Duty of Spanish Language Media to Voters

October 25th, 2010 · 12 Comments

By Cristina Villarreal

My grandparents were both born and raised in the United States.  They both speak English, but when they watch the news, they watch the news and most of their television in Spanish.  Even though they speak English they are more comfortable with Spanish.  My grandfather says he understands it better.  Spanish language television is their main source of information and news, which makes it very difficult for them to be educated voters if the Spanish news is not covering campaign races.

In Chicago, Univision and other television stations have both complained about being shorthanded on staff.  They are so shorthanded that Univision has stated they are only covering the Senate Race, the Governor’s race, and the County Board President race.  This means that there are many state and county wide candidates that Spanish-speaking voters, like my grandparents, will know nothing about.

During these difficult times, when our state is struggling with budget issues, the Treasurer and Comptroller race, are extremely important to all people, but especially Latinos.  Univision has decided not to cover these races, like Robin Kelly running for Illinois State Treasurer.  In fact, Ms. Kelly’s race is important for another reason; her opponent Dan Rutherford has received $125,000 from Jimmy Johns Founder James Liautaud.  Rutherford and Liautaud have an interest in keeping minimum wage down, Liautaud for his fast sandwich business and Rutherford has voted against minimum wage increases as a state senator since it was $5.15 an hour.

But what is more telling about this contribution is that Liautaud’s Jimmy Johns has contributed to “Sheriff Command Association,” which ran a smear campaign that helped re-elect Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  Arpaio is the anti-immigrant Sheriff from Arizona who encouraged the pushing of AZ SB 1070, the controversial Arizona immigration law that allowed for racial profiling, and is being sued by the U.S. Justice Department for refusing to cooperate with an investigation into allegations of discrimination against Latinos.  If the Latino media does not cover this, then how will people know about the candidates?  Who will hold the candidate accountable for expressing his or her views on immigration and other issues facing our communities?  How will Spanish-speaking Latinos get informed on this race?  When they head to the polls on November 2nd they will be missing critical information if the Spanish media does not step up to the plate.

Another race Univision has yet to cover is the Cook County Assessor’s race.  Joe Berrios was the first Latino elected to the Illinois General Assembly.  He currently sits on the Board of Review, and is also the first Latino to serve as Chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party.  If elected in November he will be the first Latino to serve as Cook County Assessor.  This is a huge stride for the Latino community.  Berrios has promised that as the next assessor he will work hard to reach out to the special needs of the Latino neighborhoods when assessing properties.

Berrios held a press conference earlier this month where two dozen Latino elected officials including Congressman Luis Gutierrez endorsed him for Cook County Assessor, and yet it was not covered by Univision.  This is a race Latinos should care about, but has yet to get the Latino press coverage it deserves.

While I can understand the dilemma of cutting back and a shortage of staff, there are some things that cannot be sacrificed.  Spanish media outlets have a duty to help educate Latino voters on candidates.  I feel all news should be unbiased and informative, but Spanish media outlets have a much greater duty to provide this service, because there is less competition. In addition, viewers, readers, and listeners are more reliant on the information these sources provide them with.  I also believe that if there is more coverage of these races, candidates on all sides will have to make a stronger effort to reach out the Latino community, and therefore making them more accountable for their actions once they are in office.

Informed voters can also mean a little more excitement about the midterm elections.  Latinos are known for not participating in midterm elections, but this can change with informed options and inspiration to get out and make a difference.  The Spanish media is a great resource for reaching these voters and creating an opportunity to inspire.  Especially this year, where Latinos definitely have the opportunity to make a difference in the midterm elections.

My grandparents have a lot to lose, but even more to gain in this election.  They deserve to know the candidates who are getting their votes.

Photo Credit: Cristina Villarreal, Latino elected officials

Cristina Villarreal is a guest blogger from Being Latino writing from Chicago, Illinois.

Tags: Civil Rights · Immigration · Media · Rep. Luis Gutierrez · Univision

12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lance // Oct 26, 2010 at 5:53 am

    Great piece Xtina!

  • 2 IE // Oct 26, 2010 at 7:49 am

    Yes, Great Piece. Glad to have Being Latino onboard.

  • 3 RAMON // Oct 26, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Could this lack of coverage be due to Univision’s support of the republican party?

  • 4 Anna // Oct 26, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Do the voters have a duty? Nobody should rely on one station/outlet to proivide them with all of their news. Wtuh all of the resources available today, it’s pathetic that so many Latinos depend on Univision for everything.

