La Opinión Digital: The framing of Latino immigrants' issues from a Latino
July 30 – August, 2003
La Opinion Digital: The framing of Latino immigrants'
issues from a Latino journalistic angle.
Author: Jose Luis Benitez
Address: 12 ½ Maplewood Drive.
Athens, Ohio 45701
Telephone: (740) 594-1391
Email: [log in to unmask]
Latino Immigrants in the United States
There is a well-known metaphor of the United States as a 'nation of
immigrants' symbolized in the Statue of Liberty (Mahler, 1995). Thus, a
significant part of this nation is constituted from the Latin American
immigration, which began with the Mexican migration process at the end of
the 19th century and early 20th century (Rodriguez, 1999). More recently,
this flow of transnational migration has grown substantially since the
1980s, especially as a consequence of civil wars, economic crises, and
political upheavals in several countries in Latin American (de la Garza,
Pachon, Orozco, & Pantoja, 2000). According to the 1990 U.S. Census, 6.8%
of Latinos living in the United States arrived before 1960; 15 % arrived
during the 1960s; 27% during the 1970s; and 50.7% immigrated in the 1980s.
The total of Latino immigrants in 1990 was 22.4 million, which represented
about 9% of the U.S. population.
These statistics have rapidly changed due to new waves of immigration and
high birth rates among Latinos. Today, the Latino or Hispanic population in
the United States is about 37 million, which implies that Latinos are
nowadays the largest minority in the U.S. (New York Times, January 22,
2003). The national origin of these immigrants are predominantly from
Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and
Honduras (Migration Information Source Data, 2003). Although the Latino
population is spread across the United States, they are located
predominantly in California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Texas, and
Immigration and the media
In 1994, California experienced a wave of anti-immigrant attitudes through
the proposition 187 supported by the Governor Pete Wilson. This initiative
intended to take away the possibilities for undocumented immigrants to
attend public schools and receive basic medical care (Marrero, 2001). In
this context, Santa Ana (1999) analyzed how The Los Angeles Times framed
this debate and how the news stories included metaphors about undocumented
immigrants as "animals". Thus, the metaphors emphasize a public perception
that dehumanizes immigrant workers and the consequent legitimation for the
approval of this proposition 187 in California. Like in this case, other
studies about immigrants' framing highlight the political and cultural
implications of such representations, especially through the news media
(Van Dijk, 1987; Miller, 1994).
On the contrary, ethnic media –such as Latino or Spanish-language
newspapers- are considered to be more concerned about issues and problems
from the perspective of the immigrant communities (Rodriguez, 1999; Vargas
& dePyssler, 1999; Subervi-Velez, 1999). The existence of Latino newspapers
in the United States has a long history of about 200 years (Vargas &
dePyssler, 1999). Rodriguez (1999) points out that the first large
Spanish-language newspaper in the U.S. was El Heraldo de Mexico (1916-1920).
Nowadays, according to the National Association of Hispanic Publications
(NAHP), there are approximately 1,000 Spanish-language newspapers,
magazines, and newsletters in the United States (Stein, 1995). Although
there are some bilingual English-Spanish publications, most Latino
newspapers are published in Spanish. This phenomenon is intimately related
with the fact that 43 % of the Latino population in the United States
prefer Spanish or Spanish more than English for reading books, magazines,
and newspapers (La Opinion, 2003). Although the reading language preference
is higher among older generations, 34% of Latinos between 18 and 24 years
old also prefer Spanish (La Opinion, 2003).
Furthermore, major Spanish-language newspapers are now available in
digital editions through the Internet. This is the case of the Latino
newspapers: La Raza (Chicago), La Opinion (Los Angeles), La Prensa (New
York), and Nuevo Herald (Miami). Of these newspapers La Opinion is the
largest Spanish-language newspaper in the United States with a weekday
circulation of 118,080, and at the same time it is the second most read
daily newspaper in Los Angeles area (Rodriguez, 1999; Fitzgerald, 2001).
