genre would be limited and impressionistic. Zavala made most of

her conclusions in this area from a University of Southern California research study on local

broadcast news outlets in the Los Angeles area and what types of stories those outlets covered

the most. She added that the study was one that her own news team referenced during the

production of certain stories. This wrapped up the extent of Zavalas factual knowledge of how
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local commercial broadcast news functioned in Los Angeles. As a frequent consumer of national

network news, her conclusions in that area were slightly more supported by her own experience

and news judgment. Still, she has not produced at the network level, and could not comment

entirely on the decisions made at the executive level. What she was able to do in this area,

however, was to use her own knowledge of pre-existing research studies on the practices of

national network news regarding the portrayal of Latinos to discuss how that coverage functions,

in her view. Overall, Zavala as an interview subject had a few shortcomings, but for the purposes

of this research, none of these biases interfered tremendously with her ability to comment on the

practices of independent media with regards to the portrayal of Latinos.

The second interview subject for this research was Jeff Cohen. Cohen has an extensive

background in the field of independent media. In 1986, Cohen founded the media watchdog

organization, FAIR, or Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. He is a frequent contributor to

multiple online and televised independent media outlets, including CommonDreams, Huffington

Post, and Alternet. Additionally, he serves as the director and founder of the Park Center for

Independent Media at Ithaca College, where he oversees courses and programming related to the

promotion of non-corporate media. Before his immersion in this field, Cohen was a political

commentator on large cable news channels and worked as a senior producer on MSNBC. After

several negative experiences in the field of media conglomerates, he published the book, Cable

News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media, to give more insight on how the

structure of major network news disallows for in-depth coverage of marginalized groups and

major news stories. Given his background in the commercial and independent news fields, the

researchers found him to be yet another ideal candidate to comment on how portrayal of Latinos

differs in corporate and independent news structures.

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As someone with experience on a corporate news stage, Cohen has experienced that

editorial process first hand. Unlike Zavala, Cohen has been both a producer and a consumer of

national network news. His voice could provide valuable commentary on how the mainstream

networks choose to cover Latino communities and why they choose to do so. Furthermore, as a

journalist who has devoted much of his career to mainstream media critique, Cohen has a strong

sense of trends within local commercial news markets regarding coverage of non-white groups

and has authored articles on the subject for FAIR. Cohen was effective at providing both an

experiential and academic component to the research through his time as a professor at Ithaca

College, a media critic at FAIR, and a producer for the mainstream cable news outlets.

Like with Zavala, Cohen does not come without his biases. As someone who has worked

in both commercial mainstream news and independent news, he has a significant leaning toward

the merits of independent media. Much of his career post-cable news has been dedicated to

exposing mainstream news bias. Naturally, he is more inclined to find the negative components

of major news networks and how they portray Latinos in their coverage. While this proves

helpful in showcasing the significant differences in coverage of Latinos amongst mainstream and

independent news outlets, it is also tinted with a desire to truly draw out the negatives of

mainstream, without granting much nuance to the networks approach. It was important to keep

these biases in mind as the results of the interviews were analyzed for this research.

A second piece of the methodology for this report was the use of a questionnaire in a

survey. The purpose of this was to gain a sense of where the public stands with the perception of

Latinos in the news media. Primarily, the overarching question proposed by this methodology

was one that asked how these media consumers viewed Latino representation in the media and if

they found that representation to be accurate. This survey was distributed via email and social
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media. It yielded 33 total responses, with more than half coming from white individuals, and the

second largest amount of responses coming from people identifying as Hispanic/Latino. The

population to which this survey was distributed mainly comprised college students aged 18-22.

Because age was less pressing to the research than ethnicity, the questionnaire did not include a

question about age. However, given that this survey was distributed via the Ithaca College class

pages and emailed out to groups of Ithaca College students, the researchers have concluded that a

majority of those who took the survey fell within the 18-22 age bracket.

The sample here took the form of a partial convenience sample and a partial volunteer

sample. It was distributed to groups who the researchers knew would complete the survey in a

way that would add differing perspectives based on ethnicity. However, even more so, the survey

was distributed to a volunteer sample, because the researchers relied heavily on individuals who

would volunteer to complete the survey after seeing it posted on social media or sent via email.

