Latinos are barely part of the conversation in newspapers and online media outlets covering the issue of racial equity and racism, a new study has found.
Only about 6% of such news referred to Latinos, who make up nearly 20% of the American population and over 40% of all people of color, according to a report published Wednesday by the Berkeley Media Studies Group and UnidosUS.
The study analyzed peak news cycles related to racism and racial equity issues, including wealth, housing and health in the U.S., following the onset of protests and protest anniversaries between May 1 and Sept. 30 in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
During that span, the authors reviewed 195,536 articles that covered the topic of race. Only 10,963 articles, or 5.6%, referred to Latinos, with a dramatic drop-off in coverage in 2021 and 2022, the report noted.
“When Latino experiences, contributions and concerns are excluded from news coverage, policymakers and the public don’t have the facts needed to craft effective and inclusive solutions,” said Viviana Lopez Green, senior director for UnidosUS’ Racial Equity Initiative. “Too often, our community is ‘out of sight, out of mind.’”
The Berkeley Media Studies Group, or BMSG, a program of the Public Health Institute, is focused on racial and health equity. UnidosUS is a national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization.
The study found coverage gaps in states with large Hispanic populations, such as California, which is home to nearly a quarter of all the nation's Latinos, according to the American Community Survey Data 2019.
Though about 40% of Californians are Hispanic or Latino, according to census figures, 15.5% of articles from California about racial equity and racism referred to Latinos. In Texas the number was 4.7%, even though they also make up about 40% of the state population.
About 40% of the articles mentioned solutions to issues of racial disparities and equity, like ways to improve housing and homeownership, educational attainment and closing the wealth gap.
“When the news focuses only on problems without also exploring solutions, people — including policymakers — have a harder time envisioning next steps,” said Pamela Mejia, the head of research at BMSG. “Readers need to see the work that organizers and advocates are doing to improve their communities. Those are the kinds of stories that encourage action and instill hope.”
The groups stated they conducted the study to help improve coverage and representation, since Latino voices and perspectives help influence what topics become part of the public discussion or remain hidden from view.
The report recommended reporters broaden sources who come from diverse backgrounds and ask more nuanced questions, and it recommended more diversity in newsroom leadership and workspaces.
The report also found that only 15% of authors could be identified as Latino, but they acknowledged they were using contextual clues like names.
A 2021 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that Latinos accounted for 8% of newspaper, periodical, book and directory publishers; meanwhile, 11% of news analysts, reporters and journalists were Latino.
“These findings are disappointing but not surprising,” Mejia said. “When newsrooms don’t reflect the communities they represent, we expect the coverage to also be incomplete.”
The groups also recommended philanthropists invest in media strategies for Latinos and recommended advocates train Latino spokespeople and build relationships with media members.