NAHJ frustrated by continued exclusion of Latinos on network news

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists is once again frustrated by the lack of coverage of Latinos on the network evening newscasts of ABC, CBS, and NBC.

In its 11th annual Network Brownout Report released today, NAHJ found that out of an estimated 12,600 stories aired on the network evening newscasts in 2005, only 105 stories, or 0.83 percent, were exclusively about Latinos. This was a slight increase from 2004 when stories about Latinos comprised 0.72 percent of coverage.

News networks still play a major role in defining the national news agenda. NAHJ remains disappointed that the evening news fails to reflect the issues affecting more than 42 million Latinos living in the United States. Latinos currently make up 14.5 percent of the U.S. population.

Latinos are increasingly a part of U.S. culture, yet our stories are by and large not a part of the national news programming, said Rafael Olmeda, president of NAHJ. The time for the networks to diversify their staffs and their source lists and include us in the American story is long overdue.

The results of the Brownout Report also show that out of 329 hours of networks news in 2005, Latino stories accounted for just 3 hours and 2 minutes of air time, or 0.92 percent.

Stories involving domestic government issues accounted for the most coverage about Latinos in 2005. These stories mostly centered on the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to be the U.S. Attorney General as well as the speculation that he would be named to the U.S. Supreme Court. These stories failed to include a single identifiable Latino news source or provide a Hispanic perspective.

While the number of stories about immigration declined in 2005, coverage of crime stories involving Latinos sharply increased. This year s report found that 19 Latino stories, or 18.1 percent, were dedicated to crime. In 2004, crime accounted for only 7.8 percent of Latino stories.

NAHJ also found some positive trends in Latino coverage this year. Latinos were involved in several stories with universal themes that did not focus on their ethnicity. The networks also devoted more time to Latino stories and more stories included identifiable Latinos.

The Network Brownout Report can be downloaded on the NAHJ Web site at www.nahj.org.

Founded in 1984, NAHJ's mission is to increase the number of Latino journalists working in our nation's newsrooms and to improve news coverage of the country's Latino community.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey