Despite goals to achieve parity by 2025, news organizations are nowhere close

The Los Angeles Times vowed in 2020, amid widespread protests demanding racial justice around the U.S., to increase the diversity of their newsroom and be 25% Latinos in five years.

With the deadline two years away, the organization’s Latino population has hovered around 20%.

The Los Angeles Times has in recent years made more strides than many news organizations although still lags behind the goal.

In 1978, the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) set a goal to achieve parity — percentages of journalists of color that reflect the nation or the news organization’s coverage area — by 2000. The organization later adjusted its goal and set a new deadline of 2025.

Despite the looming deadline, newsrooms such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, NPR, CNN and The Wall Street Journal are nowhere close.

The percentage of Latinos working in the news industry has only grown 1% from 2010 to 2019, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Latinos make up nearly 20% of the U.S. population.

Gio Benitez, co-anchor of “Good Morning America ” on weekends, said he saw the lag in representation as he was coming up in the industry, particularly when he moved from Miami to New York about 10 years ago.

“I saw that we needed to grow the numbers of Latinos both in front of the camera and behind the scenes,” Benitez said. “There weren’t too many Latinos on television, unless you were watching Spanish-news channels, but there weren’t too many in the English language.”

According to a recent audit by CCNMA: Latino Journalists of California, Los Angeles has the largest Latino market in the U.S. with a population of nearly 50%. Yet English-language news stations tend to lag well behind that metric.

Mekahlo Medina, an anchor at NBC4 in Los Angeles and executive director of CCNMA, said he was shocked by the results of the audit looking back at 2022.

 “I was blown away myself,” Medina said. “Stations over index on these groups that aren’t representative of the market and I question, how are they making those kinds of choices?

He said their job at CCNMA is to present news stations with the data and hope that it inspires a change.

“Some people are receptive and some people are not,” Medina said. “I just think you have to have that understanding of how the business side of it works and then you can still play a role in getting to your ultimate goal of representation.”

At a discussion this week during the National Association of Hispanic Journalists conference in Miami called Lack of Latinos in Entertainment & Media, director of “Blue Beetle,” Angel Manuel Soto, said in order to create lasting change, different corners of media must work collaboratively to reach a set goal. 

“The representation is so small in comparison to the actual quantity of individuals that consume media and that is because there are a small number of people in positions of power that make important decisions,” Soto said. 

He said that representation matters in all areas of media — and extends beyond journalism. To achieve progress, he said, media organizations must “unite for a common good.”

John Quiñones, ABC News correspondent, said that he experienced difficulties starting in the news market in the 1970s and encourages journalists to keep going no matter if news stations initially turn them down — or don’t seem representative of their backgrounds and experiences. 

“I received a lot of letters of rejection from TV stations but I just never gave up,” he said. “I wanted it so badly that I just kept going so that’s the key, just don’t take no for an answer.”

The NAHJ Investigative and Data Journalism Task Force released a report on July 6, that demonstrates a lack of parity on investigative news teams by including a survey highlighting diversity in nearly 20 newsrooms across the U.S.

Dianna Nañez, investigative journalist and part of the task force, made a call to action this week, saying news stations must be accountable and implement changes.

“For a while now, we’ve worked towards finding more representation that accurately describes the communities that we cover,” Nanez said. “So that we are able to have a newsroom that correctly reflects the communities that we connect with so that we see things in a more fair and accurate way.” 

Glendalys Valdes attended the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, and graduated with a major in Journalism and Public Relations and a double minor in Economics and International studies. Glendalys gravitates toward writing about immigration policies, reform and politics and hopes to put a spotlight on underrepresented communities. Reach her at glendalysvaldes123 [at] gmail [dot] com.

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