Joaquin Castro sounds the alarm on Latino media underrepresentation
“American media has incredible power to affect cultural change — and Latinos are counting on the industry to use that,” the Democratic congressman from Texas said.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas said he observed corporate media organizations respond to the panic and crisis of conscience the tragedy caused by extending more Black journalists a seat at the table.
And while the congressman acknowledges there’s much more work to do to ensure racial equity for Black people, a concession that yours truly agrees with, he’s also on a mission to make sure Latino reporters are no longer left behind either.
Castro spoke about this issue on Wednesday morning during an event at the National Press Club where he released the results of a new federal report on Latino underrepresentation and discussed how the public and private sectors can work together to level the playing field — without a Floyd-like tragedy within the Latino community occurring first.
“We need the media industry to understand that this is a foundational issue for Latinos and for the country at large,” Castro said. “Latinos can no longer afford to be sidelined by the media industry and afford to be invisible because of their decisions.”
Brenda Castillo, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, said in a statement to Supercreator that media outlets have a responsibility to ensure proportional and fair representation of the [Latinx] community.
“In a world of widespread Spanish-language misinformation, we rely on journalists to tell the truth, bring attention to communities that are typically sidelined in the public discourse and safeguard our democracy,” Castillo added. “[Latinx] communities deserve honest reporting — now more than ever. It’s time for media outlets to step up and report it to them.”
The report, the second installment of a Government Accountability Office review, found that Hispanic workers were underrepresented in the media industry compared to their representation in the rest of the workforce from 2019 through 2019, with Hispanic women experiencing the brunt of this chronic underrepresentation. And for Hispanic people who do work in media, the GAO found that they’re significantly more likely to work in service roles.
The same barriers to entry other marginalized groups encounter are at play here as well, including racial and gender wage gaps, limited access to professional networks, difficulty meeting requirements for union membership, and a lack of diversity among talent agents, media executives and other decision-makers.
Castro argued that despite Latinos making up 20 percent of America, empowering stories about the community have been systematically excluded from Hollywood and the American media.
“Latinos are missing from the movies we watch, the textbooks our children read, and the mass heads of the newspapers that shape how Americans see their communities and how they see the world,” he said. “As a result, it's clear that our fellow Americans simply don't know who Latinos are, not only because of American media, but I believe, partly because of American media.”
The congressman pointed to a study from researchers at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School that found just 3.5 percent of lead roles in across 1,300 top-grossing films from 2007 to 2019 went to Hispanic or Latino actors to make his point.
“This marks a kind of invisibility in American society. In more than 40 percent of these films — and keep in mind that these are the box-office winners that most Americans see — there were no Latino characters at all,” he said. “In other words, a whole community that represents almost 20 percent of the country didn’t even exist in those films.”
This invisibility, Castro said, helps create a black hole where stereotypes and bigotry can fester.
“Think about what that means for our community: So if you’re growing up in a small town or even in a big city without many Latinos and the only ones you see on screen are criminals, imagine how that shapes your worldview and what you think of that community.”
This empathy gap extends to our political discourse too, as we voters are inundated with attack ads ahead of the midterm elections in less than five weeks.
Castro said that negative ads of Latinos being criminals, convicts, gang members or drug-runners can help sear an impression of a candidate or a community over time.
“That’s why candidates run for two weeks or four weeks or six weeks the same negative ads over and over,” he said. “I would compare those political ads and the negativity to what Hollywood has done for generations to Latinos. There is an effect over time on the audience of that kind of delivery.”
The federal government isn’t helpless in shifting this landscape. Agencies can use tools including investigations into allegations of discrimination, compliance evaluations and random audits to enforce equal opportunity and promote diversity in the media industry.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed 24 discrimination charges based on Hispanic national origin involving media companies in fiscal years 2020-2021, according to the GOA report. (EEOC asserts this might be an undercount of such cases and did not issue findings of discrimination in any of the cases; 5 of these cases were resolved for monetary benefits before an investigation was completed.)
Of the 712 compliance evaluations of media companies conducted in the years 2010-2021, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, OFCCP found inadequate recruitment efforts, failure to comply with recordkeeping requirements, and failure to maintain a written affirmative action program in 13 percent of evaluations. (No violations were found in about 85 percent of the evaluations and OFCCP found discrimination violations related to issues such as salary, hiring, and termination in 2 percent of the evaluations.)
And In 2020, the Federal Communications Commission audited four percent of its licensed broadcast stations and five percent of its registered cable/satellite television operators. The agency took enforcement actions against 14 media companies to address non-compliance with their equal employment opportunity rules from 2020-2021 and found 12 companies were willfully and repeatedly violating FCC’s EEO rules and proposed financial penalties ranging from $5,000 to $20,000.
Personal experience tells me that colleges and universities can be forces for good on this issue too. My student newspaper gave me a shot to be an editor and my professors empowered my ambitions when I had little evidence that I could ever become a fashion journalist and parlay that experience into political reporting.
I asked Rep. Castro how the federal government could empower journalism schools to prepare the next generation of journalists that includes Latino reporters but a spokesperson for the congressman said was traveling home to San Antonio and unable to respond to my request for comment.