  • 5 Bullhorn among the deaf // Oct 26, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    What is the point in bothering to vote for candidates in the U.S. anyway? Issues on the ballot I can understand taking the time to vote for or against for example if you live in California there’s a reason to vote for Proposition 19 if for nothing else to further expose the Obama administration as reactionary by its response to its passage. But for actual candidates? Total waste of time.

    After the Dems swept into power in Congress in the 2006 midterms on a platform of “Vote for us if you want to end the war in Iraq” and then refused to actually do anything to, you know, end the war in Iraq like cutting off funding for it by refusing to vote on supplementals that should have told anybody with common sense that they’ve been bamboozled. After Obama gets elected as a supposed “change agent” and despite a Dem majority Senate and House gives the American people a health care “reform” bill written by the big insurance companies and Big Pharma; after giving us a Wall Street “reform” bill written by Wall Street that does nothing to prevent their casino-like behavior; after getting a Nobel Peace Prize then immediately escalating the gas pipeline war in Afghanistan; after promising us a government of accountability then adamantly refusing to have his attorney general go after the war criminals Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice, as apparantly accountability for torture, for the mainstreaming of police state measures with the Patriot Act and the starting of a war of aggression isn’t worthy of examining as he’s “moving forward, not looking backward”; as Obama has enshrined these police state measures and expanded upon them; and as Obama’s surrounded himself with an administration made up of ruling class pukes from the Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg Group and A.I.P.A.C. what can a sensible, informed person conclude but that it is an exercise in futility to go out and vote? Why bother when all the wealthy ruling elite will allow us to vote for are obvious conservatives and thinly-disguised conservatives? That’s as undemocratic as Saddam Hussein’s elections but with somewhat more sophistication.
    Unless private money is taken completely out of political campaigns with each candidate instead getting an equal (but small) amount of public funding with campaigns lasting a couple months instead of a couple years the system will continue to be as artificial as professional wrestling. Candidates will continue to be nothing more than puppets of their wealthy corporate backers, answering to them instead of the average people of this country. Face it America: You don’t have a democracy. What you have is a dog & pony show every few years, designed to make you think you have a say in what kind of government governs you. It is painfully obvious that you don’t.

  • 6 Chicano future tense // Oct 26, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Duty of Spanish Language Media to Voters
    Duty of English Language Media to Voters
    Same thing..same problems-
    Corporate media giants controlling and shaping the flow of information-news,commentary etc etc..
    I agree wholeheartedly with Cristina Villarreal that Spanish language media is not optimally fulfilling an assumed duty of informing the Latino public to matters relating to politics and government.She is 100% correct.
    But IMHO,I believe it is very naive to expect Spanish language media conglomerates such as Univision to prioritize a duty of serving the Latino population.This simply is out of touch with reality.
    In the real world the duty of corporate media is to make money..lots of much money as they can…
    Their duty in reality goes to the owners, the board of directors,shareholders to make profits.
    Univision, and all the major media outlets English as well as Spanish all operate on this basis.Ultimately,it’s the the owners who shape the news editorially through issuing their directives and orders to their hired help to shape the news to fit what and how they think.
    Univision will in another decade be the largest TV network in the USA (maybe..
    assuming no mass deportations of millions of undocumented workers in the next decade).
    Do not expect MSM spanish or english to be “fair and balanced” as they will like Fox or any of the other networks become vehicles for the ideological and political outlook and views of their owners.
    In the case of Univision-the Haim Saban group,Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners Inc.,Texas Pacific Group, and Thomas H. Lee Partners LP. and most recently Televisa in partnership with NBC bought in with a 5% stake.
    95% of Univision is owned controlled and run by non-Latino corporations and holdings whose main objective is to make profits off the Spanish speaking peoples-not serving the needs of Latinos.
    All recent statistical studies and research indicate overall that Latinos are in fact sinking to the bottom of society…becoming increasing poverty stricken,unemployed,sick,plagued by record home foreclosures,rampant crime,inferior quality of education,health care and a whole host of other social indicators.
    We should never ever forget that mainstream corporate based Spanish language media operates the same way as English language media does.Latinos not only have large corporate media controlling information,but also on the lower rungs fellow Latinos who are in on the feeding frenzy to make a buck off of Latinos.Don’t ever,ever assume that a Latino media or marketing talking head who is spanish speaking is always out for the good of their people.
    The fact is there are legions-armies of Latino marketers involved in phony marketing/multi-level marketing schemes to sell Latinos more ofen then not useless crap,frivolous and in many cases harmful products to other Latinos.
    This is a time when Latinos sinking fast into poverty and down into an economic abyss should hold on to every penny of their hard earned money and take care of the vital necessities of life such as nutritious foods,illness prevention,education and other equally important real needs.Latino marketers large and small have a goal..make money off of Latinos..and make more money off of selling Latinos things they don’t really need..they are in fact cynically creating a a whole host of false needs for the purposes of making money.
    They in many cases are just hustlers -petty opportunists who even though they just happen to speak Spanish and be Latino…are still hustlers out to make a buck irregardless the well-being of Latinos.
    I think what is extremely important and a should be our goal-course of action for Latinos is to eventually ween Latinos off of mainstream media news and marketing,instead,hopefully through the younger generation..the sons,daughters,family etc etc who are more active in the internet will inform them of alternative points of views and news they are reading from Blogs such as LPB and others as well,which often contradict and go against the current and content of what MSM is feeding Latinos.
    The closest Latinos will get to getting real news and information will be from the Internet and specifically-the Latino Blogosphere.We need to push hard to get Latinos off the MSM addiction and onto the Internet and Blogosphere.
    Democracy and the struggle towards self-determination for Latinos will be NOT found in the MSM or Latino marketing hustlers..BUT rather on the Internet and Latino/Blogosphere..
    They will,I can confidently predict,gradually erode and reduce the stranglehold MSM Spanish and English has had over Latino hearts and minds.Latinos need to develop a healthy scepticism and suspicion of MSM and Latino marketers.
    Personally,I Don’t believe a damn thing almost all of what they say.
    My personal advice to Latinos..don’t believe them,don’t trust them..all they want to do is get into your pocketbooks and take your money.Period.