This introduced some bias in the survey responses, and all of these were taken into account

during research analysis. For example, the volunteer sample consisted of individuals who took

the survey for a particular motivation perhaps they were ardent consumers of independent

media, giving them a more thorough understanding of Latino representation in these platforms.

There is a great possibility that individuals who volunteered for this survey did so because they

had some prior knowledge of the subject or a relationship to the researchers who posted the

survey. The convenience bias affected this research as well, because it chose people who could

provide the study with a particular viewpoint. Conducting a study in Ithaca, New York, on a

national issue can be quite difficult. The population of Ithaca has some diversity, but for the most

part, remains vastly white. The convenience sample allowed the researchers to seek out non-

white voices, so that the survey results would be more representative of the entire country. Of
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course, it is understood that a random sample of any form would have been the most effective for

a study of this nature; however, this proved highly difficult to attain within the specific research

environment. Therefore, the researchers had to figure out other methods of sampling that could

still provide a diverse range of voices for this study.

Population characterization was another factor that led to bias present in this study. As

mentioned previously, it is assumed that the survey was taken mostly by college students. For the

most part, these are individuals of heightened class and education status, with a few exceptions.

The likelihood of these students being exposed to some form of diversity conversation is rather

high, especially in an environment like Ithaca College. However, given that the student

population of Ithaca College is also mostly white, these students exposure to working with

diverse groups of people might be diminished. Furthermore, as the research originated in the Roy

H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College, it can be concluded that many of the

responses came from students in that field. This affects the research, seeing that communications

students consume a wider scope of media than non-communications students. They are more

likely to be familiar with independent news publications, and more likely to consume news in


This questionnaire was composed of both open ended and checkbox type questions. It

was constructed via Google Forms, which provided the researchers with a detailed report on the

statistics that accompanied each response. The data was interpreted by the researchers

themselves, using the numbers provided by Google Forms. Questions were designed in a way

that would not lead the subject to a certain response. They started more broad, then became quite

specific as the survey continued. Some of the questions may have paved the way for forms of

social desirability bias. People never want to seem in support of inequality, especially when it
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comes to race. This may have factored into their responses regarding questions like, Do you

think the portrayal of Latinos in the news is accurate? which yielded thirty yes responses and

one no response. The open-ended questions proved effective in elaborating on the yes/no

questions, as well as the checkbox questions. Participants really explained their responses, which

was helpful in understanding trends on the ways in which the public feels Latinos are portrayed

in news. This questionnaire was meant to use public observation to reinforce the hypothesis that

the mainstream media does not effectively portray Latinos, and that independent media

narratives serve to better represent this ethnic group by functioning differently than that of

mainstream media.

The third methodology for this research involved content analysis. For the purpose of this

report, the researchers themselves examined the homepages of three major news sites for each

type of media: independent and mainstream. Initially, this research was to examine individual

news stories themselves from both mainstream and independent news networks, but upon

examination of those mainstream commercial outlets, it was evident that the type of content on

the website generally reflected the major news of the day, with few articles involving Latinos.

Therefore, the content analysis shifted directions to examine the homepages of these news sites

to determine how often Latinos were included in the coverage and in what roles.

The three independent news website pages analyzed were Democracy Now!, Colorlines

and KCET in Southern California. Mainstream commercial news websites analyzed included

CNN, Fox News and KACB in Los Angeles. Criteria for the independent websites varied in

relation to the format and to some extent the location of each. Democracy Now! was chosen

because of its popularity within the independent news community and because it serves as a form

of national broadcast news, airing on public/community television and radio stations and satellite
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television channels. KCET in Southern California was chosen because it is a public television

station that includes programming on art and news, and operates in an area that is home to nine

percent of the nations Latino population. The online publication Colorlines was selected for

analysis because it is an independent news website produced by people of multiple different

races, and it places issues of race at the forefront of its coverage. These three media outlets

demonstrated a diverse sample of the types of independent media that exist within the United

States: national broadcast, local broadcast, and digital/online.

