The Latino Media Collaborative (LMC) hosted the organization’s inaugural Latino Media Summit on September 22 in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, a Mexican-American museum and cultural center, was home to the summit and the launch of the CALÓ NEWS website. CALÓ NEWS is a site dedicated to the coverage of Latinos, written for English-speaking audiences in LA and California. It is also a news initiative of LMC, which began 25 weeks ago as a weekly newsletter. 

The summit’s theme focused on the state of Latino media sector in California,  assembling a panel of media experts, journalists, city officials and local representatives to discuss equity, representation and strategies for change.

Since it was founded in 2019, LMC has worked to develop high-impact media and outreach campaigns in partnership with the Latino media sector to advance an informed and highly engaged Latino community. As stated on its website, LMC works to “build cross-sector coalitions between Latino and ethnic media, issue leaders, and community influencers to ensure that our communities have access to high-quality independent news while building resiliency in the sector.” 

In an official statement, U.S. Rep. and LA Mayoral candidate, Karen Bass, congratulated LMC for hosting the Latino Media Summit and providing resources for journalists of color and for creating an independent outlet like CALÓ NEWS. 

“Through state and local government advocacy, LMC has fought for funding and resources to support Latino and other ethnic media, media that meet the needs of communities that can be under-served by other outlets,” Bass said,  adding that Latinos make up half of the city’s population. “We must have vibrant media serving all of our communities in order to thrive and grow,” she said. 

Arturo Carmona, founder and president of LMC, opened the event by welcoming attendees and speaking about the vision and intentions of the summit. Carmona said LMC’s plan was to convene an intimate meeting and gathering of selected leaders from Latino media, philanthropy, government and other key sectors. 

“As the movement for equity in communication and media quickly evolves and grows around the country and in our region,” Carmona said, “it has become glaringly clear to me that there is a major opportunity for Latino leadership. As I hear that Latino and Latina journalists still face a brick wall beyond a glass ceiling, as they pursue leadership roles in mainstream media in California, it is clear to me that things have to change and that we have a lot of work to do.”

Nury Martinez, the first Latina President of the LA City Council, who oversees District 6, said that she wishes to push for more Latino coverage in mainstream and independent news outlets. Martinez said she felt Latinos are becoming more invisible to the mainstream media. “They are not telling our stories and they are not talking about the issues that impacts our Latino community, this is why we need to rely on you. I think it’s all of our responsibility to elevate our stories, tell the stories of our Latinx community, and teach young people who we are,” she said. “This is our time and it’s about time we take advantage of that. We are the voices that the mainstream media should be hearing from, we are the voices we should be writing about and we are the political power of the state.”

In an official statement released the same day of the summit, Martinez expressed her support for LMC and the organization’s vision. “Latinos are the heartbeat of this city, so I am proud to support organizations like [CALÓ NEWS, which is] prioritizing meeting the needs of our community,” she said. Martinez also said that as Latino news media continues to rapidly transform and with Spanish being spoken by 559 million people globally and in 13% of U.S. homes, “organizations like LMC are working tirelessly to advance research and impactful content to our communities. In California, LMC leads the way.”

The summit also incorporated an hour-long panel discussion on the topic of the state of Latino media in California, moderated by CALÓ NEWS Opinion Editor Teresa Puente, who is also an Assistant Professor at California State University, Long Beach. 

One of the panel speakers was Dr. Jessica Retis, professor and director of the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. She said that she believes that the remedy to issues of the day like mass misinformation and lack of ethnic and racial representation starts in journalism schools. 

“If journalists are not able to properly cover a story, it is because they have not been trained in how to cover that properly,” Retis said. “The lack of representation in Latinos is the lack of representation of Latinos in journalism schools.” She added that hiring faculty of color who can teach and mentor journalists of color is an important and crucial step in supporting the future of journalism in the world.

