BROOKE GLADSTONE: In the last decade, much of the South has been transformed by a steep rise in the Latino population, most of whom are total newcomers to this country. Media outlets in Texas and South Florida have had many more years to figure out how to reach this emerging community, but in other places, editors and reporters are scrambling people they may not understand. From North Carolina, the state with the fastest-growing Latino population, Leda Hartman reports.
LEDA HARTMAN: Five years ago Julio Granados had a job working at a grocery store in Raleigh. Like many young Mexican immigrants, he was earning money to send back home, and like many, he was here illegally. One day Granados told his story to a reporter from the Raleigh News and Observer. Two weeks after the piece came out, the Immigration and Naturalization Service deported him.
NED GLASCOCK: It was a beautiful story. It just gave too many details.
LEDA HARTMAN: That's Ned Glascock, a News and Observer reporter who remembers the incident well.
NED GLASCOCK: It had a front page Sunday photograph of the young man, where he worked, his full name, the hours that he worked, and people called up the INS and asked them to do their job and, and they obliged.
LEDA HARTMAN: The state's Latino leaders were outraged, while the Latino working class developed a deep distrust of reporters that lasted for years. It's not a newspaper's job to protect illegal immigrants or to get them deported, but the fact that a respected mid-size daily couldn't foresee this story's impact highlights how hard it is to cover an unfamiliar community. Here's how reporter Ned Glascock handled it in Durham.
NED GLASCOCK: I kind of approached it like being a foreign correspondent.
LEDA HARTMAN: Glascock, who speaks Spanish, spent 6 months working on a groundbreaking series that depicted the immigration pipeline from a village in rural Mexico to Durham and the effect that immigration had on both places.
NED GLASCOCK: I thought, well I'm not going to Mexico for this storyline, but I'm going to go to Mexico in Durham, North Carolina. You go in with fresh eyes, you go into a new community and you kind of bring back and tell the old community what it's all about.
LEDA HARTMAN: He got beyond using the usual suspects by knocking on people's doors, gaining their trust, and waiting until he was well into the story before taking out his notebook.
NED GLASCOCK: And in fact the story that I found was one that the leadership didn't really know about. I mean know knew about except the people who were living the life.
LEDA HARTMAN: While Glascock wrote about immigrants in the News and Observer, the Durham Herald Sun wrote directly to them. The paper created a 16 page monthly tabloid in Spanish called "Nuestro Pueblo" with local news, sports, calendar listings and a community resource directory. Its editor, Mark Schultz, hopes Nuestro Pueblo will help draw future readers to the Herald Sun.
MARK SCHULTZ: It is positioning ourselves to better serve the growing Latino community so that when this community is ready to buy and English language newspaper, perhaps there'll be some loyalty there, and my hope, the hope of the company would be that they'd get the Herald Sun.
LEDA HARTMAN: For now, however, most immigrants are not ready to buy a newspaper written in English. In the lobby at "El Mandado," a big new "supermercado" in Raleigh, customers have a choice of half a dozen local Spanish language newspapers. All of them are less than 10 years old. Owner Marco Roldan says customers have been known to complain if the latest issues aren't there.
MARCO ROLDAN: Some of them are so demanding, because they wanted to have the last one. They know already, for example, "La Conexion," they know that it's coming out every week. When they see the old one there, they say, oh, what happened?
LEDA HARTMAN: The Spanish language papers are popular because they're the immigrants' best source of information where to get health care, how to enroll kids in school, the latest on immigration law. The papers are also unabashed advocates for the immigrant community, but it's not just altruism that explains their rise. When it comes to realizing the revenue potential involved in advertising to Latinos, the Spanish language media is way ahead of its mainstream counterparts. [CLIP OF SPANISH LANGUAGE RADIO PLAYS UNDER] "Que Pasa Carolina" [sp?] an aspiring Spanish language media conglomerate is a case in point. Co-owner Jose Isasi has done his share of market research, and it told him to expand his newspaper business into radio because the average Latino immigrant is a young working class man with a 5th grade education --someone who might not read much but who is a heavy radio listener. Now all Isasi needs is numbers -- a big enough audience to attract national advertisers.
JOSE ISASI: Really our long term plan is to have a serious newspaper and radio station from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. in each metropolitan area. We invested because we saw the long term view, okay, we saw that we could do it. Okay, we saw that ah -- it makes sense.
LEDA HARTMAN: It makes sense to the mainstream Winston-Salem Journal too. In fact the paper has formed an alliance with Que Pasa. The Journal prints the Que Pasa newspaper and provides occasional advice. In return, Que Pasa helps the Anglo paper advertise in the Latino community. Journal advertising director Bill Downey [sp?] says the paper would never have gained this kind of entree on its own, but he also says there are limits to the kind of editorial partnering the two companies can have.
BILL DOWNEY: We pride ourselves in the Anglo newspaper business, traditional English speaking newspaper business, as being impartial. I mean we just drum that into everybody --that's what we do. However the Hispanic media does not hold that same value. It's not that they have any less values or anything -- just different values --and they use their media in a different way, especially in this environment when, when they're the underdogs [LAUGHS] -- they're fighting for the 10 percent of the community. So to some degree I find their values admirable. However I would never advocate that we give up our values. So how do you merge those two is a fascinating question.
LEDA HARTMAN: In some communities that question of merging goes beyond the issue of journalistic ethics. In Durham where the Hispanic population jumped from 1600 to 16,000 in the last decade, Blacks and Latinos often compete for housing, jobs and other resources. One effort at easing the friction is a radio program sponsored by the Durham Human Relations Department called "Cinta Dominical" [sp?]. It airs on WNCU, the public radio station of North Carolina's Central University, one of the state's historically black universities. [CLIP FROM CINTA DOMINICAL PLAYS] The program includes local and international news, interviews and music from all over Latin America. It's primarily in Spanish, but sometimes the hosts interview English speakers and translate for them. At first some African-American listeners were upset when the program replaced a jazz show, but co-host Eduardo Perez and co-producer Gerard Farrow say over time the show has helped build connections between all three of Durham's communities -- white, African-American, and Latino.
EDUARDO PEREZ: Sometimes we receive calls from the English speakers just to know, to ask what is the name of that song?
GERARD FARROW: We are reaching out, you know, past just the Spanish-speaking community, and that's, you know, always a good thing when you can kind of bridge communities together. [MUSIC FROM CINTA DOMINICAL PLAYS]
LEDA HARTMAN: That bridge will be crucial in the future. According to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Latinos now comprise less than 4 percent of the nation's newsrooms, even though they're 12 percent of the population. The U.S. Census predicts that by 2050 Latinos will comprise one quarter of the population. Engaging with this emerging community and earning its trust will be one of the mainstream media's pressing challenges. For On the Media, I'm Leda Hartman in Durham, North Carolina.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Leda's report was produced in partnership with the Columbia Journalism Review.
MIKE PESCA: Coming up, Bob Garfield's a little bit country -- very little bit as it turns out.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: This is On the Media from NPR.
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