The mainstream outlets offered more of a selection when it came to choosing three

webpages to analyze. Many may argue that most of the mainstream commercial news websites

all contain the same type of coverage. The researchers took this into consideration, and chose

news organizations based on format, location and political leaning. With these criteria in mind,

the three outlets selected were CNN, Fox News and KABC in Los Angeles. CNN was chosen

because of its 24-hour news format. Its website often includes some form of video cut from the

broadcast to accompany news stories. CNN is a very well-known source for news that people

will turn to for the latest updates on a news story. Owned by Turner, a global media company,

CNN fits neatly into the structure of corporate ownership, distinguishing it from independent

news sites. Fox News was chosen for adopting a national news format, but also for its political

reputation. Typically, this outlet is considered to be right leaning, based on its leadership

structure. This company is owned by Fox Entertainment Group, another large for-profit media

company. The third outlet analyzed was KABC, the local ABC affiliate in Los Angeles,

California. Owned by Disney-ABC Television, this local television news station also slides

neatly into a corporate ownership model. Additionally, KABC was chosen because it serves as

commercial television news station in a broadcast market containing a strong Latino presence,
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and it has received the top ratings for its 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. broadcasts. These criteria made the

previous three mainstream commercial news outlets the ideal candidates for webpage analysis

with regards to representation of Latinos.

In this instance, the unit of analysis for all six website homepages was the portrayal of

Latinos in the news coverage. To examine this, a scan of the websites homepage was conducted

to see which, if any, headlines included a mention of Latinos or Latino issues, and what form the

representation adopted. This unit of analysis was general enough to determine a trend in how

each genre of news was representing Latinos, without becoming too weighed down or

complicated by other details of the publications and their stories. While a more in-depth analysis

of the content of the stories themselves may have been helpful for other types of research, it was

not, in this case, the most effective way to establish a trend on how the media represents Latinos

in both independent and mainstream.

The bias present in this form of the researcher was evident within the researchers

themselves. Being the primary analysts of the material, the researchers attempted to remain as

unattached as possible. Still, their personal experiences gave them different lenses through which

to view these issues. As a Latina woman, one of the researchers had a more direct personal

connection to this subject; her own ethnic group is one being affected by misrepresentation of

Latinos in the mainstream media. The other researcher is a white woman, who, like the co-

researcher has been exposed to many forms of independent media and has developed a passion

for the field. Therefore, though no conscious bias may be present, inherent, implicit biases still

remain that keep the readers/viewers from approaching issues about Latinos in a more inclusive


Data Analysis
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Before the data was analyzed, it was essential for the researchers to establish an

understanding of the research that already existed on this subject through the literature review.

Upon an examination of the previous research studies, it became evident that plenty of data

existed on how mainstream commercial news outlets portrayed Latinos. The coverage was

minimal and usually associated Latinos with stories on crime and immigration. It also revealed

that there was a disproportionate representation of Latino people as commentators on network

television news programs, and a lack of Latinos working in news producer and correspondent

roles. This knowledge built a foundation for this research going forward. The goal of this data

collection and analysis would be to articulate a narrative regarding independent news outlets, and

determine how that coverage relates to the present mainstream media portrayal of Latinos. Upon

examination of the survey data, interviews and content analysis, it became clear that there were

three central themes surrounding Latino representation in the news media at both the

independent and mainstream levels. The following analysis goes into detail on each of these

themes, and how they contribute to the overall public perception of Latinos.

Following the Headlines

One significant theme that emerged from this research was the concept of headline driven

coverage. In the interview with Val Zavala, Executive Producer and host of a public television

news program in Southern California, she described the mainstream news outlets as being more

likely to follow the largest stories of the day if those happened to involve Latinos, then Latinos

would most likely receive more coverage in that moment. Zavala gave an example of how this

process works: Trump is going to crackdown on immigrants and deportations, and then youll

get a lot of coverage on Latinos for that or if he starts talking about the wall again, youre

going to see a lot of coverage on that (V. Zavala, public communication, Dec 1, 2016). Here,
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Zavala is referring to the tendency of the mainstream media to jump onto whatever the headlines

are saying about a story, without paying much attention to the nuances within that story. In the

survey sent out for this research study, 43.8 percent of people surveyed said they followed

mainstream commercial news more closely, with 40.6 percent saying they followed both.

