On Thursday, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) issued the following media statement:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Hugo Balta of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) strongly condemns the manner in which Latinos are represented in ongoing news coverage. Repeatedly, news outlets structure stories of crimes and injustices to emphasize the immigration status, ethnicity and race of the suspected party.
Coverage surrounding the tragic murder of Mollie Tibbetts is the most recent example to demonstrate another instance when immigration status is published first and foremost, while numerous research studies and statistics show evidence that native-born Americans commit crimes at higher rates than immigrants. In a recent editorial by Latino Rebels, ‘Double Standard of How Media Outlets Cover Murders,’ showcase the comparison between Tibbetts and the murder of a Colorado family, two current national stories.
More often than not the majority of the crime stories released by major news outlets recognize in the headline or lede paragraphs the race and citizenship status of the suspect. While information from these trusted news sources may be true, this is an inaccurate representation of an entire community. The race and immigration status of these individual’s do not play a role in the motivation for the crime and is irrelevant for the part of their identity to be tied in with the crime committed.
“It is disheartening to see the issue of how our community is portrayed in the news,” said Hugo Balta, NAHJ President. “We recognize that the most effective way to ensure the integrity of coverage is to have more Latinos involved in the reporting process.”
The gaping discrepancy for how undocumented immigrants versus white U.S. citizens are represented in the media is clear, as white subjects of stories often do not have their background investigated. Minorities and their citizenship status are certainly considered and this background is published first and foremost to convict a suspect in the eyes of the community before being thoroughly investigated. By meshing the names and the undocumented immigrant status together in the suspect’s identity, the press is limiting the public’s perception of this person. The subject’s immigration status is irrelevant to the crime that was committed and by referencing the two in conjunction; the press is condemning an entire community of crimes that an individual committed.
NAHJ condemns this representation of the Latino community from our fellow newsrooms. As always, NAHJ has great pride and respect for the work that journalists do, but is disappointed to see this matter arising continuously.