Tuesday, September 15, 2009

NAHJ Urges News Media to Stop Using the Term “Illegals” When Covering Immigration

The use of “illegals” as a noun and “illegal alien” distorts coverage, dehumanizes the subjects in this important public policy debate

Media Contact: Iván Román, Executive Director, NAHJ, (202) 662-7178, iroman@nahj.org

Washington, D.C. – As the heated debates over health care and immigration reform collide, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists calls on our nation’s news media to stop using the dehumanizing term “illegals” as a noun to refer to undocumented immigrants.  NAHJ has long advocated for accurate terminology in news coverage of immigration. NAHJ is concerned with the increasing use of pejorative terms like “illegals” – which is shorthand for “illegal aliens”, another term NAHJ objects to using – to describe the estimated 12 million undocumented people living in the United States.  Using “illegals” in this way is grammatically incorrect and crosses the line by dehumanizing and criminalizing the person, not the action they are purported to have committed. NAHJ calls on the media to never use “illegals” in headlines and in television news crawls.  “We continue to see ‘illegals’ used as a noun seeping from the fringes into the mainstream media, and in turn, into the mainstream political dialogue,” said NAHJ Executive Director Iván Román. “Using these terms not only distorts the debate, but it takes away their identities as individuals and human beings. When journalists do that, it’s that much easier to treat them unfairly and not give them an equal voice in the controversy.”  By incessantly using metaphors like “illegals”, the news media is not only appropriating the rhetoric used by people on a particular side of the issue, but also the implication of something criminal or worthy of suspicion. That helps to predetermine the credibility or respect given to one of the protagonists of this debate, which is not conducive to good journalism and does a disservice to the principles of fairness and neutrality.  In addition, NAHJ has always denounced the use of the degrading terms “alien” and “illegal alien” to describe undocumented immigrants because it casts them as adverse, strange beings, inhuman outsiders who come to the U.S. with questionable motivations. “Aliens” is a bureaucratic term that should be avoided unless used in a quote.  NAHJ also calls on editors and journalists to follow generally accepted guidelines regarding race and ethnicity and refrain from reporting a person’s legal status unless it is relevant to the story in question. The public in certain regions of the country have pressured news media to publish the legal status of any Latino who appears in the newspaper or on television, regardless of the story’s subject.  Doing so contributes to the growing trend of profiling Latinos as non-Americans or foreigners and using them as scapegoats for a variety of society’s ills, a tone that has become more pervasive in the public dialogue over the past few years. Few now doubt that this helps create a fertile environment for hate speech which we have seen can lead to discrimination and a growing number of hate crimes in the U.S. against Latinos.   As the U.S. tackles immigration reform in the future, NAHJ believes that responsible, fair, and non-simplistic coverage of this complex issue is in order. The words used can be part of the problem or can contribute to fair coverage and a fruitful public debate.  NAHJ, a 1,500-member organization of reporters, editors and other journalists, addresses the use of these words and phrases by the news media in its Resource Guide for Journalists. For excerpts of some of the relevant entries in the resource guide, click here, http://www.nahj.org/nahjnews/articles/2009/september/immigrationentries.shtml. For a copy of NAHJ’s resource guide, visit http://www.nahj.org/resources/research.shtml.

LBI Media Inc., a Burbank-based family-owned broadcaster, launched a nationwide Latino television network this past Monday September 14.  Estrella TV will reach about 70% of the nation's Latino television households. LBI Media is the parent of Liberman Broadcasting, which owns several major-market television stations including KRCA Los Angeles.  Several other broadcasters including Hearst Television, Belo Corp. and Sunbeam Television have signed on as affiliates.  The company plans create original programming six days a week (Monday through Saturday) from mid-afternoon through prime time. It will keep 60% of the ad inventory from its affiliates.   The challenge on the table will be promoting Estrella nationwide especially because many of its affiliates are digital signals that are not established in the marketplace.  We’ll see where it goes!

Watch Out North Carolina Latinos Have Arrived

Latinos are taken over the mountains of western North Carolina, according to the US Census.  U.S. Census Bureau estimates puts the number of Latinos in the 18 counties of Western North Carolina at 31,661 in 2008 and rising. That’s up from 22,861 in 2003.  Buncombe County Public School ESL director Geneva Neeriemer said ESL student numbers have increased from 962 in 2003 to 2,125 at the end of the last school year.  The medical service is also noticing a rise in Latino population.  At the Buncombe County Health Center, Medical Director Gibbie Harris said they are seeing about a one percent increase in the number of Latino patients this over this (’09) fiscal year as in '08.  That rounds out to about 4,200 seen in '09, which is up from 4,000 a year earlier.  Experts and those in services geared towards Latinos say the total number of Latinos is likely higher than census estimates because undocumented workers often do not show up on official headcounts.  Its clear Latinos do like the mountain region, for many of the same reasons others who move here do: a good quality of life, good schools and beautiful scenery.