The media coverage that accompanies presidential politics is growing in its dialect as Spanish-language outlets promise a bigger impact on the electorate than ever before. With a record 28 million Latino voters estimated to take part in next year’s elections, Spanish-language news and information outlets force the issues central to their audiences.
While mainstream, anglo-centric media might focus on health care, unemployment and the nation’s economy, leaders within Spanish-language outlets say coverage of those issues central to Latinos is left to them. Dominant among these issues is immigration.
In a recent Los Angeles Times story, Spanish-language newspaper publishing company ImpreMedia vice president of content, Juan Varela, put it this way, “We try to amplify the issues that maybe the mainstream media is not covering. We have more responsibility than other journalists. We are a part of this community, and we have a responsibility to support our people and to help to integrate them.
The point Varela’s makes is easily substantiated. For example, in a recent Spanish-language television show appearance, Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley discussed his proposals to help the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. While the undocumented immigrant issue was the sole issue O’Malley discussed during the Spanish-language show appearance, ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos didn’t bring up the topic of immigration at all in his interview with the candidate.
“If the Spanish-language media has five minutes to talk to a presidential candidate about anything, they will talk about immigration,” said Gabriela Domenzain, a former Univision producer who now acts as an advisor on the O’Malley campaign.
Jorge Ramos, a Univision anchor and perhaps the most prominent face within Latin media, is unequivocal in his defense of the heavy emphasis on Hispanic issues. In response to accusations of heavy Latino bias in his news coverage—accusations most prominently levied by Republicans—Ramos published an open letter to GOP detractors.
“The Republican Party has been complaining lately about how some Latino journalists, including me, only ask them about immigration,” he said. “That is correct, but what Republicans don’t understand is that for us, the immigration issue is the most pressing symbolically and emotionally, and the stance a politician takes on this defines whether he is with us or against us.”