by Danny Selnick, Vice President, Public Policy Services
Business Wire’s LatinoWire hosted a panel event for professional communicators on Sept. 28 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
The panel featured:
- Erica Gonzalez, Executive Editor of El Diario/La Prensa
- Julio Aliaga, News Director, Telemundo (Washington, DC affiliate)
- Hilda Garcia, Vice President of Multiplatform Content and Information for impreMedia
- Charlie Ericksen, Managing Editor and founder of Hispanic Link
Moderated by Danny Selnick, vice president for Business Wire’s Public Policy Services, panel members all underscored the notion that professional communicators must understand the particular needs and interests of this ethnic community and the Hispanic media that is in touch with their readers, viewers and listeners — only with that understanding can communicators successfully connect.
Key points made by each panelist:
Erica pointed out that it is important to understand the history of Hispanic journalism. Spanish-language media should be treated as a valid news outlet – not a 2nd class one. Your news should relate to the audience – just because it has been translated into Spanish doesn’t qualify it as being newsworthy to the audience.
El Diario has built a tradition of journalistic integrity and a tradition of covering an audience that still remains – despite growing numbers – under-covered. Despite this, there is a mistaken perception that somehow the Spanish-language media doesn’t do journalism – nothing could be farther from the truth.
The oldest and largest Hispanic circulation daily in the United States is written primarily for New York City area Hispanics and covers local, national and international issues (the latter especially for Hispanic immigrants who want to know what’s going on back home).
Communicators need to understand that sending news releases to them (or pitching) in Spanish doesn’t automatically create a “link” to getting their news covered. Just like any other newsroom, the story, along with news releases, must have merit and be of interest to the particular newsroom’s readers. Building relationships with reporters should be done in the same way as with any other newsroom.
Julio says his television station is just like any other station — wanting to serve its viewers while trying to make a profit. Most of the people who watch their newscast are immigrants. As their English skills improve they move towards watching general media, but newer immigrants become the station’s new audience. In this way, the station is constantly renewing its viewership.
The station’s focus is helping newcomers to adjust to life in the United States (calling it US101); and because life is so different here than in other countries, the station plans its coverage on how important the news is for someone who just arrived. Telemundo gives special value to topics like immigration, health, wellness, money matters, family values, and education – which are not always given high priority in English newscasts. Of course, the station also covers others major news items. Each day of the week features different news items. For example, Monday is legal (covering anything from immigration to taxes) while Tuesday features segments on wellness and health or personal finance (even how to open a bank account).
Professional communicators need to keep in mind that there are different types of Hispanics and that one story doesn’t fit all. Hispanics come from a variety of countries and with differing economic and educational backgrounds. So in pitching them, be careful of your message. Central Americans are very different from South Americans.
Hilda began her online journalism career with CompuServe in 1998, providing their online audiences with news content. At impreMedia, she works to build communities by listening to what their readers want to know – and by sharing experiences and knowledge. In some ways, online can be easier to understand and get to know your audience because the feedback is easier to monitor. And while social media is increasingly important, the question is, “Are those discussions reaching the right audience?” Hilda goes on to say that “content is king, but distribution is King Kong” and that impreMedia’s distribution networks are huge.
Charlie started Hispanic Link because the general media was not covering Hispanics, their issues and their growing influence. As an example, one of his first reporters looked at how many Hispanic staff members were working on Capitol Hill. The answer was less than 1% (implying little influence), whereas today anyone who expects to be elected (or re-elected) has to have a connection to Hispanics and the Hispanic media. “Even Newt Gingrich who belongs to English First, now puts out a weekly newsletter in Spanish,” says Ericksen
Hispanic Link was quick to jump on new media, building websites and links on Facebook and Twitter (where they now have more than 3,000). Hispanic Link also connects through other news networks like Borderzine.com, which has more than 100 journalists contributing to this news site.
Hispanic Link looks for stories showing the Hispanic contribution to the United States rather than what Charlie may be the typical focus of other dailies – portraying Hispanic in a less favorable light.
Some take-aways from Q&A:
Julio: New media will not replace traditional media in any way , shape or form, as websites and blogs are often full of half-truths and out-of-context information or just plain wrong. Broadcast news is compelling to viewers because it combines, sound, vision and scripts, and that’s very powerful in reaching Hispanic audiences. He says that Twitter and Facebook are great ways for the station to advertise its own programs.
Hilda: Media is changing and so are the rules of the road. There’s old media and new media – but because of all the new technologies, “ . . . we’re all now multimedia — print and online or broadcast and online.” Also, publications or stations represent brands with their own content and their own take on the news. And they are now being shared across other news outfits. As an example, Politico.com might report something and impreMedia might take that story and report about it with the Latino point of view.
Erica: A lot of people at Spanish-language operations tend to be bilingual so there’s usually someone within the operation that’s pretty fluent in English. But it’s still good to have written materials in Spanish. (Danny pointed out that if you are providing translations on news releases, they must be accurate and contextually correct.)
Julio added: What’s important is delivering a compelling story in either English or Spanish. But when pitching a story, don’t try to sell something not really newsworthy.
Charlie asked the audience and his co-panelists which Hispanic groups or people are considered authorities on issues of importance to Hispanics, especially when quotes for a story are needed.
There were several hands raised and several organizations mentioned. Charlie replied by cautioning communicators and “general consumer media” to rely on community organizations rather than on Washington Hispanic organizations for spokespeople, saying they are controlled by boards and by the money they get. (Also read Richard Prince’s blog on Journal-isms: http://mije.org/richardprince/unity-backer-has-second-thoughts#Ericksen)