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Associated Press

TV News On Latinos Less Rare

By Lynn Elber, Associated Press

December 12, 2004
Copyright © 2004
Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Television news coverage of Hispanics was more favorable in 2003, largely because of reports on the wartime service of Latino troops, a study found.

But America's largest and fastest-growing minority remains mostly ignored by newscasts that pay scant attention to Hispanic issues and newsmakers, according to the annual study released today.

Researchers who prepared the report for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, "Network Brownout 2003," examined more than 16,000 stories that were on the nightly newscasts of ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN.

A total of 131, or 0.82 percent, were about Hispanics, compared with 120 stories, or 0.75 percent, in 2002. Of 639 hours of news, four hours -- 0.63 percent -- were given over to Hispanic stories, the researchers found.

Hispanics are nearly 14 percent of the U.S. population.

"The lack of coverage and airtime devoted to Latino stories remained dismal, and Latinos continued to be covered within a narrow range of topics such as immigration and crime," a report author wrote.

There was an increase in favorable TV human-interest stories on Hispanics: 15 such stories aired in 2003, compared with three the year before.

"Many of these stories profiled the service and sacrifice by Latino soldiers," with those killed or injured deemed heroes, according to authors of the report on a study headed by media analyst Federico Subervi.

Several stories profiled Marine Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, who was among the first to die in Iraq and was made a citizen posthumously.

Another trend the report authors called positive was a decline in the number of crime stories about Hispanics, from 47 stories in 2002 to 27 in 2003.

In general, coverage of Hispanics was limited to a handful of topics, topped by immigration, 30 stories, and crime, 27 stories. There were a dozen stories on election politics and 11 on celebrities.

Other weak spots in news coverage of Hispanics, according to the study:

A majority of stories did not feature an interview with a Hispanic and generally lacked diversity of viewpoint and opinion.

Hispanics rarely were included in stories not specifically about the ethnic group. When they were, it was a handful of prominent Hispanics -- Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson -- who accounted for 40 percent of the total.

Hispanics are poorly represented in on-air reporting and anchor jobs.

CNN had the most Hispanic coverage, with 47 stories that added up to nearly 90 minutes. By comparison, second-place CBS aired 30 stories or slightly more than 48 minutes of Hispanic coverage.

ABC was the only network to show a decline in Latino coverage, from 35 stories in 2002 to 27 in 2003. Weekend calls to ABC seeking comment were not returned.

As in the past, the study relied on Vanderbilt University's Television News Archives. Newscasts on other networks, including Fox and MSNBC, were omitted from the study because they are not part of the archive.

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