BROOKE GLADSTONE: From WNYC in New York, this is On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I’m Bob Garfield. I’m not gonna lie. We don’t talk much about Hispanic media, and though we’re devoting this hour to this sprawling and politically pivotal universe hiding in plain sight of much of the Anglo world, we know we’ll barely scratch the surface. No doubt you’re aware of the myriad TV shows, blogs and video games.
[SPANISH-LANGUAGE CLIP: Advertisement: "Con Grand Theft Auto Cinco, Rock Star ha intentado reinventar..."]
The Spanish language political ads.
[BARACK OBAMA: "Soy Barack Obama is yo apruebo este mensaje."]
And presidential forums.
[FEMALE MODERATOR SPEAKING SPANISH: "Mientras le damos la bienvenida al President Obama --"]
MAN: And Governor Romney.
[FEMALE MODERATOR SPEAKING SPANISH] " -- y al Gobernador Romney." [AUDIENCE APPLAUSE/CHEERS]
BOB GARFIELD: But did you know that two years ago Fox created MundoFOX for the US audience, in Spanish.
[WOMAN SINGING IN SPANISH]
Or that the Super Bowl was broadcast domestically last year in Spanish, for the first time.
[SUPER BOWL/SPANISH SOUNDTRACK]
There have been Spanish-language media in the US pretty much since the nation was founded, but we in the Anglo media rarely talk about it because, well, we literally don’t understand it, at our peril, as Mexican actor Diego Luna told Conan O’Brien.
DIEGO LUNA: Do you speak Spanish?
CONAN O’BRIEN: Yes, I, I – un pocito, yo habla Espanol. Is importante…
[AUDIENCE RESPONSE/HOOTS, AUDIENCE]
[SPANISH] But anyway, I could go on and on but I don’t.
DIEGO LUNA: The thing is if you, if you – if you want to keep your job in this network, you’re gonna have to learn Spanish.
You know, there’s like a –
CONAN O’BRIEN: Yes, ‘cause the country, it’s all changing over, yes.
DIEGO LUNA: Forty-seven million people speak Spanish today, and we like having sex. So multiply that for eight in 10 years.
BOB GARFIELD: But while Latino-oriented programming is where the action is, it’s not necessarily Spanish-language programming. Mark Hugo Lopez, of the Pew Research Center's Hispanic Trends Project, is co-author of a report on how, quote, "a growing share of Latinos get their news in English.”
MARK HUGO LOPEZ: Many of those young Latinos who grew up here speak English or speak English more often than they do Spanish, or are bilingual, and when it comes to consumption of things like television or music will tend to do about half-and-half in English and Spanish.
BOB GARFIELD: ABC and Univision probably were mulling those demographics when they decided to launch Fusion last October, originally billed as a new network expressly for English-speaking Hispanic Millennials.
MAN: What if?
WOMAN: What if?
WOMAN: What if?
MAN: What if.
WOMAN: What if?
WOMAN: What if we could reach and serve the fastest-growing population in the United States in a whole new way?
MAN: A 24-hour resource that truly understands and serves their lives in English.
BOB GARFIELD: Fusion’s approach changed a bit when it learned more about young Latinos, but more on that later. The point is the push towards Hispanic media in English already is well underway. Nouveau TV, now with Jennifer Lopez as a partner, launched a decade ago as a Latino enterprise in English. In 2001, NBC created the Telemundo offshoot cable channel called mun2, programmed in both languages, which capitalizes on the crossover appeal of reality TV shows, soccer and music videos.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: As for news, we should note that Pew found that 68% of bilingual Hispanics say that both English and Spanish language news organizations get the facts straight. Fox News Latino has scored a relative success in English, perhaps because its tone on certain stories differs from that of its mother network. For instance, in reporting the story of the wave of undocumented children crossing the border, the Fox News Channel used words like “whining” to describe the immigrants, whereas Fox News Latino described the immigrants as being held in conditions that were, quote, “alarming, shocking and overcrowded.”
JULIO RICARDO VARELA: I have friends in every organization and we talk about this all the time, is like how do you deal with that dichotomy.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Julio Ricardo Varela, of the popular website Latino Rebels.