  • 7 Univision wears rose colored glasses of huge profits « Chicano future tense // Oct 26, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    […] […]

  • 8 Anna // Oct 26, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Re: “The fact is there are legions-armies of Latino marketers involved in phony marketing/multi-level marketing schemes”

    Like Cecelia Iglesias. The Republican who is running as an Independent in the Sanchez/ Tran race. She’s there to siphon votes from Sanchez, which will help Van Tran. You know a certain percentage of fools will fall for it and vote for Iglesias.

  • 9 C. // Oct 26, 2010 at 7:28 pm


    “it’s pathetic that so many Latinos depend on Univision for everything.”

    what about older voters who cannot read. For many of them Spanish news is their ONLY source (even if not by choice).

  • 10 Chicano future tense // Oct 27, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    @ C.
    “what about older voters who cannot read. For many of them Spanish news is their ONLY source (even if not by choice).”

    Thank you for bringing up a good point..
    The literacy rate in Mexico is somewhere between 91 and 96%. Now, if we consider that 67% of the Hispanics in this country come from Mexico, then, isn’t it fair to assume that the literacy level of that population is between 91 and 96%?
    So,even though more than 9 out of 10 Latinos can read.It is still very important for all of us to be concerned and recognize -deal with the problem of Latino literacy.
    I believe that we Latinos should constantly apply political pressure on government at every level to provide more funds and mechanisms for Latino adult literacy.We want our tax money to improve the lives of our people rather than spending trillions on bombs and machines of mass destruction being used in wars fought for the benefit of corporate america,miltary contractors like Blackwater etc etc -and all the rest of the miltary-industrial complex.
    Another thing we Latinos can do is take a page from the civil right struggles during the era of the 60’s when blacks had alarmingly high rates of illiteracy and were prohibited from voting in many areas of the south for that reason.As a response,black organizations and activists and other progressive activists united to teach poor illiterate blacks how to read.Because of their efforts blacks now are significantly ahead of Latinos in both literacy and education.
    We Latinos need to step up to the plate and show what we are made of..
    We should all do something..volunteer for teaching folks how to read..every community has somewhere you can set up classes for literacy improvement..just do it..

  • 11 BettyM // Oct 27, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    This article reinforces what my very smart young daughter tells me all the time – get your information from a variety of sources.

  • 12 Anna // Oct 27, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Chicano Future Tense: I would be very wary of any statistics involving Latinos. Most of them come from the Pew Hispanic center, which isn’t run by Hispanics. Furthermore, they have no Mexican-Americans on their staff. As usual, we have other people defining who we are. For instance their bogus report saying that we aren’t going to vote.

    Also, they get their numbers from the census, and as somebody who has worked for the census, I can tell you that the more educated and assimilated a Mexican-American person is, the more likely he is to mark “Latino” or Hispanic” and not mark a country of origin. I saw this repeatedly. They want to differentiate themselves from immigrants.

    Blocks of Mexican-American people would yield several different labels for ethnicity. So I wouldn’t take any of these stats as gospel. They’re no good.

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