- Coverage by Spanish-language media of the three issues that matter most to Latinos in the United States has been falling since the beginning of the Trump administration. The group of media outlets studied are devoting less and less coverage to immigration, the cost of healthcare, the labor market and even racism and race relations, an issue of increasing interest among Latinos in the last two years.
- Newspaper articles that in some way address or mention two of the three major issues that concern Latinos most during each election cycle – employment/wages and the cost of healthcare – make up barely more than 1% of all material published monthly by the media outlets analyzed. In terms of percentages, the coverage of these issues decreased by half between 2017 and 2019.
- Immigration, which usually ranks first or second among Spanish-speaking Latinos’ most relevant issues during each election cycle, is the issue among key Latino issues that received the most attention in the news agenda of the media outlets studied during the first three years of the Trump administration, with an average monthly percentage of articles that reached a high of 9.6% in 2017.
- However, since 2017, the monthly percentage of news about immigration in the media outlets studied has decreased by almost half, from 9.6% in 2017 to 6% in 2019, a change that is particularly driven by the decrease in coverage of these issues by local media.
- Coverage by the two large national media outlets in Spanish – Univision and Telemundo – focuses more on immigration issues than that of the group of local media outlets studied. For the latter, an average of 7 out of 100 articles published monthly during the first three years of the Trump administration contained the words “immigration,” “immigrant” or “immigrants” in Spanish. For the combined coverage of Univision and Telemundo, that ratio is 26 articles out of 100 during those three years.
- The big immigration news event that caught the attention of the Spanish-language media during the first three years of the Trump administration was the scandal caused by the unveiling on Monday, June 18, 2018 of audio of undocumented children’s cries while being held in a Border Patrol detention center. That week of June 17, the media outlets studied published 814 articles containing the words “immigrants” or “immigration” (in Spanish), the highest weekly number during the period studied.
- The data suggests that coverage of racism and racial issues in Spanish-language media is more focused on the experience of immigrants and Latinos than on African Americans. For example, in news stories dealing with racism, the word “immigrants” appears almost twice as often as the word “black” and three times as often as the words “African American” (searchable as a single word in Spanish).
- Sexist language was found in the content of some Spanish-language media outlets. An analysis of published stories found 42 articles in which journalists used the term “la señora de____” (___’s lady (wife)) to refer to a woman’s relationship with a man, as well as 117 articles that include the term “la mujer de ___” (___’s woman (wife)) and 108 articles that refer to ¨their women” (wives), a usage that frames women as belonging to men, according to the National Commission for Human Rights of Mexico and the Cervantes Institute´s Guide for Non-Sexist Communication. The study also found 75 articles in which journalists use the term “crime of passion” to report on situations of domestic or gender-based violence, mostly the murder of women.
- We found 358 newspaper articles from 26 Hispanic outlets in which journalists use the expression “illegal immigrants” to refer to undocumented people. This term is considered dehumanizing by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Even in New York City, the Commission for Human Rights prohibited its use when it is used to “degrade, humiliate or harass a person.”
- The image of “immigrants” that is presented by the Spanish-language media is closely tied to their undocumented status. Some of the most common phrases in articles that mention the word “immigrants” are “undocumented immigrants,” “national security,” “detained immigrants” and “Border Patrol.” In the stories analyzed, the phrases “illegal immigrants” and “criminal immigrants” are easier to find than others such as “authorized immigrants,” “immigrant students” or “legal residents.”
- In contrast, when analyzing articles featuring the words “Hispanic” or “Latino/Latina” in Spanish, the media narrative is different, more positive, you could say. Some of the most frequent phrases in these stories are “Hispanic voters,” “united Hispanics,” “Hispanic students” or “Hispanic workers.” In the case of Latinos, some of the most frequent uses are “Latino voters,” “united Latinos” and “Latino artists.”
- The term “Latinx” to refer to Latino people or issues is hardly used in the Spanish-language media – we detected 189 articles in three years – although its use has grown. In most cases, the word appears as part of a statement from some source or in reference to the name of organizations or events.
- Although in general, the volume of articles that mention political parties decreased between 2017 and 2019, the data indicates that – at least until the beginning of 2020 – the Hispanic media have been paying more attention to the Democratic Party than to the Republican Party, especially since November 2018 – when midterm elections were held – and as we move into this election year. In the first three weeks of January 2020, the average of articles mentioning Democrats was 7.61% compared to 6.56% of articles mentioning Republicans.
- Eight of every 100 digital articles published by media outlets over the time period in the study come from international news agencies or rely on their information. However, the percentage of agency material decreased almost 3 percentage points during 2019.
In the face of declining coverage of the main issues of interest to Latinos, it is difficult to know which issues are taking their place on the media’s agenda, or if any news event really makes a difference in the overall figures. The changes may well be a function of the changing nature of news, which define newsrooms’ work agenda week to week.
For example, the average monthly percentage of news items that address drug trafficking and drug cartels, remained practically the same over these three years (1.73% in 2017 and 1.64% in 2019). But the percentage of news stories about Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán doubled – the drug trafficker was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2019. Similarly, the average percentage of monthly articles that mention Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro went from 1.86% in 2017 to 2.41% in 2019.
The same phenomenon can be seen with regards to articles that mention “Jennifer López” or the Univision entertainment program “El Gordo y La Flaca.” In both cases, the monthly average of coverage almost doubled, although none of these issues make up 1% of all the content published by the media outlets studied.