JULIO RICARDO VARELA: But say what you want about Fox News and Fox News Latino, they actually were the first ones to create this and they’re actually a pretty viable web property.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And they are in English.
JULIO RICARDO VARELA: They are in English. The other one that people should look at is Huff Post’s Latino Voices.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Mm-hmm.
JULIO RICARDO VARELA: So Huff Post Latino Voices has a really good solid staff of young dynamic Huff Post people. Another property that’s doing some very interesting work is BuzzFeed. They’re starting to diversify their staff, and they’ve decided to say, we’re going to focus on certain, you know, underreported stories and we’re gonna go that route. So everyone’s approaching this differently but no one's really, you know, the trailblazer right now.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: But even as these new efforts strive for relevance, mainstream news coverage of Hispanic issues is notable, says Varela, for its cluelessness, which is why Varela and the Latino Rebels’ blog make a point of documenting embarrassing media or marketing failures with a phrase - that we just can't say on the air.
JULIO RICARDO VARELA: Literally, it means do not – I don’t even know if I can say “suck.”
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Yeah.
JULIO RICARDO VARELA: But, but that’s what it is. It is cruder but it is a cultural expression that is actually quite universal-
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Mm-hmm. [AFFIRMATIVE]
JULIO RICARDO VARELA: - in the sense that no matter where you come from in Latin America, there might be a variation of it.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Yeah, Conan couldn’t even say it on his show. [CLIP]:
CONAN O’BRIEN: Okay, so I’m curious, Diego, what is a – what’s a phrase you – I should learn, if I’m going to exist?
DIEGO LUNA: You want to survive in the future in this country –
CONAN O’BRIEN: Yeah –
DIEGO LUNA: - you have to know No Mames –
- which is an expression. [BLEEPS]
CONAN O’BRIEN: What does that mean?
DIEGO LUNA: I mean, it literally means “do not suck.”
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So we’re determined not to suck in this hour on Hispanic media. Rule number 1, says Varela, is to be wary of putting all Hispanics into one category. Do not assume that every Latino eats tacos. Sounds easy enough, but maybe not for Fox & Friends, on National Taco Day.
ELISABETH HASSELBECK: So we’re actually making some tacos.
BRIAN KILMEADE: All right, so what are the tips we need to know to do it correctly? You grew up on tacos, correct?
ELISABETH HASSELBECK: You gotta layer it right?
BRIAN KILMEADE: She did not grow up –
MARIA MOLINA: Yeah, but I did not grow up on tacos.
BRIAN KILMEADE: She’s Colombian.
MARIA MOLINA: No.
BRIAN KILMEADE: Oh, I didn’t know.
MARIA MOLINA: I'm Nicaraguan.
BRIAN KILMEADE: Okay, Nicaraguan.
MARIA MOLINA: And it's not a native food.
ELISABETH HASSELBECK: But if you DID, if you DID grow up on tacos.
MARIA MOLINA: Yes.
JULIO RICARDO VARELA: Well, that – like, it could have actually been a teachable moment, to be like, hey, we don’t eat tacos, we actually eat pupusas. Do you know that you can get those like right across the street -
- like on 7th Avenue?
BROOKE GLADSTONE: A teachable moment, but this if Fox & Friends, famously dumb. Let's go to something that has a better reputation.
Here’s an example from CNBC in October, talking about a jobs report.
STEVE LIESMAN: We’re going to call this the Senator Ted Cruz jobs report. These are the jobless claims of Senator Ted Cruz.
MAN: Well, do you remember how –
STEVE LIESMAN: There he – there he is!
MAN: If we could –
STEVE LIESMAN: Can we get some music to go along with that, some Mexican music maybe?
BROOKE GLADSTONE: [LAUGHS] Okay, Ted Cruz was born in Canada but his heritage is actually –
JULIO RICARDO VARELA: He’s – and he’s Cuban, and he’s Cuban.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: - Cuban, yeah.
JULIO RICARDO VARELA: It’s the same thing.
It’s saying like, oh, it’s Latino, he’s Mexican! Now, this type of ignorance really knows no political belief right now.
BOB GARFIELD: Even the term “Hispanic” is murky territory because the country of origin is a far better indicator of identity. And, by the way, “Hispanic” describes an ethnicity, not a race.