Miguel Santana, CEO of the Weingart Foundation, was also a panelist at the media summit. The Weingart Foundation is a private grantmaking foundation that creates equitable systems and structures aimed at helping advance racial, social and economic justice in Southern California. 

Santana spoke about the important role foundations play in media equity and the ways the Weingart Foundation supports a lot of community-based organizations like LMC, which are shedding light on pressing issues within ethnic communities. “Our goal is to really support them and support the kind of research around the way mainstream media does not represent Latinos,” he said. “We are also very interested in supporting efforts that are about changing the narrative, about allowing our own communities to represent their own experience from their own point of view.”

Samuel Orozco, another panelist, serves as the National News and Information Director for Radio Bilingue, a radio station broadcasting a Spanish Variety format in the Fresno area. He spoke about the importance of creating culturally relevant coverage and news outlets that are community-driven, such as Radio Bilingue. When talking about the founders of Radio Bilingue, Orozco said that they brought with them two revolutionary concepts. “One being the idea for an organization that was formed by the people and number two, that this organization should be community ran and operated,” he said. “The idea of Radio Bilingue was to protect the voices of  local communities that were not being heard in the mainstream media.”

The summit closed with final remarks by Monica Lozano, who sits on the Apple’s board of directors and is a former editor at La Opinión. She reminded journalists that their role has always been to inform, educate, empower and be empowering.“Latino media has been there to educate and advocate for what is just and right, to use the power of words, images, broadcasts and social media to defend our families against the backlash of systemic racism that we have endured for too long,” Lozano said. “Our role as Latino media is to strengthen America’s democracy by inspiring our community to be engaged, participate, find our voice and exercise our powers.” 

One of the most awaited moments of the night was the official CALÓ NEWS launch announcement made by Daniel Vasquez, a Pulitzer Prize-finalist and CALÓ NEWS’s managing editor. “CALÓ NEWS started off as a simple concept: We wanted to report news that was engaging and that would empower Latinos in LA and beyond,” he said. 

Vasquez said that he felt proud of the 25 issues that CALÓ NEWS has already produced throughout the spring and summer of this year and was excited for the official launch of the news outlet’s website. 

“CALÓ NEWS is a publication dedicated to covering Latinos better than anyone else. We are going to cover all the issues that are important to Latinos: education, immigration, health, equality, justice, in all of its forms, and much more.” Vasquez also spoke about CALÓ NEWS’ commitment to covering the “VIPs of Latino communities, which includes college presidents, judges and elected officials, but that also includes single parents, street vendors, artists and grandparents, as well as those who support our communities day by day.”

CALÓ NEWS Opinion Editor Teresa Puente moderated a panel of media professionals and experts and elected officials.

Puente said that she is proud to be part of the small team of reporters and editors that make up CALÓ NEWS. “The editors are Latinos, the reporters are Latinos and it is important that we tell our own stories that often time mainstream news misses,” she said. “We need more Latinos in news, we need more funding in support of independent ethnic media and we also need mainstream media to do a better job.”

Esperanza Guevarra, Managing Director of LMC said that she was grateful for all the 80 or so participants who attended and to everyone who made the Latino Media Summit a reality. 

Guevarra said that the summit created a very important space for journalists of all backgrounds to be able to convene in one place and share their challenges as well as their wins. 

“It is important that we are here in the spaces so that we build these relationships and friendships with one another because together is how we are going to find the resources that we need to continue doing the work we are doing, the services we are providing to our communities,” Guevarra said. “We need to be united to be able to continue this work and that was part of the reason why we want to do this work and why we wanted to put this event together.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: LMC and CALÓ NEWS offer thanks to those who participated and attended the 2022 Latino Media Summit, as well as the volunteers and community partners who helped in putting this event together. To follow CALÓ NEWS’ journey and coverage within LA, you can visit the official website.

Brenda Fernanda Verano is a journalist born in Mexico and raised in South Central, LA. Verano is a two-time award winner in the California College Media Association Awards. At CALÓ News, she covers...