This print medium was founded on September 16, 1926, and it is jointly
owned by the Lozano family –its founder- and the Tribune Company
(Fitzgerald, 2000; La Opinion, 2003). According to information from this
77 year-old newspaper, they "cover the news from a Latino perspective" and
with a combination of traditional, public service, and civic journalism (La
Opinion, 2003). The area of coverage of this paper includes the Latino
communities of Southern California, and with the launching of its digital
version in 2000, La Opinion Digital intends "to become the premiere
Hispanic news and information source" in the United States (La Opinion,
2003). In addition, they argue that this newspaper "has devoted increased
attention in reporting on issues relevant to a wide variety of Hispanics"
(La Opinion, 2003).
The study of Latino media in the United States, and specifically Latino
newspapers, involves crucial considerations about the emergence,
consolidation, and consequences of ethnic media in this country. Moreover,
the concern on this phenomenon can enhance the understanding of
international dynamics associated with processes of transnational migration
and the role of these ethnic media in the construction of immigrant
communities (DeSipio & Henson, 1997; Delgado, 1998). Similarly, the
analysis of these media can shed light on the social, cultural, and
political configuration of framing public discourses and perceptions about
Latino immigrants in the United States (Turner & Allen, 1997). In this
respect, Van Dijk (1987) considers how the news productions of the media
play a fundamental role in the construction and transformation of public
discourse. From this perspective, several studies look precisely at the
role of the media in framing immigrant groups in different nations such as
Canada, the United States, Australia, Great Britain, France, Italy, and
other countries in Europe (White & White, 1983; Van Dijk, 1987; King &
Wood, 2001; Kaye, 2001; Hargreaves, 2001; Campani, 2001).
The relevance of analyzing how immigrants groups are represented through
the media is intertwined with the cultural and political consequences of
attitudes of prejudice, racism, and discrimination. On the other hand, as
Miller (1994) argues, the media can "exacerbate or ease these worries. It
all comes down to the quality of reporting on immigrant issues" (p. 21).
Thus, the increasing process of transnational migration in the global
capitalist societies represents a critical challenge for mainstream and
ethnic media in framing the issues affecting the lives of these
marginalized groups. The representations of these minorities through
different mass media not only can affect the constitution of their
collective identities, but also their possibilities of individual and
community actions in the new social context in which they work and live
(DeSipio & Henson, 1997; Rodriguez, 1999).
Purpose of the study
Van Dijk (1987) asserts that journalists' routines are articulated with
dominant ideologies of class and ethnic groups in the process of news
production. In this respect, the purpose of this study is to examine how
the newspaper La Opinion in its online version La Opinion Digital frames
the issues of Latino immigrants in the United States. This objective
entails four main considerations. First, as Subervi-Velez (1988)
emphasizes, focusing on Spanish-language press is particularly justified
"because these papers are published for a selected audience and their
editorial policies and content can be relatively different to the majority
of population press" (p. 679). Thus, it is important to evaluate how this
newspaper frames the concerns of Latino immigrants, and how this approach
is different from other U.S. media.
Second, there is a critical controversy about whether the Latino
journalistic angle is 'objective' or somehow relies on 'advocacy' for
Latino communities (Rodriguez, 1999). Consequently, it is important to
explore to what extent this tension is reflected on La Opinion Digital.
Third, different studies propose that the media in the U.S. construct a
narrative of 'panethnic' identity among Latinos instead of national or
ethnic group identities (DeSipio & Henson, 1997; Vargas, 1999; Rodriguez,
1999). Therefore, it is crucial to investigate how the news stories of this
newspaper use specific expressions of Latino identities. Fourth, this study
aims to examine whether the organizational goal of La Opinion Digital of
becoming "the premier online offering for Spanish speaking communities
throughout the United States" (La Opinion, 2003) is reflected in the news
and editorial coverage of the Latin American countries with the largest
immigrant populations in the United States.
Framing and organizational influences on content
The theoretical framework of framing proposes the consideration of
different levels of analysis in the process of news production and
interpretation by audiences. Griffin (1997) suggests that news is presented
"in the form of a story, and as such requires a frame or theme. Reporters
provide that frame through context, mood, and selectivity" (p. 384).
