WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) is dismayed by the blatant mistreatment of three Latina journalists at 9News. In a recent article by Lori Lizarraga, Lizarraga shares that three Latina reporters, herself included, were dismissed by 9News in the past year. More disturbing, Lizarraga shared personal examples of discrimination in the newsroom during her short tenure.
Lizarraga describes the newsroom’s use of loaded terminology and the station’s managers mandate that she use “here illegally” or “illegally in the country” instead of “undocumented” to describe a young man in a story she reported. Lizarraga voiced her concerns to her managers, explaining that the verbiage could discourage the Latino and/or immigrant communities from sharing their stories with the news station. Management reminded her that those were 9News guidelines. This is an example of why NAHJ has strongly advocated for the use of accurate terminology, and NAHJ’s Cultural Competence Handbook outlines standards for creating a fair narrative when covering immigration.
Lizarraga’s experience at 9News was not an isolated case. In her first-person article, she shares an incident where Sonia Gutierrez, another Latina reporter terminated by 9News, was not allowed by management to cover immigration unless she disclosed her own immigration status on air first. These instances of discrimination are deeply concerning, and indicate how 9News has failed to foster productive conversations to consider and incorporate the perspective of journalists of color into the station’s coverage. Newsrooms, like 9News, make an effort to hire diverse talent to cover local news but fail to listen to those voices and adapt coverage based on that expertise. And this has ultimately resulted in a shallow attempt to parade ethnicity on air rather than a sincere effort to diversify coverage. In her piece, Lizarraga argued that she and her two Latina colleagues weren’t just dismissed because they were “not up to 9News standards.” Based on her written account, it appears their dismissals occurred because of an unrealistic double standard that discriminated against the Latina journalists based on their race/ethnicity, and because management refused to embrace the reporters’ expertise and knowledge.
“NAHJ is deeply troubled by the treatment that Lizarraga and her colleagues have described, and we are requesting to meet with TEGNA,” said NAHJ President Nora López.
The parent company of 9News and one of the largest TV operators in the United States, to address the situation. In addition, NAHJ will be requesting a diversity and inclusion report from TEGNA leadership that outlines how many Latino news leaders and journalists work for the company in Denver and across the country at TEGNA stations.
About the NAHJ
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists is the largest organization of Latino journalists in the United States and dedicated to the recognition and professional advancement of Hispanics in the news industry. The mission of NAHJ is to increase the number of Latinos in the newsrooms and to work toward fair and accurate representation of Latinos in the news media. Established in April 1984, NAHJ created a national voice and unified vision for all Hispanic journalists. NAHJ has over 3,300 members, including working journalists, journalism students, other media-related professionals, and journalism educators. For more information please visit NAHJ.org or follow on Twitter @NAHJ.