Archive for the ‘Immigration’ Category


Ruben Salazar: Champion of Hispanic civil rights

A national journalism conference in Anaheim, Calif., last month provided an opportunity to learn about the Civil Rights Movement from the Hispanic perspective after a week of reminders of the famous Martin Luther King Jr. “dream” speech.

The Excellence in Journalism 2013 conference was sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists, of which I am a past national president; Radio Television Digital News Association; and National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

A preview was shown of “Latino Americans,” promoted as the first major documentary series for TV to chronicle the history and experiences of Latinos in the U.S. It will air on PBS on Sept. 17.  Among those discussing the documentary afterward was Juan Gonzalez, author of a book, “News For All The People,” New York Daily News columnist and co-host of a syndicated TV and radio show, “Democracy Now!”

I met Gonzalez later at a book signing and mentioned I was the last editor of the El Paso Herald-Post in Texas in the mid-‘90s. During my time there, I became very interested in immigration issues since the community was 75 percent Hispanic and borders Juarez, Mexico.

Courtesy Special Collections UCLA/From Book Ruben Salazar/Border Correspondent

Courtesy Special Collections UCLA/From Book Ruben Salazar/Border Correspondent

Gonzalez took his book and pointed me to what he had written about Ruben Salazar, who began his reporting career with the Herald-Post in the 1950s and then moved on to the Los Angeles Times. He later went to KMEX, a Los Angeles Spanish-language TV station.

Sadly, he was killed at age 42 during a Vietnam War protest by young Chicanos. More than 25,000 participants converged in Laguna Park in east Los Angeles and a riot ensued after a minor disturbance led police to arrest a keynote speaker, Gonzalez writes. Salazar was killed by a sheriff’s deputy in a bar following the riot where he and a camera crew had gone for refuge. The circumstances surrounding his death remain in dispute.

Salazar was killed on Aug. 29, 1970, which was 43 years ago. At the time, he was the most influential Latino journalist of his era.

On the recent 50th anniversary of the speech by King at the Washington Mall, throngs gathered on that spot to hear President Barack Obama pay tribute.

Not nearly as many remembered Salazar, but Raul A. Reyes, a columnist for USA Today, did.

“Salazar deserves to be remembered for his crusade against social injustice, and because he devoted his life to empowering his community,” Reyes wrote.

Salazar’s legacy includes the formation of the California Chicano News Media Association, which led to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in his honor in 2008.

(Courtesy of Knoxville Sentinel/previously published)

“Latinos Americans” premieres on PBS September 17th on PBS at 8pm Eastern.

Georgiana Vines is retired News Sentinel associate editor, and member of the SPJ Diversity Committee.

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Tips to Expand Your Source Network and Develop Great Story Ideas

I’ve lived in Knoxville, Tenn., essentially since 1968 and know a lot of people through my work at the News Sentinel. But earlier this month there was a story on four people recognized in the inaugural Latino Awards by Centro Hispano de East Tennessee, and I had only heard of one of them.

Lourdes 001

Lourdes Garza
(Photo:Diocese of Knoxville)

I was introduced to both Hispanic/Latino and border issues when I lived in El Paso, Texas, from 1996 to 1997 and served as editor of the El Paso Herald-Post. El Paso is predominantly Hispanic and Catholic.

In addition, I take to heart the SPJ Code of Ethics, which addresses the need for journalists to report on all aspects of the community and particularly to “tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.” I review the code once in awhile and always introduce it to students when teaching journalism at the University of Tennessee.

It turns out some of the Knoxville honorees are involved in multiple issues affecting the Hispanic community here, offering a route to interesting stories and contacts. I suspect this would be the case for similar award-winners in any community.

One of the Knoxville recipients was attached to the Catholic Diocese. Lourdes Garza, director of Hispanic Ministries of the Diocese of Knoxville, received the Spirit of Inspiration award for helping Hispanic community members integrate into parish life activities.

I had heard Garza’s name, but I didn’t know the other winners: Jose Luis Santiago, De Ann Pendry, and Santiago Cuccarese.