Similarly, D'Angelo (2002) points out that it is critical to identify
"journalistic intentions, news values, discursive structures, and content
format that integrate the words and images of a news story into a frame"
(p. 881). Thus, as Scheufele (2000) synthesizes, media frame is a "central
organizing idea or story line that provides meaning to an unfolding strip
of events and serve as working routines for journalists" (p. 306).
Shoemaker and Reese (1996) observe that at the individual level, specific
characteristics such as values and ethics, race, gender, ethnicity,
political and religious beliefs, and personal worldview influence the
journalistic process of news gathering and reporting routines. On the other
hand, other authors argue that these journalistic routines reflect the
perspective and interests of political and economic elites in the process
of framing certain issues and excluding others (Van Dijk, 1987; Griffin,
1997; Scheufele, 2000; D'Angelo, 2002). In this sense, the
conceptualization of framing also requires one to take into consideration
the organizational pressures and constraints in the process of news production.
At the organizational level, D'Angelo (2002) discusses how media
organizations limit the range of information about a topic in terms of
validation of credible sources, and consequently foster or omit the
presence of certain social actors in the framing of a specific issue.
Shoemaker and Reese (1996) include others aspects of possible
organizational influences on news content: the nature of organization
structure, the economic constraints, conditions and changes of media
ownership, and the levels of social control in the newsroom. In similar
fashion, Vargas and dePyssler (1999) suggest that the ownership structure
"can inhibit the emancipatory role of Latino newspapers and place them, in
part, under the rubric of the U.S. commercial media model" (p. 193). In
summary, the consideration of framing is intertwined with personal,
ideological, and organizational conditions that interact in the process of
constructing meanings about some aspects of social reality (Griffin, 1997).
Ultimately, what is at stake in framing research is how audiences "think
about issues, not by making aspects of the issue more salient, but by
invoking interpretive schemas that influence the interpretation of incoming
information" (Scheufele, 2000, p.309).
Immigration and racism
Mize and Leedham (2000) analyze how four U.S. newspapers in Colorado
reproduce some bias about Latino immigration issues, specifically related
to undocumented immigrants. From this perspective, they evaluate the
positive and negative view of six major topics: social services, U.S.
economy, ethnic composition, culture, and crime. Based on this study, Mize
and Leedham (2000) conclude that the "public debate concerning immigration
issues is affected by the desires of many groups and individuals to reduce
racial and ethnic heterogeneity on the population" (p. 93). In similar way,
Van Dijk (1987) argues that in the case of most European countries,
research in this area of immigration supports the fact that "ethnic
prejudice and racism are either ignored or tend to be marginalized or
discredited by much of the press" (p. 44).
Miller (1994) suggests that the media reflect the social accusations or
worries about immigrants; however, the way the media portray the issues can
help to exacerbate or ease those concerns. Moreover, like Mize and
Leedhman's (2000) perspective, Miller (1994) acknowledges that most of
these accusations against immigrants entail some forms of xenophobia about
the racial and ethnic composition of migrant populations. Likewise, Santa
Ana (1999), through the analysis of the metaphors used by The Los Angeles
Times about immigrants, establishes that this newspaper does not explicitly
legitimate racist practices, but "reflects the embodied basic values of the
dominant political order that subjugates immigrants to other citizens" (p.
217). In this way, the analyses of immigration issues on mainstream media
tend to take into account how the selection and framing of certain topics
reproduces discourses of racism, prejudice, and marginalization.
Construction of Latino and gender identities
Several studies have examined how media, especially newspapers, influence
the construction of collective identities among immigrant groups. Johnson
(2000) notes that although the media do not create ethnicity, they can
bolster it. Thus, the notion of 'ethnicity' implies the use of some aspects
of the groups' cultural background in order to identify them and separate
from other collectivities (Johnson, 2000). In the case of the Latino
population in the United States, DeSipio and Henson (1997) suggest that
Latino identities "are more likely to identify with their national-origin
groups than with a panethnic identity" (p. 56). However, in their study of
different U.S. newspapers, they found that the majority of the articles
used a panethnic term such as 'Latino" or 'Hispanic' in order to make
references to this population.