It was hard not to notice that most of Castro’s remarks were focused on corporate media. Although independent media isn’t for every reporter, this newsletter is a demonstration of the path to decision-making power and editorial freedom that publications free of influence by government or corporate interests can offer to Black and brown journalists. Even further, they can also offer corporate news organizations a model on how to cover stories of consequence to historically overlooked communities. (I asked Castro for his thoughts on this too in my follow-up to his office and will keep you posted if I hear back.)
The GAO made several recommendations for the federal government to improve equal opportunity compliance and Castro said he hopes the report will receive the cooperation of American labor unions and federal agencies.
He added that his office is sending a letter to the FCC and EEOC to ask them to move swiftly to execute the recommendations and work with colleagues like Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and David Cicilline of Rhode Island to urge regulators to carefully consider how proposed media mergers can impact the Latino community.
“The media industry has the ability to help change the way that Americans see and appreciate the country’s growing Latino community,” Castro said. “American media has incredible power to affect cultural change — and Latinos are counting on the industry to use that.”
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Today is Wednesday, October 5. Welcome to Supercreator, your guide to the politicians, power brokers and policies shaping how creative professionals work and live in the new economy. Send me tips, comments and questions — or say hi: email@example.com.
TODAY IN POLITICS
President Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden traveled to Fort Myers, Florida to survey the damage from Hurricane Ian in a helicopter this afternoon before receiving an operational briefing from federal, local and state officials on the current response and recovery. The Bidens also met with small business owners and local residents impacted by the hurricane and thanked officials for their role in the initial rebuilding efforts. President Biden gave a speech about his commitment to support Floridians. The Bidens are on their way back to the White House now.
Vice President Harris this morning traveled to New Britain, Connecticut to join a reproductive rights conversation moderated by Democratic Rep. Jahana Hayes of Connecticut and Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The president is on her way back to Washington, DC.
The House and Senate are out.
Supercreator is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a paid subscriber.
Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georiga and Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota introduced a bill to allow veterans enrolled in Veterans Affairs care to obtain copay-free mental health and substance abuse care for their first three outpatient visits each year. Currently, many veterans must pay out of pocket for outpatient mental health or substance abuse services when seeking treatment through the VA. Read the bill text
President Biden was complimentary of how Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, one of his fiercest critics, has handled the response to Hurricane Ian. “I think he’s done a good job. Look I called him — I think even before he called me, when I heard this storm was on it’s way,” Biden told reporters after receiving a briefing on the recovery efforts. “We worked hand in glove, we have very different political philosophies, but we worked hand in glove. And he’s been on things related to dealing with this crisis, we’ve been completely lockstep. There’s been no difference.”
President Biden said that he was told on Air Force One on the way down that residents are waiting for hours on the phone to get help. “We’re going to try to speed that up by having additional personnel,” he said while also asking Floridians to have patience as they wait to see what assistance is available to them.
Related: President Biden also amended the state’s disaster declaration. The order extends the time period for 100 percent federal funding for debris removal and emergency protective measures from 30 days to 60 days. Read the declaration
The White House announced new efforts to protect student loan borrowers from scammers. Among the actions: Releasing a new list of dos and don’ts borrowers should and should not take as the administration prepares to release the student debt relief application this month and empowering state attorneys general to act quickly by sending cease and desist letters to scammers targeting borrowers in their states. Read the dos and don’ts … Read the fact sheet
The White House announced a three-pronged strategy to recruit, respect and retain teachers and other school staff to mark World Teachers’ Day. The strategy includes obvious actions paying educators competitive salaries, improving working conditions and high-quality pathways to teaching. Read the fact sheet
Related: The Education Department announced $110 million in awards for programs focused on equity and accessibility for students. The awards are designed to help develop and revitalize magnet schools with academically challenging and innovative instructional approaches designed to bring together students from different social, economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. Read the announcement
The Environmental Protection Agency announced a new effort to implement a streamlined risk assessment and mitigation process for new chemicals with applications in batteries, electric vehicles, semiconductors and renewable energy generation. Under the Toxic Substances Control Act, the New Chemicals Program reviews all new chemical substances before they enter the marketplace to bring innovative chemistries to market without harming human health or the environment. Read the announcement
The Justice Department announced almost $100 million in awards to reduce recidivism and support adults and youths in successfully returning to their communities after a period of confinement. The grants will support a wide range of services for people who come into contact with the criminal and juvenile justice systems and for those leaving prisons, jails and youth confinement facilities. Read the announcement
Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes raised more than $20 million in the latest fundraising quarter for his campaign for US Senate. Despite taking no corporate money from PACs, the third quarter was the campaign’s strongest fundraising quarter on record on the strength of half a million individual donations. Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is leading Barnes by less than two percentage points in the latest poll conducted by FiveThirtyEight.
Roughly four-in-ten Americans say none of their purchases in a typical week are paid for using cash, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. This is up from 29 percent in 2018 and 24 percent in 2015 and shows how more Americans are joining the cashless economy. Read the survey
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Rita Omokha on the pain and glory of Democratic Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri
Alexander Sammon on Rep. Henry Cuellar, the last anti-abortion congressional Democrat
Walter Shapiro on if political ads even work
Janna Mandell on why beauty experts are fed up with celebrities cashing in on skincare
Chris Crowley on why restaurant workers are dining out less
Yasmin Tayag on why papayas are so hard to buy in American grocery stores