When it comes to making Latino voices a priority, Alicia Menendez, host of the weekend MSNBC show American Voices said: “This isn’t that hard. You just gotta decide that it’s a priority.”
When I watched that segment back during Hispanic Heritage Month in 2021, it rang so true. The need for this representation is especially true for politicians who want to connect better with Latino voters ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
In January, I attended the CS (Communications Shop) Breakdown show, which focused on the Texas primary, the Latino vote and what the media can do to connect better with Latino voters. This topic is important to me because as a Latina, I feel that we are in need of more diverse representation when it comes to the political scene in the English-speaking press. I was excited this conversation was had because it created a much needed dialogue between journalists and the Latino communities they cover.
A vital point that was made by Rebecca Aguilar, President of the Society of Professional Journalists, when she said journalists need to find experts and not just speak on opinions. It would be beneficial to have various experts who are Latino, as this will help to educate the Latino community and keep them engaged and put a face to the story. I believe we are in need of more experts speaking on issues affecting Latino communities instead of just having politicians sharing their opinions which at times can be biased and based purely on the views of their political party. Personally, I would love to hear from everyday mothers in the Latino community about their stories and needs.
The lack of representation is one of the reasons many people, especially in the Latino community, are not trusting what they hear from the news. Franco Caliz-Aguilar, Co-Director of Electoral Power Building at Community Change Action, shared that for Latinos, their new nightly news has now become YouTube, which he finds alarming because of the lack of standards as to what news sources are being shared.
For example, videos spreading disinformation about the 2020 election are still popping up all of the time, new propaganda about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is spreading, and misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine is hard to contain. This can make it really hard for a voter to know what’s true and what’s not.
Uriel Posada, Executive Producer for ABC 13 Houston made the point that journalists need Latino representation in order to be more informed. In order for more Latinos to become engaged in politics they need to hear more stories that represent them and their needs.
And I couldn’t agree more with what Bob Moor, President of El Paso Matters, said about the diversity of Latino voters: “They are a diverse population with diverse needs, they are not monolithic.” As a Latina, even within my own extended family and fellow Latino friends, we have differing needs and political opinions. For example, I’m always debating with my friends about the differences in views between low-income and wealthier Latinos.
So one of the things I find disappointing is when political parties group all Latinos into one narrative, as if all our stories are the same. When this happens, I know that I am not the only person within the community that becomes discouraged from staying politically engaged.
The ideal for me would be to see more journalists and media outlets interview a diverse population of Latinos who are engaged in the political process. For example, interviewing more everyday Latinos from diverse fields and economic status would make me tune in more often. And if there were more Latinos in management positions within news media companies, like Aguilar mentioned, they would likely get more Latino perspectives in their work and have a seat at the table to use their voice to speak up and uncover the issues affecting their community.
The English-language media needs to bring in more Latino leaders and experts who focus on the concerns of the Latino communities, while sharing the diverse stories of our community if they want people to tune in to and engage with our political system.