Equally, Delgado (1998) in his analysis of Latino ethnic identities
through readers' letters in the Low Rider Magazine asserts that there are
critical tensions and problems in labeling a heterogeneous Latino
population in the U.S. Furthermore, Delgado (1998) suggests that this
construction of identities requires us to acknowledge that there are
"multiple and complex identity expressions that defy simple categorization"
(p. 4). In contrast, Rodriguez (1999) claims that Latino news media
"emphasizes commonalities among Latinos, re-creating the ethnic group as a
community of shared interests" (p. 80). In addition, Rodriguez (1999)
considers that this issue of collective identities constitutes a quotidian
challenge for Latino journalists in the United States.
On the other hand, Vargas (1999) studies how a U.S. local newspaper covers
Latino current affairs, and to what extend it reproduces stereotypes of
Latinos. Vargas (1999) found not only that Latinos were underrepresented in
this newspaper, but also how the stories framed the Latino community as 'a
colony'. Moreover, she contends that the news stories reflected a process
of 'genderization'. Hence, Vargas (1999) thinks that: "Latino current
affairs are constructed not exactly as feminine, but rather as womanish-an
adjective" (p. 285). All in all, these considerations illustrate how
construction of identity and gender representations are articulated in the
way media frame the Latino population in the United States.
Latino journalistic angle
Vargas and dePyssler (1999) propose the notion that Latino newspapers are
a 'hybrid medium' in the sense that they combine some forms of community,
ethnic, and immigrant media. In similar fashion, Subervi-Velez (1988)
suggests that Spanish-language newspapers can mobilize Latino communities
around certain social, cultural, economic, and political causes. However,
Subervi-Velez (1999) insists that it is necessary to analyze regularly how
Latino media present aspects of "framing, trends, interactions, and
ideology of the portrayals of Latinos" (p. 138). In this context, Rodriguez
(1999) points out how in Latino news media there is a permanent debate
about the nature of the journalistic angle. Consequently, "objectivity, and
its opposite, advocacy, are a topic of daily discussion in Latino
newsrooms" (Rodriguez, 1999, p. 31).
Indeed, some Latino journalists clearly accept that their job constitutes
some form of advocacy for Latino communities in the U.S. (Rodriguez, 1999).
This assumption seems to be based on the fact of journalists' ethnic
backgrounds and their personal identification with this immigrant
community. Marrero (2001) –a Latina journalist of La Opinion- expresses
this professional tension: "Yes, the line separating what I do from who I
am is sometimes very thin. But that's an indication to me that I am doing
something that matters. And that's why I became a journalist in the first
place" (p. 3). In contrast, La Opinion editor Gerardo Lopez rejects the
label of 'advocacy' in what they do as Latino newspaper: "I don't call it
advocate. I think it is ethical for a journalist to have in his mind not
only to sell newspapers, but to provide a source of information that is
helpful to your community" (Rodriguez, 1999, p.113). Undoubtedly, one
sensible topic in this debate between advocacy and objectivity perspectives
is the coverage of immigrants' issues in the U.S. In this respect, Lopez
claims that they try to present "all the benefits that immigrants bring to
this country. We explore issues of education, agriculture, how much work
and how much money was produced by the labor of all the immigrants"
(Menard, 1995, p. 2). The Dallas Morning News editor Gilbert Bailon
endorses the idea that Latino news perspectives "play a big role in helping
to balance out how Latinos are represented by the media" (Menard, 1995, p.
3). One example of this contrast is the study by Turner and Allan (1997)
about the media coverage of the US presidential elections in 1996 by La
Opinion and The Los Angeles Times. Turner and Allan (1997), in their
analysis of the news stories during the three days immediately following
the elections, found notably framing differences between both newspapers,
especially in the way they framed the Latino vote and the issues concerning
to this population. In short, the coverage of Latino immigrants' issues in
the U.S. might constitute a critical aspect in the Latino news media
agenda, just as Marrero (2001) points out: "I write in Spanish for a
readership comprised mostly of immigrants who are not totally proficient
either in the language, the culture, or the politics or civic organization
of the country in which they now reside" (p. 2). Moreover, this newspaper
might reach an important number of Latinos that do not read other
newspapers for getting their everyday information.
