Trending Toward the Trivial in U.S. Hispanic News

This past Nov. 28, legendary Mexican comedian Roberto Gómez Bolaños, creator and protagonist of several television comedy series enjoyed for decades throughout the Spanish-speaking world, died at age 85.

As to be expected, Univision, the leading Spanish-language television network in the United States, featured the news of Gómez Bolaños, better known as “Chespirito”, prominently as the lead story of its flagship newscast that day. But Chespirito’s passing wasn’t only the lead story on Nov. 28. It was the ONLY story during the entire Noticiero Univision broadcast, not only on the day of his passing, but on Nov. 29 and Nov. 30 as well.

The tremendous volume of coverage given to the death, homage and burial of Chespirito happens to illustrate a phenomenon recently highlighted in an American Press Institute study titled The Media Insight Project. This study, which examined news consumption patterns among U.S. Hispanics, African-Americans and non-Hispanic whites, found that U.S. Hispanics consume a disproportionately high amount of entertainment news, in comparison to the rest of the country’s population.

Specifically, the study found that 54% of U.S. Hispanics follow entertainment news, in comparison to only 32% of non-Hispanic whites. Obviously, a lot of the responsibility for this lies with the nation’s leading Spanish-language media outlets themselves, which practically bombard their viewers with a constant diet of celebrity/entertainment news.

The preponderance of celebrity/entertainment news on national Spanish-language media means, logically, that there’s less room for other news, and this, too, has consequences. Most worrisome, the American Press Institute study found that only 38% of U.S. Hispanics follow news about U.S. politics and government, compared with 78% of non-Hispanic whites who follow U.S. political and governmental news.

Similarly, the study found that while 44% of whites and 37% of African-Americans read beyond the headlines, only 24% of Hispanics do so. The study also revealed that U.S. Hispanics have comparably less interest in news about the localities where they live. While 81% of the white population surveyed follows local news, only 64% of the Hispanic population does so.

When it comes to news about business and the economy, the differences in news consumption are even more striking, and troublesome. Only 53% of Hispanics follow business and economic news, compared with 71% of whites and 73% of African-Americans. It goes without saying that the growing Hispanic segment of the U.S. population – which is increasingly invested in the performance of the American economy – has more than enough good reason to be more attentive to this category of news, which has such a direct impact on their current and future economic well-being.

The composition of the news presented in U.S. Hispanic media is also complicated by the fact that these outlets dedicate a substantial amount of news coverage to events taking place in the countries of origin of large numbers of their viewers. This is understandable, given the heavily first and second-generation immigrant composition of their audiences. But it also means less room for news about the country and community where their viewers are currently investing their lives.

The study also shows that “Hispanics are much more likely than whites to say they trust the information they get from national network news very much or completely (60% vs. 45%).” This data point also raises a red flag, given the liberal slant that pervades most of network news, both in English in Spanish.

It is worth pointing out, however, that several decades ago trust in network news was just as high among whites. During the past 27 years, however, conservatives and organizations like the Media Research Center have worked to make the problem of pervasive media bias more widely recognized in national English-language media. The stepped-up efforts of Hispanic conservatives, along with the recent expansion of the MRC’s mission into national Spanish-language media, through MRC Latino, could very well lead to more healthy levels of skepticism towards the media among U.S. Hispanics.

Among the encouraging data points in the study, it was found that Hispanics are fully up-to-speed when it comes to use of mobile technologies. In fact, 70% of Hispanics in the survey reported owning a smartphone, a percentage higher than African-Americans (65%) and non-Hispanic whites (63%).

One of the study’s findings that comes as no surprise is the keen interest Hispanics have in following immigration-related news. Given the recent history of migratory flows, that interest will no doubt continue for a considerable time to come. Nonetheless, in view of the other study findings indicated above, it would certainly be more desirable and healthier for Hispanics to move towards achieving news consumption patterns that are closer to those of the rest of the U.S. population.

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