Latino journalists are underpaid and marginalized, audits show. Advocates push for change

Silvia Foster-Frau, the former president of the San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists, talks to a potential SAAHJ member about the benefits of joining the association during a fundraising event. PHOTO COURTESY OF SILVIA FOSTER-FRAU

HOUSTON – Latino journalists have found a new weapon in their push for equal treatment, inclusion and pay in newsrooms around the country: data.

In research led by Latino media organizations and unions that represent working journalists, data has revealed that Latinos in the news industry are underrepresented in high-profile positions and among the least paid workers at their companies. Groups like the San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists and union leaders at publications like The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times have released reports that show the extent of Latino disenfranchisement and hope to use that information to urge news organizations to adopt more inclusive and equitable practices, members said.

When the local journalism association that represents Latinos in the San Antonio area surveyed 55 anchors from four general market TV stations, they found a “profoundly troubling” trend, according to an open letter published by the group in May.

Latinos, the organization found, made up a quarter of all the anchors at the four local TV stations — this figure is out of step with the general population of San Antonio, a city where, according to U.S. Census numbers, 65% of residents identify as Latino.

SAAHJ sent their findings in an open letter to TV news managers at KSAT-TV, KENS-TV, WOAI-TV, and KABB-TV, detailing the lack of Latino representation on-air and suggestions to improve newsroom diversity.

“We were trying to show just how widespread and harmful the lack of representation of Latinos in the media,” said Silvia Foster-Frau, the former president of SAAHJ who oversaw the data collection. “It’s up to all of us — Latinos and non-Latinos alike, POC and white people — to ensure that newsrooms have a diversity of perspectives, and backgrounds, and life experiences. It will make our reporting better.”

Elsewhere, other efforts have been underway to show newsroom managers just how deep the problem of inequity goes.

Katie Mettler, the newsroom chair of the union that represents Washington Post employees, oversaw a 2019 study that examined pay scale and how much money workers at The Post were making. The study, which was published online, spotlighted pay gaps among different ethnic and racial groups as well as those that exist along gender lines.

According to Post Guild data, Latinas are among the lowest-paid employees at The Post.

“We knew people were going to get upset with this information because it wasn’t good,” Mettler told The Latino Reporter. “Women made less than men, women of color make less than everyone else.”

After receiving a copy of the report, the company refused to comment on the guild's research and questioned their methods.

Mariana Alfaro, the chair of the Post Guild's recently established Latinx Caucus, said numbers can be a powerful tool.

“Now we have data to back our requests to management,” she said.

Other unions in newsrooms around the country have followed suit. At the Los Angeles Times, union members established a Latino Caucus in July 2020 in order to underline the specific issues facing Latino employees at the newspaper and push management to acknowledge specific failures.

Laura Garcia is the president of the San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists. PHOTO COURTESY OF SAAHJ

The L.A. Times employees' Latino Caucus wrote an open letter to leaders at the organization that demanded the company hire more Latinos, promote them to high-profile beats and assign them as editors at greater rates.

So far, members said, their calls have gone largely unanswered.

Laura Garcia, the president of SAAHJ, said the association has been pleased with the community response to their study. After its publication, two out of the four English-speaking stations contacted SAAHJ to discuss ways to improve Latino representation.

“Many people — not just in the journalism industry — thanked us for shedding light on the lack of diversity and Latino representation,” Garcia said. “We believe San Antonio deserves better representation on TV.”

Daisy Espinoza is a 2021 graduate of the University of Houston, where she studied broadcast journalism and human development and family studies. A bilingual journalist, Espinoza has worked with Houston Public Radio and at her university’s television station. Reach her at espinoza.daisy.n [at] gmail [dot] com and on Twitter @daisynespinoza_

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