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On Tuesday morning, I happened to walk by the Newseum, the news museum in Washington, D.C., that displays front pages from across the country in its windows. They almost all looked the same—from the Portland Press Herald in Maine to The Arizona Republic to The Washington Post. The word the headlines shared in common was Trump, as they offered a variety of takes on his speech. Much of the broadcast coverage offered a similar emphasis on the president, with a few notable exceptions.
The attack in El Paso left 22 dead. Most were Latinos, some of whom were Mexican citizens. It followed a sustained and deliberate campaign by the Trump administration to demonize immigrants. Journalists should report on that. We should contextualize it. But that is only the beginning of our work.
There have been hundreds of articles and broadcast stories since the attack in El Paso, reporting with depth and compassion about this moment. But the banner headlines and the segments at the top of newscasts reflect the value editors assign to aspects of a story. The front page still speaks volumes. The top story in a broadcast signals to the audience which topics matter most. And despite the fact that the attacker purposefully targeted Latinos, that is not what most outlets chose to emphasize.
David Frum: The American exception
This erasure of Latinos by the national media is nothing new. For years, the marquee Sunday political talk shows have rarely featured Latinos. There is only one Latino on The New York Times’ editorial board, and there is none on The Washington Post’s (although at least one Latino editor regularly takes part in its editorial-board discussions). NPR, where I work, recently had a period of time with no Latino reporters on its politics team, before it made two hires.
Meanwhile, verticals and publications courting Latino readers, such as The New York Times’ Spanish-language site, have proliferated. That might seem like progress, but in practice, it often means that outreach to Latino audiences is walled off. The pinnacles of elite journalism remain mostly white.
Why does that matter? Latin American children are being separated from their parents at the border, and hate crimes against Latinos are on the rise. The media have an important role in framing these conversations, and the lack of diversity in newsrooms hobbles their ability to do so.
Instead, one leading Sunday show featured Tom Brokaw in January saying that Latinos “need to work harder on assimilation.” In fact, studies have shown that Latinos assimilate at rates similar to other groups. Thomas A. Saenz, the president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, recently told NBC’s Suzanne Gamboa that the absence of Latinos from journalistic institutions leaves a void that can be filled with “false, negative images and rhetoric.”