Ethnic Media Content Analysis
2006 Annual Report
The Hispanic media aren’t simply copies of others in a different language. They tend to be broader in the scope of their topics and in the geographic regions they cover, and that is true for local outlets as well as national ones. Stories affecting members of the local ethnic community are given heavy treatment.
Take, for example, the newscast for KXLN, the Univision affiliate in Houston. On May 11, it opened with an interview with a family whose son lost his legs jumping from a moving train five days earlier. That piece was followed by comments from visitors to the station’s Web page about railroad safety. Then came a second-day piece about a man who was killed when he was struck by a city light rail train.
The newscast did a serious, lengthy piece on religion. The story focused on a Hispanic woman who was a member of the Episcopal clergy and raised the question why women can’t be priests in the Catholic Church. The report wasn’t just a profile. It waded into meatier religious topics, at one point quoting a local monsignor about why women are not allowed to be priests. It then challenged his reading of Scripture by noting that supporters of woman priests also quote the Bible. And the piece was just Part 1 of a multi-part series.
The plane scare that dominated cable and network evening news that day, when it did appear on KXLN, got only one paragraph, more than half-way through the newscast.
That was followed by a longish story about the discovery of a mosquito carrying the West Nile Virus in Houston and the fumigation scheduled for the affected area. Immigration made an appearance in two pieces — one about emergency health care for illegal immigrants and a short item on the Mexican government’s reaction to the U.S. government’s plan to make driver’s licenses harder to get.
And the local newscasts reached out further, geographically and otherwise, for some of their topics. For instance, Telemundo’s local newscast on KTMD did a lengthy feature on the city of Alvarado in Mexico ’s Veracruz State , hundreds of miles down the Gulf coast from the Texas border. The city is known as “the place where the most dirty-mouthed people live,” and the story was filled with bleeped expletives. At one point the reporter interviewed a resident of the region who told him, “It’s very common here for someone to say, ‘**** your mother,’ and I will answer, ‘**** yours.’ We talk like that.”
A numeric accounting of the topics that appeared on Houston ’s local Spanish-language TV is revealing. Consider, for example, that traditional staple of local TV news, crime. It was in short supply on those newscasts, only 16% of their newshole. That is far lower than the 42% that mainstream local TV spends on the topic.1
Government news barely cracked the local newscasts we saw on May 11 — only 6% of all coverage. That was less than the government coverage on mainstream local news that night, which weighed in at 9%. But foreign relations was a much bigger part of the Spanish-language newscasts, with just under 15% of the stories. English-language local TV did only about 4% of its stories on the topic.2