Jose Luis Santiago

Jose Luis Santiago
(Photo: Knoxville News Sentinel)

Santiago received the Spirit of Transformation award for his work with Holy Ghost Church in Knoxville in helping others solve problems in various aspects of their lives. It turns out he also has become active in opposing Knox County’s possible adoption of the controversial 287(h) federal immigration program, in which local and state law enforcement agencies collaborate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Pendry, the only non-Latino to receive an award, received the Espiritu Latino award for working with the Hispanic immigration-rights movement. She teaches courses in Latino studies, migration and trans-nationalism and similar areas at UT.

Cuccarese received the Spirit of Innovation award for his work with MiBanco and with the Bank of Camden, where he serves as vice president. MiBanco is a Latino-centered bank and actively supports the Hispanic community and its businesses. Cucarese is also active with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of East Tennessee.

Santiago Cuccarese

Santiago Cuccarese
(Photo: Knoxville News Sentinel)

Here are some tips to finding similar people in your own communities:

  • The Catholic Church. It’s heavily involved in Hispanic/Latino issues. A starting point for gathering information might be the U.S. Conferences of Catholic Bishops. The organization has a wide network.
  • The Chamber of Commerce. Most communities have a chamber and in all likelihood someone there is familiar with Hispanic businesses or if a Hispanic Chamber has been formed. There’s a U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Look over its list of corporate sponsors, including banks. Chances are your local contacts at banks can put you in touch with other individuals and businesses.
  • Universities. There are oodles of resources at institutions of higher learning. In one of my public affairs classes, I needed to know for editing purposes the possession of Muñoz. The AP stylebook didn’t address it. I called a friend who teaches Spanish at UT and she gave me the answer: Muñoz’s. Professors of political science, sociology, religion, business – the gamut – can be resources.

With a little bit of exploration, expanding your sources is easy.

Georgiana Vines is retired associate editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel and an active member of the SPJ Diversity Committee. 

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SPJ Diversity pleased with AP decision on “illegal immigrant” term usage

The SPJ Diversity Committee is pleased with The Associated Press’ decision to change the use of the term “illegal immigrant.”

However, the Diversity Committee has been behind the issue of dropping the term “illegal” for the past few years, spearheaded by former committee member Leo Laurence. And it was in New Orleans at the Excellence in Journalism Conference 2011 when I witnessed former Diversity Fellow and Vice Chairwoman Rebecca Aguilar address the SPJ board about her mother, who came to the United States from Mexico, and the pain it caused when she saw the term “illegal alien” used in the newspaper.

Rebecca Aguilar addresses SPJ Board about using term "illegal alien". Photo by Sandra Gonzalez

Rebecca Aguilar addresses SPJ Board about using term “illegal alien”.
Photo by Sandra Gonzalez

After hearing Aguilar’s impassioned speech, the voting convention delegates passed this resolution on voice vote:

WHEREAS, the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics urges all journalists to be “honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information” and;

WHEREAS, mainstream news reports are increasingly using the politically charged phrase “illegal immigrant” and the more offensive and bureaucratic “illegal alien” to describe undocumented immigrants, particularly Latinos and;

WHEREAS, a fundamental principle embedded in our U.S. Constitution is that everyone (including non-citizens) is considered innocent of any crime until proven guilty in a court of law and;

WHEREAS, this constitutional doctrine, often described as “innocent-until-proven-guilty,” applies not just to U.S. Citizens but to everyone in the United States and;

WHEREAS, only the court system, not reporters and editors, can decide when a person has committed an “illegal” act and;

WHEREAS, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists is also concerned with the increasing use of pejorative and potentially inaccurate terms to describe the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the United States;

THEREFORE, be it resolved that the Society of Professional Journalists convention of delegates: urges journalists and style guide editors to stop the use of illegal alien and encourage continuous discussion and re-evaluation of the use of illegal immigrant in news stories.

Prior to this, it had been rejected by the Resolutions Committee.

The AP is now changing how it will describe people as journalists report stories involving the current immigration issue. According to Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll, here is what is behind the decision:

The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term “illegal immigrant” or the use of “illegal” to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that “illegal” should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.

