Are people getting the news from their preferred source, or in their preferred language? It depends on how you read this question, but in one way it is the sort of ‘chicken-or-egg’ question to what there likely is not a correct answer.
At a daylong event named ‘Investiguemos: Opportunities and challenges in bilingual and Spanish journalism’, organized by the Center for Investigative Reporting & Open Society Foundations, this question came up pretty often. The conversation that day was pretty far-reaching, but there were actually three key conclusions that emerged from this day.
1. Quality journalism education in the Spanish language is necessary if we want to be able to deal with the immense shortage of high-qualified native Spanish-speaking or bilingual reporters that are serving the countless Spanish-speaking/bilingual communities across the U.S., This is also crucial to set up a varied pool of (potential) reporters in environments where they may be contributing to journalistic or editorial innovations.
2. Native Spanish-speaking and bilingual English-Spanish-speaking communities are different groups in America in a way that they have access to, and are using, news platforms and new technologies in different ways.
3. There is a potentially great impact for investigative journalism stories that come from American Spanish and/or bilingual communities in a way that they may get broadcast and shared with American English-speaking audiences.
At the conference, participants were emphasizing that you can find so many different bilingual or Spanish-speaking communities in America and that the news coverage should be reflecting this diversity as well as the differing requirements and needs of these various populations. The Center for Investigative Reporting’s senior editor Fernando Diaz said that there is a clear lack of well-educated, highly qualified, and fully bilingual professional investigative reporters that are serving the various bilingual and Spanish-speaking communities in America and that the educational system must address this issue.
This key point was echoed by several educators who are involved in bilingual and Spanish journalism programs. They pointed out that mastering formal Spanish-language competencies is crucial if students want to be able to engage in effectively reporting about communities, regardless of which language will be used in their journalistic efforts. Maria Sanchez Diez, a student at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, also said that mastering Spanish is important to get a job, but it is as well a great tool that helps journalists to get access to Spanish speaking and bilingual communities. Florida Community Colleges have also a crucial role to play here!
Educators also explained that, In addition to linguistic competencies, students absolutely must be trained in cultural and historical aspects in order to be able to effectively produce journalistic reports about diverse communities. Jose Luis Benavides, professor of journalism CSU (California State University) in Northridge, explained that at CSU, students minoring in bilingual journalism, on top of language skills, are also required to take classes at the school’s Chicana/o Studies Department to better be able to connect to greater LA’s community context.
Students may also contribute considerably to journalistic innovation. Professor of Journalism Mei-Ling Hopgood (Northwestern University) and Borja Echevarria (VP of Univision Digital) emphasized how important it is to have young, technologically savvy, and bilingual, journalists participate in the organization for designing new, innovative products and journalistic platforms. See also this post about Latino Entrepreneurial Journalism.
Platforms and technology
Amy Mitchell (Washington D.C.-based Pew Research Center director of journalism research), said that her organization’s research indicates that young bilingual Spanish-English speaking persons consume more news content in English, but Univision’s Echevarria was wondering if that trend proofs that young people increasingly prefer to consume their news in English, or that this phenomenon is merely evidence that there simply more content in English, at a greater variety, and possibly of better equality than in Spanish. Click here for information about scholarships for Hispanics.
When asked about the supposedly growing English-Spanish divide, Maria Hinojosa, (founder of Futuro Media Group and host of ‘Latino USA’) said that she was feeling increasingly less confined to speak in English only on air. She says her audience doesn’t care If she says, ‘O que?’
She says she is going back and forth all the time and they don’t seem to care. Hinojosa and Julio Ricardo Varela (Futuro Media Group digital media director) were saying that ‘Latino USA’ has seen a 300% increase in audience since 2013, that the program now has the largest Latino and African American audience of all NPR programs, and that podcasting now has lust increased the number of listeners.
Univision’s Borja Echevarria says that the organization is currently running a project to make the digital team more user-centered. They will now provide content to the listeners that they need and want, and that’s already present on the social media platforms. All participants at the conference were sharing their visions towards a future where Spanish and English would not be relegated to their own media spaces, but are rather brought together to reflect the reality of America’s bilingual audiences that want high-quality news coverage.