However, 68.8 percent of survey participants said they did not follow any news outlets that

produced content specifically for people of color. From this, the researchers concluded that a

majority of survey participants were paying attention to the mainstream news networks more so

than independent outlets, especially when it came to independent outlets operating specifically

with audiences of color in mind. One question asked participants to list three topics that come to

mind when you think of Latino people in the news. Out of 27 responses, 19 responses listed

immigration as one of the three. These responses aligned neatly with three things: the

information put forth in the reports on mainstream news studied in the literature review, the

amount of people who follow mainstream news in some way or are familiar with its work and

the statement Zavala had regarding this headline driven coverage. Because immigration is one

of the bigger narratives dominating the national conversation today, it is logical that media

consumers would cite immigration as a topic that comes to mind when thinking of Latino


The content analysis supported this idea in its study of how Latinos are portrayed in both

mainstream and independent news websites. The mainstream news sites had barely any mention

of Latinos or Latino culture instead, they featured multiple articles on Trump and his transition

team, plenty on crime, a little bit about race and a plethora of fluffy, unimportant click bait

stories. The two national outlets had homepages that seemed never-ending with the amount of

content. Fox News yielded many white faces in the headlines, as did CNN. The local ABC
Latino Representation in the Media Kyle & Perez 21

affiliate had a top story that covered an element of crime an accidental shooting in the area, and

both the victim and the shooter had Latino surnames. Still, none of these outlets featured content

that directly focused on the Latino community in an area other than what the major headlines

were detailing. This total lack of coverage reiterates Zavalas point, as it suggests that because

there were no major headlines involving Latinos on December 7, the group did not receive

coverage in any way. News organizations stuck to reporting on the dominating news of the day,

which, as reports have shown, often includes a strong lack of diversity in the story actors.

The Los Angeles ABC affiliate station, however, did have one story about immigration

toward the bottom of its homepage. Entitled, Measure approved to protect Los Angeles

Immigrants from deportation, the first interview features a young Latina woman, and later, there

are shots of some people holding signs written in Spanish. What brought the story into the

headlines was the fact that the L.A. County Board of Supervisors had just passed a measure to

protect immigrants rights. While it cannot be assumed that all of the people portrayed in this

news story are Latino, factors like the ones previously mentioned reinforce the idea that

immigrant can be synonymous with Latino. As heated pledges for the wall from president-

elect Donald Trump begin to lose some of their fire, the immigration stories present in the media

also start to fade away. Since this coverage typically involves Latinos, the content analysis made

it clear that the group soon disappears from the mainstream news media when the immigration

narrative is no longer dominating the national conversation.

Upon examining the independent news outlets coverage of Latinos, the researchers

discovered that the national website homepages also seemed to reflect what the headlines were

saying, but in a slightly different manner. For example, neither Democracy Now! nor Colorlines

contained stories involving Latino culture directly. Colorlines had a story about Fidel Castros
Latino Representation in the Media Kyle & Perez 22

death written by an African American woman with ties to Cuba, but otherwise, it did not contain

content featuring Latinos. What Colorlines and Democracy Now! did contain, however, were

multiple news stories that covering black Americans and Native Americans, particularly with

regards to the Dakota Access Pipeline. These were stories that the mainstream news homepages

did not cover in depth, if at all. Therefore, while these two national independent news outlets did

not cover Latinos on the date of the content analysis, they did provide an alternative look at the

headlines of the day with regards to marginalized groups.

Returning to the representation of Latinos, there was something interesting on the

homepage of Colorlines and Democracy Now! that was not observed on the homepages of the

mainstream news outlets. Both of the national independent news outlets included references to

their staff, which comprised some journalists of Latino heritage. On Democracy Now! the co-

host of the program is Juan Gonzlez, an established Puerto Rican journalist. On the programs

homepage, there is a transcript of a conversation with Gonzlez on his reasons for keeping

alternative news alive (Democracy Now!, Gonzalez, 2016). Not only does this story feature a

Latino man in a prominent reporter role, but it also demonstrates a diversity in the small staff that

Democracy Now! maintains. At the bottom of the Colorlines webpage as well, there is a section

that shows the staff members. Out of the five contributors, all are people of color, and two are

Latina women (Colorlines, 2016). Although these representations of Latinos do not come in the

form of news stories, they do show very directly a certain level of diversity amongst those

producing the content, which can have an effect on the approaches these stories take on issues

surrounding minority groups.

