Last week's interview between Telemundo's José Díaz-Balart and Univision's Jorge Ramos - competing anchors - was a first for our domestic Spanish-language networks. The collegial and friendly environment, however, did not stop Díaz-Balart from asking Ramos a very important question.
The interview was by no means hard-hitting...it was a couple of guys shooting the breeze about life and about their shared profession. The historic nature of this sitdown comes from a cultural Latin American holdover. Whereas it is commonplace to see someone from, say, CNN promote their book on CBS or ABC, that just doesn't happen on the Spanish-language side. It is unheard of for exclusive talent from one network to set foot in a competing network (and this explains, perhaps, why the interview was held in a bookstore - on neutral ground).
Here's the exchange between Díaz-Balart and Ramos on the issue of bias and neutrality, which Telemundo edited for brevity before airing on Noticiero Telemundo.
JOSE DIAZ-BALART, SENIOR ANCHOR, TELEMUNDO: You talk about not being an activist. You say, “I’ve been accused of being an activist. I am not. I’m simply a journalist who asks questions.”
JORGE RAMOS, SENIOR ANCHOR, UNIVISION: Of course.
DIAZ-BALART: Now - the questions that you ask could be biased. Or (are they) not?
RAMOS: I believe that in cases of racism, discrimination, corruption, public lies, dictatorships, human rights violations, we should cast neutrality aside and take a stand. What do you believe? What is...what is your role?
DIAZ-BALART: I believe that…
RAMOS: How do...how do you see your role?
DIAZ-BALART: I believe that there is...one can be, and should be...the calling of journalism is (to) the truth...how you identify that truth so long as you include that we all have opinions.
RAMOS: But there are certain cases where we are forced to stop being neutral. Now tell that to your bosses.
By getting Ramos to recite his Trump-era creed, Díaz-Balart exposes his hypocrisy. It isn't so much that Ramos does these things (His full answer, shown in the transcript below, begins with "of course"), but that he does them selectively.
Over the course of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Ramos kept parroting the "no one can get to the White House without the Latino vote line" despite, as he admitted to Díaz-Balart, his awareness of a growing discontent with both parties amongst the Hispanic electorate and, per admission to his pal Carmen Aristegui the morning after the election - walking right past the Univision Miami AM affiliate (Radio Mambí) that featured caller after caller showing support for Trump. That, by definition, is reporting things as you want to see them and not as they are.
Credit to Díaz-Balart for, in this instance, standing up to an ongoing, disturbing trend in journalism (including in recent immigration and gun-control coverage) and speaking out in favor of inclusion of all opinions and of ultimately deferring to the truth.
Below is a partial transcript of the above referenced interview, published on telemundo.com on March 12, 2018 (Click "Expand" to view):
RAMOS: And when somebody hates you, José, you feel it - you don't just hear it but you feel it all over your entire body. And yes - because of things like that, because of all the attacks on social media, because...because of...trying to normalize racism in the United States, yes - many times I feel like a stranger in the United States.
DIAZ-BALART: And yet, someone, nor you nor anyone else can say that in some way...
RAMOS: But I'm not a victim. I don't feel like a victim.
DIAZ-BALART: No, no...but you can't say that you are unknown...uh, there are millions amd millions pf people who for over 30 years have watched you on TV daily. You are one of the most recognized persons, one of the most beloved persons, myself included...
DIAZ-BALART: ...within that group of persons that admires you...how can you say that they're not listening to you- that you're not...that you're an unknown or a stranger, when you are one of the most well-known and beloved persons in the United States? Certainly within the Latino, not like Jorge Ramos.
RAMOS: Because Donald Trump cones along, who reflects what millions are thinking. Donald Trump is the most antiimmigrant president since 1950. Since...in 1954 there was Operation Wetback, which deported a million Mexicans. Several- dozens, amny of them died, American citizens were deported- since then we hadn't had a president like that, that made racism into something normal. Not just the attacks against Mexicans, but Judge Gonzalo Curiel who (Trump) said could not do his job due to his Mexican heritage, and the worst- calling "garbage countries", so as not to bring that other word here...
DIAZ-BALART: So as not to use the other word...
RAMOS: people from Haiti or (from) African nations. That's not normal, José, and I believe that as journalists - and tell me here - what do we do as journalists?
DIAZ-BALART: Well, yes, but then there is the matter- and I believe this is a conversation that we have to have - but, for example, you talk about not being an activist. You say, “I’ve been accused of being an activist. I am not. I’m simply a journalist who asks questions.”
RAMOS: Of course.
DIAZ-BALART: Now- the questions that you ask could be biased. Or (are they) not?
RAMOS: Of course. But...but I believe that, for example, as journalists, and...I want you to tell me. I believe that we have two functions as journalists. The first is to report reality as it is, and not as we wish it to be. If that book is orange, it's orange. If there's 300 we say 300. Very well. The other social responsibility that we have is to questio those who have the power and to give a voice to those who have none. And I believe that in cases of racism, discrimination, corruption, public lies, dictatorships, human rights violations, we should cast neutrality aside and take a stand. But that's what I believe. But...
DIAZ-BALART: Influenced by Elie Wiesel, among other persons...
RAMOS: Exactly. What do you believe? In other words, what is your role?
DIAZ-BALART: I believe that...
RAMOS: How do...how do you see your role?
DIAZ-BALART: I believe that...one can be, and should be...the calling of journalism is (to) the truth...how you identify that truth so long as you include that we all have opinions. We all have them, and the more we study and learn, the more opinions we have, right?
DIAZ-BALART: Then the great challenge, I believe, is to ensure that what one is reporting be true, and not neccesarily insert your own point of view.