“Journalists and others can argue that the new style recommendation is less precise than ‘illegal alien’ or ‘illegal immigrant,’ but it’s important to note that a significant portion of country’s population regards those terms as offensive.  It wasn’t that long ago that keepers of journalism style, including The AP, fought dropping ‘Negro’ as a term for black or African-American people,” says SPJ President Sonny Albarado.

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists also says these terms can be dehumanizing  and demeaning.

“AP is right to note that the English language evolves and that our everyday usage contributes to that evolution. I hope journalists and others continue this conversation about immigration and people who come here legally or illegally until we arrive at terminology most of us can agree on,” Albarado says.

We on the SPJ Diversity Committee agree and hope journalists will eliminate these types of terms from their copy as immigration is a huge issue we will be reporting on this year.

Sandra Gonzalez
SPJ Diversity Committee Chairman
KSNV Reporter
Las Vegas

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Trayvon Martin Shooting Death: Evaluating and Improving Crime Reporting

Photo Courtesy: Paul Weiskel

Once again we find ourselves caught short. Why did it take news media across the country a couple of weeks to notice that a black teenager had been shot by a vigilante in a gated community? In our sometimes clumsy efforts to catch up (see NBC’s hideous editing error), some accuse the media of hyping the racial element.

That’s absurd, and here’s why. When three-quarters of black people surveyed consider racial bias a factor in the killing and in the non-arrest of the shooter, you’d better believe race is important to this story. It’s no secret that black parents fear for their children, knowing that suspicion routinely follows young males with black skin, wherever they are.  In a study of unconscious racial reactions, experimental psychologists found people of all backgrounds more likely to “see” a weapon in a black person’s hand when it’s actually a harmless object like a can of soda.

Distressingly, our own work is part of the reason why.  Decades ago, communication theorist George Gerbner first described the “Mean World Syndrome.” In his studies, he discovered that people exposed to heavy doses of violence on television developed an overblown sense of danger and fear about the world around them. Despite our best intentions, we’re part of that picture.

In the crime stories so favored by the local news, multiple studies have found that race plays a predictable but inaccurate role. White people disproportionately play the victim. People with darker skin disproportionately flash on the screen as suspects. News audiences have become so conditioned that even when no suspect is shown at all, viewers assume one — and he is black.

In one influential study, Frank Gilliam of UCLA and Shanto Iyengar of Stanford University altered the suspect’s race in crime news clips that they showed to about 2,300 participants. In the test group whose clip included no suspect at all, 44 percent recalled seeing a black perpetrator. Regular news watching also increased audiences’ support for punitive remedies to crime.

Separately, researcher Travis Dixon, now also at UCLA, found that African Americans are consistently overrepresented as perpetrators in local crime news. Not surprisingly, he also found that regular crime news watchers tended to perceive black people as violent.

Photo Courtesy: Paul Weiskel

In this moment, it’s important for the news media to step up to our responsibility to cover and spur conversation about America’s racial climate. Let’s also use this moment to consider hard questions about how we help to create it.

Digging Deeper into a Story

Some things you can do, based on experimental psychology research and other sources:

  • Avoid snap judgments in your reporting; that’s when reactive biases are most likely to emerge.
  • Form anti-bias strategies, like consciously pursuing stories about young African American men who are heroes or protectors of safety.
  • Evaluate crime stories by the level of community impact, and place them in social context of root causes and potential solutions.
  • Cross-check victim/perpetrator ratios by race within your own news reports. Do they reflect actual police statistics?
  • Check your sources. Are you including perspectives across the fault lines of race, gender and age? Who is the affected community? Is there more than one?

Sally Lehrman is a member of the SPJ Diversity Committee. She holds Santa Clara University’s Knight Ridder — San Jose Mercury News Endowed Chair in Journalism and the Public Interest. Sally is also an author and independent journalist who specializes in covering identity, race relations and gender within the context of medicine and science.

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Study: “Illegal Immigrant” Most Commonly Used Term In News Stories

BLACKSBURG, Va.–When it comes to references to people not legally born in the U.S., “illegal immigrant” is the most commonly used term, a new study shows.