Jeff Cohen, founder of the media watchdog organization FAIR and scholar of

independent media, said he sees this phenomenon first-hand in independent news those outlets
Latino Representation in the Media Kyle & Perez 23

tend to have more people of color in reporting and producing roles, therefore affecting the

content. He asserted that this is something that mainstream outlets lack, which he believes

contributes to the way they cover issues of immigration and the role it played in the presidential

election: I believe if there were more Latinos, including immigrants from Mexico, running the

TV networks and there arent the coverage of Trump would have been diametrically

different (J. Cohen, public communication, Nov. 9, 2016). Cohens assertion was echoed by Val

Zavala of KCET in Southern California. According to Zavala, outlets that have more diversity

among their staff tend to report on groups like Latinos in ways that are driven less by headlines

and more by culture (V. Zavala, public communication, Nov. 29, 2016). She stated that her team

at KCET makes a conscious effort to incorporate people from all different backgrounds in those

production roles so that they may accurately and effectively report on all members of the Los

Angeles community.

To examine this, the researchers included KCETs website as the third independent news

outlet in the content analysis. As a public local television outlet in a predominantly Latino

market, this website was compared to the website of the ABC affiliate in Los Angeles, which

featured very little coverage of Latino culture. A banner at the top of KCETs website contained

a slideshow of the top stories and featured documentaries of the day: the first one that appeared

on the page was entitled, American Voices and followed a group of five undocumented youth

who organize for immigrant rights across the country (KCET, 2016). While this story was the

only direct mention of Latinos on the homepage, it was surrounded by links to other content that

centered around Native American culture, Asian-American activism and other social themes

relevant to Los Angeles life. The content KCET featured on its website served as a window to

the different cultures that exist in the local community. It was clear from a content analysis of
Latino Representation in the Media Kyle & Perez 24

this platform that Latinos and marginalized groups were portrayed in a more complicated manner

than they were on KABC and the national mainstream outlets. The KCET webpage expanded the

narrative surrounding Latinos in that region, taking it from a place of headline driven coverage to

a place that explored more of their nuances.

From the interviews with Jeff Cohen and Val Zavala, it was evident that mission of each

format of news independent and mainstream affected the type of coverage Latinos received.

The corporate media structure, Cohen explained, simply does not allow for the style of in-depth

and complex coverage that independent media outlets warrant Latinos. When asked why Latinos

were portrayed in surface level roles on mainstream television, Cohen said, Part of it is

structural that the mainstream media wants to appeal to the broadcast audience, and does not

generally cater to subcultures (J. Cohen, public communication, Nov 9, 2016). Zavala brought

up an important point pertaining more to the mission of the larger commercial news networks,

stating, If your mission was to say okay, we are going to cover the Latino community in all its

multi-facetted nuanced ways, there are dozens of angles you could takebut again, thats not

shot very quickly (V. Zavala, public communication, Nov. 29, 2016). She explained her

comment, suggesting that the mission of mainstream network commercial news was not to cover

these nuances, but rather, to get the headlines out to the public in a way that includes compelling

video footage and catchy stories. Both the content analysis and the interviews with Zavala and

Cohen, coupled with data from the survey, suggested that a trend does in fact exist that finds the

mainstream commercial news media paying less attention to coverage of culture and nuance of

Latinos, and placing more attention on coverage that represents Latinos only when they are

involved with the headlines of the day.

Latino Representation in the Media Kyle & Perez 25

Another significant theme that emerged from this research was the portrayal and

perception of Latinos as criminals and immigrants. This was reflected in the responses given in

the survey. When asked what came to mind about Latinos and news representation, an

overwhelming majority stated immigration, drug violence, and criminal activity. Almost 97

percent of the respondents, however, felt that the news was in fact not accurately representing the

Latino community. When asked to elaborate some respondents explained that not all Latinos are

Mexican, one of the common misconceptions of Latinos in the community. Zavala explained that

the reason behind this crime coverage was that it was quick and cheap. She continued on to say

that mainstream news was 80 percent economics, and because of this reason, they did not have

time to go out and do in-depth stories on Latinos. Therefore, spot stories were the best. Zavala

states that spot stories in terms of crimes tend to reflect on the Latinos community because that is

the footage that the mainstream media has. They do not set out to talk about Latinos in a specific

way, and mostly rely on the security footage.

The footage is perpetuating media that isnt relative to the local news contains
stereotypes, non-original stuff. Typical news today contains little footage, it relies on
usage of stills handout footage and graphics. Security footage is exciting so that is why it
is used. But they do not set out to see how Latinos will be represented. (V. Zavala, public
communication, Nov. 29, 2016).

