The following remarks were made by University of Southern California Professor of Journalism Emeritus Félix Gutiérrez at the book launch Oct. 3 for “Reporting on Latino/a/x Communities: A Guide for Journalists.”
It’s so wonderful to be back with the good people at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism for the launch of a long-overdue and much-needed guide for journalists covering Latino/a/x communities.
The need for such guidance was anticipated by pioneering Los Angeles Times journalist Rubén Salazar in 1969 as U.S. media began well-intentioned, but often misguided, coverage of Mexican-Americans, a group that two years earlier the Atlantic magazine called “the minority nobody knows.”
“The Mexican-American beat in the past was non-existent,” Salazar said in San Antonio a half century ago. “The news media are (now) figuratively taking the serape and sombrero off Mexican-Americans. What it finds, however, seems to puzzle newspapers, radio and television. The media seem impatient about the complexities of the story. It’s as if the media are not amused that under that serape and sombrero is a complex Chicano instead of a potential Gringo.”
Those of us working to get 1960 media coverage of Chicano issues, actions and ideas often found reporters arrived in the barrio just after the police or focused on how we were protesting rather than why we were protesting. There were no barrio experienced editors or Latinx reporters to help them, much less a guide book. The results were often stories playing on colorful stereotypes or portraying Chicanos as “problem people” either beset by problems or causing problems for others.
In the decades since then Latinx representation in the newsrooms and news coverage has increased. But much more needs to change for that coverage to be accurate, complete and fair. They need to use more sources from more places and more spaces: print, video, audio and digital.
Especially important are the voices of young people, including Dímelo at USC. What they are saying is what people will be saying and paying attention to in the future. Rubén Salazar noted the importance of the alternative media in the 1960s. Even more true in today’s digital age.
“The Chicano underground press is doing things which we, in the normal news media, should take note of,” Salazar said. “It is trying to express the Chicano soul. The Chicano underground press is saying things that must be said.”
This guide for journalists is edited and written by outstanding journalists and journalism educators with professional experience in all media. It is a big step in the right direction. It covers current issues, past coverage, key Latinx subgroups, and most importantly offers useful, helpful and much-needed advice and guidance. It should be used in every newsroom and made a part of every journalism curriculum.
It joins the list of diversity books on women in journalism, people of color and journalism, and LGBTQ issues in media authored or edited by USC journalism faculty beginning in the 1980s.
Today’s faculty are not resting on past accomplishments. They are building the future by addressing the present in classes, productions and this book. The book’s editors and authors are all role models and inspirations to all who want to see news stories be as accurate, fair and complete as they should be for those covered and those who we see, hear or sense the coverage. Read it, use it and show others how good you and your stories can be.