Hypotheses and research questions
From the above considerations discussed on related studies to this topic,
this study proposes the following research questions in the analysis of La
RQ1: What issues about Latino immigrants in the U.S. are more salient on
the front-page of La Opinion Digital?
RQ2: To what extent is there in the stories on the front-page of La Opinion
Digital a perspective of 'advocacy' for Latino immigrants?
RQ3: Is there a relationship between the demographics of Latino populations
in Southern California and the percentage of coverage of specific Latin
American countries given by La Opinion Digital on the front-page?
RQ4: Does La Opinion Digital, through the expressions used in the news
stories on the front-page, make references of Latinos as 'panethnic'
identity or national/ethnic identities?
Furthermore, this study puts forward two main hypotheses. These are based
on the assumption that La Opinion gives attention to news in which Latinos
and Mexicans are the central players (Rodriguez, 1999), and the
organizational goal of becoming through the online version the main source
of information for the Latino population in the U.S. Equally, it is
expected that after the events of September 11, 2001, in the U.S there have
been new waves of anti-immigrant attitudes, prejudices, and governmental
measures for controlling immigrants (Bhagwati, 2003) that can directly
affect the Latino immigrants. Thus, the following hypotheses are formulated:
H.1: The news coverage of La Opinion Digital will show a proportional
balance between the stories of certain Latin American countries on
particular sections of the newspaper and the demographics of the Latino
population in the U.S.
H. 2: There will be a remarkable change in the topics about Latino
immigrants reported by La Opinion Digital before and after September 11, 2001.
Subervi-Velez (1999) suggests that content analysis of print news provides
essential data to assess the Latino representations in the media. Thus,
this study relies on the methodology of content analysis in order to
explore the research questions and hypotheses proposed above. Because this
research project focuses on the online version of La Opinion, the online
archive of this newspaper –from April 2000 until the current date- was used
for the development of the study. The unit of analysis was divided in two
main levels. First, the use of 'keywords' was utilized for examining the
proportion of coverage of specific countries in different sections of the
newspaper. These countries were Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, El Salvador,
Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic; and they were
selected based on the demographics of Latino populations in Southern
California, and the U.S in general (La Opinion, 2003). The sections of the
newspaper chosen were: the front-page, city, state, country, Latin America,
editorials, and the option 'all sections'. The sample in this level of
analysis consisted of three years that included all the articles from April
2000 until March 2003, which generated a total of 32, 901 news stories.
The second step consisted of the analysis of whole news stories on the
front-page by searching with the keyword 'inmigrantes' (immigrants). The
time period of the sample in this level of analysis was of one year, and it
was selected based on the assumption that the events of September 11, 2001,
in the U.S. generated important changes in the framing of Latino immigrants
through this newspaper. Consequently, the stories about immigrants
published between June 2001 and June 2002 were selected. In total, 225 news
stories published on the front-page were coded. The selection of the
front-page entails two main considerations. On one hand, it represents the
end of the gatekeeping chain; and on the other one, the front-page
highlights the stories with the highest priority for the newspaper.
The coding instrument allowed for annotations of several elements. First,
the main topic of the story; in this case twelve categories related to
immigrants' issues were formulated: education, public safety/crime, health,
economic issues, labor issues, political aspects, culture, social issues,
discrimination/human rights violations, legalization/deportation, illegal
immigration issues, and other. The process of construction of these
categories assumed some elements developed by previous studies, especially
in relation to undocumented immigration issues (Mize & Leedham, 2000).
Second, the coder –one person did all the coding- considered the main
perspective of the story in terms of its emphasis on benefits or problems
for the U.S. population, the Latino immigrant population or both. Third,
the perspective of the story was analyzed as advocacy, objective reporting,
or interpretive report. The term 'advocacy' is understood in this context
to include those stories that establish explicit expressions in support of
the Latino immigrants in general or specific groups, as well as those
stories in which there are some recommendations, addresses of institutions
to call, or similar actions the story suggested to the readers. The
'interpretive' report refers to those stories in which there is no mention
of specific sources, but develops an analysis or evaluation of certain topics.