She explained that because places like Los Angeles have frequent crime and a large

Latino population, it is easy for mainstream commercial news to connect a Latino face to the

crime. To examine this the researchers looked at three popular mainstream outlets CNN, Fox

News, and KABC. On CNNs home page, there is a lot of talk of white supremacists in some

stories, but overall, there is no mention of Latinos. This could be due to the fact that at the

moment Latinos are not considered newsworthy, since there are no major developments on crime

or immigration at the moment. As a result, stories on Latinos outside of these roles would not
Latino Representation in the Media Kyle & Perez 26

bring in money, and do not warrant coverage. In Fox News, there are stories involving the

Middle East, Muslims, crime and the "latest news stories about Trump. There is one reference

to a deceased Mexican American singer, Selena, and the misrepresentation of her life in a

primetime television show. There is another reference more applicable to Latin America in

general about Venezuela and its collapsed economic state again this story takes on a negative

tone. Local Los Angeles outlet ABC 7 had their top story as an accidental shooting of a friend,

with the photo showing both participants as Latino/Latina. Another reference to Latinos is seen

in one story about immigration listed toward the bottom with the headline Measure approved to

protect Los Angeles county immigrants from deportation. There are no stories about Latino/a

culture; these stories tend to reflect themes of crime and immigration, with crazy headlines or

cute headlines that draw clicks.

Cohen explains that unlike mainstream media, independent media puts a human positive

face on immigrants from south of the border always and it sees immigration as a human view.

Independent media are more willing to focus on marginalized has always played that

role in the history of this country (J. Cohen, public communication, Nov. 9, 2016). He further

explain that in topics of immigration independent news does a better job at composing stories on

the contributions of immigrants to the economy, stories examining those structures as opposed to

just headline coverage. To examine this the researchers looked at three independent media

outlets Democracy Now!, Colorlines, and KCET, a public television station in Los Angeles.

On the Democracy Now! homepage, there in fact were few stories about Latinos. Most of the

content on the home page was about racism toward African Americans, and activists like Danny

Glover and MLK. One of the 12 featured stories referenced a Latino anchor who has been on the

show since its founding. In Colorlines, there were seven top stories, with none directly involving
Latino Representation in the Media Kyle & Perez 27

Latinos. There is, however, an article written by an African-American Cuban woman concerning

Fidel Castro, in the Voices section under the category Now in Racial Justice. Moving to

KCET, its webpage is representative of the entire channel, including segments from all of its

different programs that have to do with themes of art, immigration, news, history, etc. Many

different groups are mentioned in the content. There is a heavy Native American focus, some

Asian, one Latino. Coverage of Latinos in reference to immigration is based on the immigrants

themselves, and less about the measures in place to protect them or keep them out. The story is

called American Dreamers and it follows the journey of a group of five undocumented youth

and an ally who risk their freedom by publicly coming out as undocumented and walking 3,000

miles across America's heartland to organize for immigrant rights. (KCET, 2016). Overall, the

researchers found through the content analysis that when it comes to portrayals of Latinos in

independent versus mainstream media, the mainstream outlets focused more on Latinos in roles

of crime and immigration, whereas the independent outlets focused on Latinos as individuals

with unique culture.

Regional Diversity

This research also found that there were trends showing that market location affected the

representations of Latinos in those markets. The area where this is the most prevalent is

commercial news at the local level. Because local news is meant to serve a community within a

specific area, those television outlets often are more inclined to hire news staffs that reflect the

demographic of the area, and report on issues that represent those groups in some way. People

will expect to see Latinos and black Americans on the news, since they are more present in those

communities. Through content analysis, it was clear that this same logic could be applied to the

content produced by a news station. For example, KABC had a story on immigrant protection in
Latino Representation in the Media Kyle & Perez 28

Los Angeles County a topic that might not hold the same importance for someone in Kansas.

As someone who works in journalism in the Los Angeles broadcast market, Val Zavala noted

this theme:

Here in LA, gay, Latino, black, Asian, the whole gamut is here. Were much more likely
to be influenced by the people we know... its going to be much more balanced, so the
media will have obviously some effect, but not as big of an effect as if you lived in a
mono-cultural environment. The middle of the country, that is less diverse, is probably
going to be influenced much more by the media. (V. Zavala, public communication, Nov.
29, 2016).

Cohen explained how this influence tends take shape in commercial media, stating, If all you

know about a neighborhood or a community is what you get from the mainstream media, all you

know about that community is its infested with drugs and crime and bad people (J. Cohen,

public communication, Nov. 9, 2016). Both Zavala and Cohen spoke to the power popular

commercial news media can have at a hyperlocal or local level with regards to its portrayal of

Latinos, especially in areas that lack racial diversity.

However, another element of this study was the way that commercial national news

incorporates Latino communities into its coverage. These outlets by nature must appeal to the

entire country, rather than one city or region. The homepages of Fox News and CNN both

featured stories from all over the nation. Of course, the national themed stories about Donald

Trump were present, but the content that made it to the national level came from multiple

different locations. Furthermore, survey data showed that these mainstream commercial news

programs are the ones that the public is most familiar with. None of the participants had selected

none of the above when asked to choose the national mainstream news networks with which

they were familiar. On the other hand, 12.5 percent of participants selected none of the above

when asked to identify independent news outlets with which they were familiar. Whereas almost

all participants said they were familiar with each of the mainstream news outlets listed,
Latino Representation in the Media Kyle & Perez 29

significantly fewer participants were able to identify all of the independent news outlets listed.

These results demonstrated that the reach of mainstream news is significantly stronger than that

of independent outlets, suggesting that the narratives put forth by mainstream news will be the

ones that people all over the country believe for themselves.

When examining the portrayal of Latinos within independent news outlets, the

conversation changes. As previously mentioned, survey data showed that independent news

outlets do not have as much popularity as the mainstream outlets. Their coverage, however, tends

to focus on issues of national importance as it pertains to certain affected communities. For

example, it was evident from their websites that Democracy Now! and Colorlines are outlets that

feature diverse news teams. Therefore, they are able to more accurately reflect Latinos and other

minority groups across the country in their coverage. Still, these are not the narratives that the

public is consuming regularly instead, the American public is exposed to however the national

networks choose to reflect the demographic makeup of the United States, which typically

includes many white voices. Returning to regional analogy, a person in Kansas is much less

likely to actively seek out media that includes Latino voices on issues of immigration; rather, this

individual will turn to outlets like CNN or Fox News to see what the reporting is on that subject.

As Cohen and Zavala explained, this lack of regional diversity decreases the exposure of certain

communities to Latinos and Latino culture, thus spreading whatever the mainstream news

narrative has to say about those groups, without Latino input.

KCET in Southern California is an interesting outlet to study. Like KABC, this station

reports in an area that is home to many different racial and ethnic groups. However, Zavala said

that KCET keeps this in mind when they approach their coverage. While KABC will report on

Latinos in relation to the latest local government announcement over immigration policy, KCET
Latino Representation in the Media Kyle & Perez 30

will show Latinos as they naturally appear in different community roles. For example, Zavala

said the KCET program Artbound might show an artist or artisan of Mexican descent, and go

into detail on how that individuals heritage affected her/his work (V. Zavala, public

communication, Nov. 29, 2016). In this way, KCET is representative of its community, by

showing Latinos as they would typically appear within that city, and not just in roles of

immigration or crime. Therefore, while people watching the mainstream commercial news in the

Los Angeles market may have more interaction and exposure to Latino people in that region, the

stories about Latinos that they see on those news programs will most likely not be representative

of that groups life within L.A. County. However, if that same viewer were to turn to the

public/independent television station KCET, they would receive a more organic and natural

depiction of Latinos as they interact in the community. Overall, the question of regional diversity

factored greatly into how independent versus mainstream media portrayed Latino people in the



If the non-Latino public is watching a consistent portrayal of Latinos in immigrant roles,

as discussed on mainstream news if at all then this perception will stick. However, there are

other forms of news that take a different approach to coverage of people of color: the

independent outlets. This study showed that their approach to covering issues involving non-

white groups is much more diversified, taking on more complex angles to issues of immigration

or Latino presence in the United States. For this report, the researchers set out to study other

independent news outlets with similar practices, for the purpose of providing alternatives to those

who may frustrated by seeing Latinos portrayed in the same few roles on the mainstream news

networks. This report asks what independent news outlets are doing to cover Latinos, and how
Latino Representation in the Media Kyle & Perez 31

they are approaching this coverage. There is a void in the mainstream news programs coverage,

which creates an opportunity for research on how news outlets outside of conglomerate

ownership are filling this void.

Latino Representation in the Media Kyle & Perez 32


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