Latino journalists face increased challenges in the Trump era

When Cecilia Vega accepted a job covering President Donald Trump, her mother questioned the decision.

“My mom told me— ‘why would you do this to yourself? You’re literally all three things he hates: a woman, a Mexican and a journalist and it is dangerous for you,” said Vega, who is the White House correspondent for ABC News.

Her reply: “Mom, what better person to sit in the front row of that briefing room then?”

Vega, one of six panelists Friday during a 2018 National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ conference panel in Miami on Latinos covering Trump’s White House, said coverage of the Trump administration has been challenging for journalists.


But it’s been even tougher for Latinos, panelists said, and become a shared experience among the six who spoke during NAHJ’s annual conference

They said they are labeled as “enemies of the public” by Trump and face an unimaginable kind of pressure, especially because they are Latino.

The panel featured Vega; Lori Montenegro of Telemundo; Maria Peña of La Opinion; Janet Rodriguez of Univision; Boris Sanchez of CNN; and Ed O’Keefe of CBS National News.

The Obama administration wasn’t “media-friendly” as journalists had to “fight to gain access,” Peña said. But the media opposition from the Trump administration is far greater.

“I don’t ever recall any president calling us the ‘enemy of the people’,” Muñoz said. “And constantly undermining and questioning our work and calling us ‘fake news’ and personally attacking members of the media”.

As seasoned journalists, they said they often find themselves in disbelief that they must report on Trump’s social media usage. The President’s tweet storms dominate coverage because journalists are refused access to information from White House officials.

Spanish media is affected the most by lack of access.

Montenegro, Rodriguez and Peña said they aren’t called on to ask questions because of Trump administration’s misconception that Spanish-language media plans to only ask about immigration.

The three said they are briefed by the White House Hispanic communications director, Helen Aguirre-Ferré, which makes them feel as if the White House doesn’t want them in the room.

“I have a seat in the briefing room, so I get to sit there and raise my hand,” Rodriguez said, “(I) never get called on.”

Another hurdle they face in the briefing room is the President’s contradictory comments.

Vega said she is a “full-time fact checker.”

“The way we do our jobs is different,” said Vega. “Facts are different, the truth is different, covering the White House has been so exhausting.”

White House reporters have resorted to banding together.

For example, during a press briefing this week, NBC’s Hallie Jackson was refused a follow-up question from Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Huckabee Sanders then called on The Hill’s Jordan Fabian.

“Hallie,” he said, “go ahead if you want.”

Peña said journalists will also ask other journalists to ask a question on their behalf.

Journalists face pressure outside the White House, too.

Public opposition makes them fear for their safety and the safety of their colleagues. Some have hired security when covering any events where backlash can be present.

“All you can do as a journalist of color is tell stories,” said O’Keefe. “That doesn’t mean you have a Latino agenda. Take that inner turmoil that you have and throw it in your work.”


Twitter: @itschrisgaleno

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