Other elements included in the coding instrument were the author of the
story (reporter, correspondent, special report, independent, news agency),
main source of information in the story, main actor in the story, primarily
country mentioned or the term 'Latino'/'Hispanic', country of origin of the
news, whether the main term used was national-origin such as 'Salvadoran'
or panethnic identity (Latino/Hispanic), distinctions between
illegal/undocumented immigrant or just the term 'immigrant', the frame of
identity (explicit references to elements of commonalities of language,
culture, political unity, nation of origin, or common history), and whether
the story represented a specific event or an extended process of
developments. Finally, the results of the coding instrument were tabulated
in order to organize and analyze them.
The first research question proposed: What issues about Latino immigrants
in the U.S. are more salient on the front-page of La Opinion Digital? The
results linked to this question shows that the three main issues covered
are: news about legalization and deportation (36%), political issues
(12.9%), and stories about discrimination and human right violations of
immigrants both in the U.S. and Mexico (1.4%). The stories about
legalization highlight the ongoing process of negotiation between the
governments of Mexico and U.S. in order to provide temporal or
permanent 'legal' status to millions of undocumented Mexican immigrants.
In addition, the stories of deportation refer constantly to the new
measures taken by the U.S. government after the events of September 11,
2001. The topic of political issues mainly reports the participation of
'Latinos' in the local and national electoral processes in the U.S., and
the relevance of this Latino vote especially in California. Also, there
were some stories related with the demands of Mexicans and Salvadorans
immigrants for participating in the electoral processes of their countries
of origin. In contrast, there was a news report about how Honduran
immigrants in the U.S. participated in the last national elections of this
The issue of discrimination and violations of immigrants' human rights
includes different situations in which immigrants both in the U.S. and
Mexico have suffered by the police or other groups, especially when
immigrants are trying to cross the borders of Mexico and the United States.
In similar way, these situations of human rights violations report
different actions taken by U.S. officials through the new 'home-land
security' measures that concentrates on reinforcing the security at the
major airports, and reducing the free movement of persons without
documents. Other forms of discrimination included threats against some
Latino organizations in the U.S., destruction of murals, and the
limitations for undocumented immigrant students in order to get financial
aid for college. Table 1 summarizes the details of the Latino immigrants'
issues covered in La Opinion Digital.
Latino immigrants' issues in La Opinion Digital (June 2001-June 2002)
NUMBER OF STORIES
Discrimination/Immigrants' Human Right violations
Illegal immigration issues
The second research question was: To what extent is there in the news
stories on the front-page of La Opinion Digital a perspective of 'advocacy'
for Latino immigrants? In relation to this question, the analysis reveals
that from the 225 stories examined only 29 (12.9%) were coded as an
'advocacy' perspective; 171 stories (76%) were coded as objective
reporting; and 25 articles (11.1%) were coded as interpretive reports. In
this respect, it is important to emphasize that those stories coded as an
'advocacy' perspective are related with the topic of
legalization/deportation, and discrimination/immigrants' human rights
violations. Table 2 summarizes the crosstabulation of issues and
journalistic framing perspectives.
Crosstabulation of Latino immigrants' issues and journalistic perspective
Discrimination/Human Rights Violations
Illegal immigration issues
The third research question proposed: Is there a relationship between the
demographics of Latino populations in Southern California and the
percentage of coverage of specific Latin American countries given by La
Opinion Digital on the front-page? In this respect, the results indicate
that Mexico was the country most mentioned (44%) in the stories, then the
panethnic term Latino/Hispanic (23%.1%), and the U.S. (12.4%). Although in
this area of California live many immigrants from Central America, these
countries were hardly mentioned in the stories. Thus, these countries
obtained very low percentage of news stories on the front-page: El Salvador
(3.1%); Honduras (1.8%), Guatemala (0.9%); and Nicaragua (0.4%). Table 3
presents the complete results related to this question.