MARK HUGE LOPEZ: About half of Hispanic adults will say their race is either some other race or their race is Hispanic or Latino.
BOB GARFIELD: Mark Hugo Lopez of Pew.
MARK HUGO LOPEZ: And in focus groups we've done I will ask young Latinos, for example, what’s your identity? One young Latino said, “I'm Dominican.” So a little later in the conversation, I said, so, do you ever call yourself Hispanic or Latino, and he says to me, “I'm Dominican.” And he’s starting to get a little bit frustrated with me, I think. Later on in the conversation, I asked him what his race was, and he says – and he yelled it at me, “I'm Dominican!” So it's clear that for him identity was really about his Dominican identity, no matter his race or his Hispanic or Latino-ness. For many Latinos, I think that that's the case.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Julio Varela’s rule number 2, go beyond immigration.
JULIO RICARDO VARELA: If you really look at mainstream news and what they cover, the number one issue is immigration, and that’s all they do, right? You never see –
BROOKE GLADSTONE: When, when it comes to –
JULIO RICARDO VARELA: Latinos, yeah, and that’s like granted, immigration reform is a huge topic. It’s really important. It needs to get solved. But, at the same time, we’re so much more than that.
BOB GARFIELD: The fact is, the vast majority of Hispanics are not undocumented. In fact, they’re not immigrants at all. Again, Mark Hugo Lopez.
MARK HUGO LOPEZ: Yes, there are 8 million Hispanics who are undocumented immigrants, for example, but there are 53 million Hispanics overall, and the majority of Hispanics are born in the United States. Many people – and this happens to me in my own personal life – oftentimes assume that I'm an immigrant if I'm identifying as Hispanic, and I was born in the United States. So when you take a look at the Latino vote, a lot of the discussion oftentimes centers on the issue of immigration and immigration reform. However, when we've done polling of Hispanics, there are many other issues that they point to that are of concern, things like education, healthcare, jobs and the economy.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Varela’s rule number 3, don’t talk only to Varela. Okay, we can do that. He also told us not to talk to a demographer, but he said Lopez of the Pew Research Center is great, so no, we won't just talk to Julio.
MARK HUGO LOPEZ: Like anything, we have diverging opinions. What happens is you bring the one Latino on and they talk about Latino media and he’ll say, oh no, this is – these are the conclusions about Latino media, but that's just part of media, right?
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Right.
MARK HUGO LOPEZ: So my, my dream is that eventually this becomes sort of second nature because, you know, there are 55 million people estimated who share that heritage, cultural heritage, so it's not like we’re just sitting here like, you know, with our maracas and eating our tacos.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Neil deGrasse Tyson once said in an interview that when he was much, much younger someone called him from some local paper on some sort of astrophysicist type issue and the reporter told him, you know, you're the first black person that I've ever talked to not about a black issue.
MARK HUGO LOPEZ: Right, that’s –
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And, at that point, he decided, I’ve got to stay –
MARK HUGO LOPEZ: Exactly.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: - in this field.
MARK HUGO LOPEZ: That’s – you know, I, I feel like if you look at this in a, in a spectrum, we’re getting beyond the education phase, and like there’s less incidence of “mm-mmm” and, you know, it’ll still happen, but they’re not happening as –
BROOKE GLADSTONE: There’s fewer “mm-mmm” moments?
MARK HUGO LOPEZ: Yeah, I think so. But, you know, [LAUGHS] I actually went to a convenience store and there was a beef jerky jalapeño version. There’s a sombrero on it.
And I'm like, seriously, I have to take a picture of a beef jerky like thing and be like uh, guys, you might want to reconsider this one.
I think they’re coming fewer and farther between, but they’re still out there. Now we’re getting into like redefinition: where do we stand as a US Latino community? And the obvious, obvious next up is how do we – and “assimilate” is not the word - but how do we become part of this fabric where it almost becomes second nature of who we are?
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BOB GARFIELD: So we have the best of intentions but, you know, the road “mm-mmm” is paved with those. So Julio Varela of the Latino Rebels blog will be back at the end of this show to tell us if we avoided those “mm-mmm” moments. And, you can find out what the phrase actually is, at onthemedia.org, where we’ll link to the Latino Rebels compendium.