Where Can You Find Hispanics? Not in Mainstream News, Study Says

Pew Hispanic Coverage GraphicHow often are Hispanics portrayed in major media outlets? Not remotely close to their 15% of the U.S. population, a new study from the Pew Hispanic Center argues.

The study found that only 645 out of 34,452 news stories appeared between February and August 2009 – that is, a mere 1.87% – contained substantial references to Hispanic/Latinos. To qualify as such, 25% of the story needed to center on the demographic group and its race/ethnicity/religion.

More important, the study affirms, is that even in those cases, the coverage is driven by events, not substantial portrayal of the Hispanic reality. The nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court informed 39% of the Hispanic news stories. Other significant subjects were the Mexican drug war (15%), the H1N1 flu outbreak (13%) and immigration (8.4%). As the debate over CNN’s “Latino in America” documentary showed, this is not a minor issue: the Hispanic community is extremely sensitive of the way it is portrayed in media. The fact that a significant portion of the coverage given to Hispanics centers on issues that are either criminal, sanitary or divisive in nature will not be overlooked by activists and politicians.

The study was conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, which reviews and codes 55 news outlets (newspapers, cable, broadcast television, websites and radio) Monday through Friday, as well as the Sunday papers.

Read the whole study here.

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José Simián (1975) is a New York-based writer. His work has appeared in Sports Illustrated Latino, Billboard en Español, The Huffington Post, New York Daily News, Mediaite, Qué Pasa and El Mercurio. He hosts a weekly music and literature interview segment with Latino artists and intellectuals on NY1 Noticias (Time Warner Cable), where he works as a producer.