Primary countries mentioned in the stories about Latino immigrants (June
NUMBER OF STORIES
The fourth research question formulated was: Does La Opinion Digital,
through the expressions used in the news stories on the front-page, make
references of Latinos as 'panethnic' identity or national/ethnic
identities? In this sense, the results indicate that in 108 stories (48%)
the term used was related with the nation of origin of the persons. On the
other hand, 80 stories (35.6%) included the panethnic terms of Latino or
Hispanic, though Latino was more used that Hispanic. In addition, 37
stories (16.4%) did not include any of the above categories. Furthermore,
the use of the term Latino/Hispanic was used in 32 stories (14.2%) related
to political events, specifically the Latino participation in the electoral
processes in the U.S.
In terms of the Hypothesis 1: The news coverage of La Opinion Digital will
show a proportional balance between the stories of certain Latin American
countries on particular sections of the newspaper and the demographics of
the Latino population in the U.S., the results show that the three
countries with more news stories and editorials in this newspaper are:
Mexico (53%), El Salvador (14.2%), and Cuba (9%). Conversely, the two
countries less mentioned were Dominican Republic (2.25%) and Puerto Rico
(1.6%). Table 4 presents the details of these findings.
Coverage of some Latin American countries in La Opinion Digital (April
Based on these results, it is possible to conclude that some Latin American
countries, specifically the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico are
underrepresented in these news sections and editorials of La Opinion
Digital. At the same time, it is clear that the percentage of coverage to
Mexico seems proportionally with the demographics of this Latino group,
approximately 59% of the Latino population in the U.S. (La Opinion, 2003).
The second hypothesis suggested that: There will be a remarkable change in
the topics about Latino immigrants reported by La Opinion Digital before
and after September 11, 2001. In this respect, the findings indicate two
crucial aspects. First, there was a dramatic reduction in the number of
stories on the front-page about Latino immigrants in this newspaper after
September 11, 2001. For example, in August 2001 there were 32 stories
whereas in the next month only 19. The tendency continued in the following
months: 14 stories in October 2001, 8 stories in November 2001, 18 in
December 2001, and only 7 in January 2002. After this month, the stories
reached again an average of 20 stories per month.
Second, the most dramatic change consists in the number of stories covering
issues of discrimination or human right violations against immigrants.
Before September 11 there were only 2 stories in this category; however,
after this date the number of stories in this topic increased dramatically.
In total, there were 26 stories addressing issues of discrimination not
only in the U.S., but also in some situations that happened in Mexico.
Equally, there were more stories linked to procedures of deportation of
Latino undocumented immigrants. As a result, it is possible to conclude
that the second hypothesis was confirmed. In other words, in fact there
were important changes in the topics, and frequency of stories about Latino
immigrants reported by La Opinion Digital before and after September 11, 2001.
