National Association of Hispanic Journalists - Parity Project Town Hall Meeting -- by Seán Kinane

12/07/06


Last night at the offices of the Tampa Tribune, The National Association of Hispanic Journalists, or NAHJ, held a town hall meeting to address whether there has been progress in local news coverage of Latino issues since the first meeting two years ago. WMNF’s Seán Kinane has this report.

Members of the community brought up four major issues during the town hall meeting. These were the need to increase the recruitment of Latino journalists from local high schools and colleges; comments about the new Spanish-language weekly newspaper, Centro Tampa; the need for news media to reach out to Latino experts over a range of issues; and the importance of acknowledging that there is a diversity of opinions among the Tampa Cuban community. Former Congressional candidate Al Fox pointed out an example of this using a post-election headline in Centro Tampa.

"I got 2,000 people to vote for me. Aside from 50 people or so in my family, who were those 2000 people? A great deal of them were Cuban Americans. A great deal were Cuban Americans. And Orlando knows that I took issue with the coverage of Election Day results when the headline in the Centro was ‘Cuban Americans celebrate Al Fox’s defeat.’ I took strong exception to that.�

But another person in the audience, Mario Quevedo, said that Al Fox was misquoting the headline.

“No, it was not “Cuban Americans celebrate Mr. Fox’s Defeat� it was “Cuban Exiles� and there is a big difference between Cuban Americans and Cuban Exiles. We feel that the situation in Cuba for the last 47 years has hurt us. We’re Cuban exiles.�



Everyone involved acknowledged that the local media needs to do more to represent all of the different views within the Tampa Cuban community.

The newspaper Centro Tampa was created as a direct result of the first NAHJ town hall meeting here in February 2005, according to Kevin Olivas, The Parity Project Director at NAHJ.

“And a lot of people said in there they wanted to see a Spanish language newspaper that addressed their needs and concerns and kind of gave an overall view, of not only the Latino community here, but abroad as well. That offered news from countries they were either from or were descended from. They also cared about in addition to news they could use that’s here in their area, that not only covers Latinos, but also just daily news that impacts their lives, period.



Olivas said that while Latinos represent 14% of the U.S. population, they make up only 6% of employees of radio and television newsrooms and only 4.5% of those who work in the newsrooms of English-language newspapers. WMNF spoke with Olivas who said that the Parity Project’s goals are to raise those numbers as well as to improve coverage of Latino issues in the community.

“We wanted to help to double the percentage of Latinos [journalists] across the country. But it’s not something that NAHJ as an organization can accomplish on its own; we’re a very small nonprofit group. The Parity Project is intended to serve as a model for the entire journalism industry to follow when it comes to not only improving newsroom diversity when it comes to Latinos and other journalists, of color or based on gender or age or what have you. But also to help them to create even stronger ties than they already have to the Hispanic community.�

If you would like to find out more about the Parity Project, visit the National Association of Hispanic Journalists web site at nahj.org

For WMNF News, I’m Seán Kinane

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