A University of Memphis journalism professor conducted an analysis of 122,000 pieces of journalism or more than 3,000 stories published between 2000 and 2010.

“Whatever term you choose is fraught with implications,” said Thomas Hrach, who worked for years as both a news reporter and news editor before leaving the newsroom for the classroom.

He presented the first results of his study on “News Organizations and Immigration Terms” this past weekend at the AEJMC Southeast Colloquium here at Virginia Tech.

He found some 59 percent of stories he analyzed used the word “illegal immigrant” compared to 29 percent, which used “illegal alien,” a term that The Associated Press Stylebook discourages.  Only about eight percent of articles used the term “undocumented immigrant” and even fewer the term “undocumented worker.”

Using searches of the NewsBank database to conduct the research, Hrach also analyzed his data by region of country in which they appeared.

The greater the percentage of Latino citizens in a region of the country, the more likely a news story is to use words like “undocumented worker” or “undocumented immigrant.”

The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) holds its annual conference later this year in August.  Hrach hopes to have an update of his research completed by then.

“I’m curious when we include the 2011 stories if we will see a change,” Hrach said.

He is currently updating his data set to include stories published in 2011, the same year that the Society of Professional Journalists passed a resolution urging journalists to stop using the term “illegal alien” and to re-evaluate the use of the term “illegal immigrant.”

Dr. Thomas Hrach presented findings from his study of news organizations' use of immigration terms at the AEJMC Southeast Colloquium last weekend.

Faculty adviser for the SPJ student chapter at the University of Memphis,  Hrach invoked the comments of SPJ President-Elect Sonny Albarado on the resolution’s passage following the 2011 Excellence in Journalism gathering in New Orleans.

“I hope this makes a statement about sensitivity of language.” Albarado is quoted as saying following the SPJ gathering last fall.

The SPJ Diversity Committee, which introduced the resolution,  is eager to see what Dr. Hrach finds after completing his latest analysis.

George L. Daniels, associate professor of journalism at the University of Alabama and a member of the SPJ National Board of Directors, is a past chairman of the SPJ Diversity Committee.

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Immigration reform

By Leo E. Laurence, J.D.; Member: SPJ National Diversity Committee and CCNMA – Latino Journalists of California; editor: San Diego News Service

“Most Americans acknowledge that the immigration system is broken, even if they disagree about how to fix it,” writes columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. of the San Diego Union Tribune. He’s a respected leader in the Latino community.

“(President) Obama understands that, in order to have a successful administration, a president needs to do more than give speeches. He needs to put points on the board.

“If health care is, in fact, doomed now because of (Republican Scott) Brown’s victory (in Massachusetts), then Obama will need another cause to trumpet,” Navarrette says.

That could be immigration reform.

“This debate isn’t as simple as Blue and Red. There are Republicans who support comprehensive immigration reform and Democrats who oppose it,” the Latino columnist says.

As a presidential candidate, Obama promised Latino voters that he would deliver comprehensive immigration reform. Latinos are fast becoming a more powerful political force in the Unites States.

The answer is not in significantly increased border-patrol enforcement. A ranking sailor – James Boswell, STD2, USN – recently drove from Chicago to San Diego in a new car with Virginia plates. Traveling across Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. He was stopped FOUR times by the border patrol. Each time he was told that he was stopped solely because he had out-of-state license plates. The border patrol only wanted him to prove his American citizenship. After producing his military ID, he was released.

It’s questionable whether solely having out-of-state plates on a new car provides the necessary probable cause before law enforcement can lawfully stop a car. Immigration enforcement is arguably out-of-hand, and seemingly far worse than it was under Republican presidents.

“If immigration reform doesn’t happen in 2010, the debate will only become more complicated,” columnist Navarrette believes. “If Republicans take control of Congress in November, the issue could be off the table for 2010. And, since little gets done in a presidential campaign, don’t expect much to happen (on immigration reform) in 2012.”

For those seriously interested in diversity issues, immigration reform provides a fertile field for journalists.

Contact Leo Laurence at leopowerhere@msn.com

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