Other descriptive findings of this study reveal that these 225 news
stories were written by the following categories of authorship: 96 stories
(42.7%) by reporters, 83 stories (36.9%) by correspondents, 32 stories
(14.2) were labeled by the newspaper as 'special for La Opinion', and 14
stories (6.2%) by news agencies. In this respect, the statistical analysis
of this data found significant correlations between the author of the story
and the topic, the primary source used, and explicit references of identity
(in terms of language, culture, political unity, country of origin, and
common history). These correlations were established through the use of the
Spearman's rho calculation, and suggest important associations between the
reporters and how he or she defines the use of sources, and specific
expressions. The following figures present the details of the Spearman's
Correlation between reporter and topic of the story
** Correlation is significant at the .01 level (2-tailed).
Correlation between reporter and the primary source mentioned in the story
** Correlation is significant at the .01 level (2-tailed).
Correlation between reporter and the frame of national or panethnic identity
** Correlation is significant at the .01 level (2-tailed).
Discussion and Conclusion
Based on the findings of this study, it is important to discuss the
following considerations. First, these results show not only what issues
are more salient about Latino immigrants, but also what elements are
excluded or underrepresented in this newspaper. It seems evident that La
Opinion Digital gives important coverage to the issues concerning Latino
undocumented immigrants, especially Mexicans, and at the same time
highlights the actions of the government or official authorities in this
respect. In addition, this newspaper highlights the actions of grassroots
Latino organizations working in favor of the immigrants; however, it would
be necessary to evaluate what organizations or community efforts might not
have presence in this medium. About the topics absent in the stories
analyzed, it is relevant how very few articles discussed the socioeconomic
and political causes of the Latino immigration to the U.S, and the lack of
interrelations between immigrants and cultural elements. This last point is
even more salient because many immigrants primarily from Mexico and
Guatemala come from indigenous ethnic groups, which might need the
understanding and reporting of specific cultural, linguistic, and
Second, the issue of construction of 'collective identities' through the
news stories in this newspaper presents important complexities and
consequences. The framing of the Latino population identity requires a
reconsideration of binaries categories: national origin/Latino. In the news
stories analyzed the nationalities were common mentioned, but when the
topic was related to political processes or elections, then the term of
Latino was more used. This confirms the notion that identities are
constantly articulated depending of the social positions with other groups.
Someone may identify as 'Mexican' among other Latinos, but as 'Latino' when
he or she is interacting with Americans or Asian people. Moreover, in the
analysis of representations of identities in the media, it is necessary to
take into consideration how the different social class positions, ethnic
background, race, gender, education, legal status, religious and political
affiliations among the Latino population are produced and negotiated. This
aspect may require future studies that seek to articulate the media
representations and the ways in which Latino immigrants integrate this
images and narratives in their everyday life.
Third, it is necessary to evaluate to what extent the heterogeneous
Latino population in the U.S. consider that these ethnic media such as La
Opinion Digital really respond to their informative and communicative needs
and aspirations. Moreover, in this specific case, it would be interesting
to identify whether the Latino population primarily in the area of
California evaluates this newspaper as 'Latino' or 'Mexican' newspaper. In
this respect, it is crucial the organizational aspiration of La Opinion
Digital to become the main source of information of the diverse Latino
population in the U.S. Probably, this effort may face important limitations
if this newspaper does not pay attention to news coverage of particular
Latino groups in the U.S., especially to the Central American and the
Caribbean countries. Thus, this type of studies provides important insights
for organizational media evaluations and definitions of editorial
priorities for the future. Equally, it would be crucial to carry out
further studies from this dimension in order to identify main trends and
developments of this Spanish-language newspaper.
Fourth, these results suggest that the Latino journalistic reporting in La
Opinion Digital include a combination of advocacy perspective, standard and
interpretive reports. In this way, those stories that can be considered in
the category of 'advocacy' constitute only 12.9% of the 225 stories
analyzed. This might also indicate that the combination of different
approaches exists within a Latino news organization. Moreover, it is
necessary to assess the organizational and ideological influences in the
process of news production. In addition, the findings of this content
analysis is relevant in terms of considering the relations between the
author of the story and the sources, terms, styles, and frames proposed. In
a similar way, Turner and Allan (1997) in their comparison between La
Opinion and The Los Angeles Times establish that it is crucial "to examine
two stories by the same writer to see whether different frames were used
for similar and different stories" (p. 895). In short, it is necessary more
research about the way media gatekeeping and framing interact between who
writes the story -reporter, correspondent, independent, news agency- and
organizational levels. In order to explore more in depth this Latino
journalistic angle, it would be necessary more studies that make
comparisons not only between Latino and American media, but also among
different Latino media.
In conclusion, as Rodriguez (1999) emphasizes, "Although it is evident
that La Opinion's journalistic culture is different in many ways from that
of general market U.S. journalism, the differences can also be exaggerated"
(p. 116). Moreover, it would be important to evaluate the future directions
of these ethnic media in the face of corporative merges and the prevalence
of a commercial logic. On the other hand, the results of this study
constitute a preliminary approximation to a variety of critical debates,
tensions, contradictions, and possibilities of Latino news media in the
United States. The Latino population in the U.S. is now not only the
largest minority in this country, but also is a heterogeneous minority with
diverse informational and communicational needs for cultural, social and
political transnational action. Therefore, the Latino media –particularly
La Opinion- face fundamental challenges, specifically in order to
articulate a sense of 'Latino journalistic angle' that assumes the
dialectic between 'objective', 'interpretive', and 'advocacy' perspectives,
the consideration of organizational ideological and financial constraints
in a competitive market, and at the same time strength the possibilities
for representations of diverse voices, identities, images, narratives,
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