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Report: Few Latinos On News Shows, Usually To Discuss Immigration

Image: New Year's Eve in the USA
epa04543695 The sun begins to rise on the last day of the year, with the base of the Washington Monument and US Capitol Building reflected in the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, in Washington DC, USA, 31 December 2014. EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDSMICHAEL REYNOLDS / EPA

English-language Sunday TV news shows use Hispanics as experts more often when the topic is immigration, while Spanish-language Sunday shows devote overwhelmingly more time to the topic than others, according to a report issued by a left-leaning media criticism group Wednesday.

Media Matters for America, which generally targets its criticism at conservative media, refers to the news treatment of Latinos and immigration as “single issue syndrome,” which it defines as a failure to recognize Latinos’ interest in and perspectives on issues beyond immigration.

"This report speaks to Latinos who watch the Sunday shows and very rarely see anyone that looks like them or speaks for them, or who find themselves wondering about the state of other critical political issues besides immigration. News media coverage is big enough and diverse enough to include Latinos in more than one issue," said Kristian Ramos, Media Matters' Hispanic media spokesman.

The group found that just 7 percent of guests on English-language Sunday shows were Hispanic. Of 40 discussions on immigration on the English-language shows, 37 involved Hispanic guests. In 468 discussions of everything else, 42 involved Latino experts.

On the two major Spanish language news shows, 26 of 30 of the discussions on four issues that Latinos have shown to be important to them in polling by Pew Research Center, were on immigration. Three were on the economy and jobs, one on education and none on health care.

The report found that in English-language news shows, if you remove Hispanic guests who specifically spoke on immigration, only four percent of remaining guests were Latino.

Media Matters examined seven English-language Sunday shows and two Spanish-language shows during Aug. 31 to Dec. 28 of last year, covering 18 weeks of shows.

The time period was a busy one on the issue of immigration. President Barack Obama was expected to take action on immigration last summer and then postponed it to await legislative action. The House decided against moving on legislation, so the president took executive action and Republicans passed legislative measures to repeal the actions.

Also in that time, Obama announced steps he was taking to improve U.S. relations with Cuba, which has some immigration implications.

The midterm elections also occurred during the period Media Matters examined, as well as the Ferguson police shooting, the death of Eric Garner and the resulting protests. The first Ebola patient in the U.S. died at a Dallas hospital and three months of U.S. air attacks on ISIS in Iraq and Syria occurred.

The Sunday shows often feature political strategists and politicians and journalists.The report does not discuss the Latino numbers in those professions and the effect of those numbers on news show bookings.

Ramos said the group recognizes the importance of immigration in the Latino community. But he added that in the midterms environment - with ongoing debates over health care, job creation and education and candidates staking out positions - the amount of time Spanish-language shows dedicated to immigration "cannot be explained away by their substantive focus on immigration."

For the English-language shows, Ramos said that if you remove Hispanic guests who specifically spoke on immigration, four percent of all remaining guests were Latino. "If the shows were not covering immigration, these Hispanic guests may not have been invited to speak on any other issue."

Ramos said Media Matters plans to review Latino presence and discussions on Sunday news shows biannually.