September 25, 2008

Every Now and Again--A Study on News Coverage of Immigration

Immigration Bill Coverage — Spanish vs. English Language Media, A Brief Comparison

There is evidence, too, that the English-language media differ significantly in coverage of immigration from Spanish-language media. This year at PEJ as part of the larger ethnic media analysis within our State of the News Media 2008 report we conducted a snapshot study of the coverage in the leading Spanish-language television networks and three major papers and compared that with similar English-language press from one key period (June 25 to 29, 2007)-the week the immigration bill died in the US Senate. This to some degree allowed us to see how Spanish vs. English-language mainstream media covered the immigration bill.

PEJ examined Spanish-language network national evening news on the two major stations, Telemundo and Univision and compared it to evening network news on the major networks, ABC, CBS and NBC. For print, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post and three Spanish language newspapers, El Diario-La Prensa, La Opinión and El Nuevo Herald were considered.

The study found that ABC, NBC and CBS covered the issue substantially less. In total there were eight stories during this period. What they did produce was given high prominence with most—six out of the eight— among the first three stories aired. By comparison, Telemundo and Univision aired a total of 18 stories focusing on the immigration bill during the same period. Of these stories, 14 aired as one of the first three segments.

In print, there was more continuity between the English-language and Spanish-language press. As stated in our study, “overall, the English-language papers had more stories but gave them less prominence than the Spanish-language papers. The three English-language papers ran a total of 37 stories during the five days (pretty evenly distributed among the three) while the Spanish papers ran 22. The majority of the English-language stories fell in the inside pages — 23 out of 37. Just 14 made page 1. The Spanish-language papers, on the other hand, ran 15 of the 22 on page 1.”

By and large, as our analysis suggested, “during the week the immigration bill died in the Senate, consumers turning to Spanish-language media for their news probably came away with a different perception of the meaning and impact of the defeat. They learned about angles not focused on in much of the English-language media, heard from different people and, especially in broadcast, often heard what the reporters themselves felt about the situation.” The English-language media tended to focus on the politics of the bill, the winners and the losers in the Senate. The Spanish-language press focused much more on immigrants themselves and the possible ramifications of the bill within the ethnic community.

Now that we have considered the specific case of the Immigration Bill coverage, let us look into how much coverage immigration received across media sectors in general.