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Hispanics lead just 5 metro ed-pages

Large minority has small role in mainstream newspaper opinion leadership

Published Friday, October 11, 2013 5:00 pm by John McClelland


By John McClelland

Some of us on the AOJ members-only discussion list were appalled but not surprised when AOJ diversity chair Richard Prince said he had found only five persons of apparent Hispanic ancestry serving as opinion-page editors of substantial U.S. dailies.

He quoted one, Arnold Garcia. Prince wrote: “The Newspaper Association of America lists 1,382 daily newspapers in the United States. Arnold's comment: ‘Doesn’t say much for recruitment efforts, does it?’_”

Media industries have been slow generally, since beginning to diversify purposefully in the (gulp!) 1960s. So now we wondered why so few of one of the most numerous and rapidly growing minorities are in key leadership roles in U.S. editorial floors. That’s too broad and deep an issue for this package, but we thought there would be good tales among the success stories. Perhaps a spark to discussion?

This started with a seemingly routine query related to the waning weeks of Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. But it struck a nerve. So we asked the five to share a bit of what their world is like, to run before the AOJ convention Oct. 13-15.

We suggested that they comment on highlights, lowlights, speed-bumps on the way to the EPE job, how cultural backgrounds affect this or other forms of journalism, and so on. These understandably busy people didn’t know us from Adam, but all responded well. Thanks. 

Jump to

Myriam Marquez, Miami Herald

Arnold Garcia, Austin American-Statesman

John Diaz, San Francisco Chronicle

Brian Calle, Orange County Register

Mariel Garza, Los Angeles Daily News

Links to Heritage sites

List of the 5


Myriam Marquez, Miami Herald:

Marquez photo Overseeing the Miami Herald Editorial Board for such a dynamic and evolving metropolitan area is a dream job with all the challenges that legacy news operations face: attracting readers when there are so many choices out there.

I am the first woman and Hispanic to run the board, which adds another pressure point in this multicultural community. We strive to gain readers’ trust at a time when their governmental and civic institutions are too often in disarray and public opinion is divided. It helped that I arrived at this job in my “home town” after working in the Herald newsroom as deputy metro editor almost eight years ago.

Before that, I spent 18 years on the editorial board of the Orlando Sentinel and my last year there as enterprise editor. Not many opinion writers go back into straight news, but it was a challenge I welcomed, using a different side of the brain to focus on breaking news and enterprise. The years on the editorial board paid off in helping reporters spot policy issues that could be turned into enterprise stories with heft.

Now back on the opinion side, I relish the opportunities to move swiftly on issues in the news, generating diverse opinions for our pages in print, online and for video.

The job has changed dramatically since I first started on an ed board, but the mission remains the same: To serve as the community’s sounding board and speak truth to power.

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Arnold Garcia, Austin American-Statesman:

Garcia photo I’ve always considered myself fortunate that I didn’t know a lot of things. I didn’t know at the outset of my 40 plus years in this racket that minorities were few and not universally welcomed with open arms. I didn’t know that there were even fewer minorities writing editorials on daily newspapers of 100,000 plus circulation. 

I didn’t know that much of the business is learned from the experience of the old timers. As it turned out, some were generous with the lessons, and others reserved their mentoring for rookies who looked like them.

Because I didn’t know to expect help, I was pleased when it was offered but never disappointed when it wasn’t. I wasn’t a school-trained journalist, so I didn’t really learn “the rules.”

I learned by doing how to use, or work around, stereotypes to gather information. Minorities grow up knowing that “invisible people” – secretaries, janitors, clerks and other service people – are the ones who really know what’s going on and are only too happy to share their knowledge – especially with reporters who not only look like them but pay attention to them.

Minorities learn to test assumptions because wrong assumptions carry a heavy toll. And mostly, minorities learn to expect pushback when you express an opinion. 

What I didn’t know I had to find out -- and sometimes the hard way. It was in so many ways, perfect training for this job.

(Garcia later emailed that his retirement will occur later this year. After how long in the job? He replied, "I've been the piñata for 22 years.")

Arnold García Retiring as Opinion Editor in Austin http://bit.ly/16sUYmb

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John Diaz, San Francisco Chronicle: 

Diaz photo I worry about the decline in diversity in newspapers generally, and on opinion pages specifically.

Our coverage and approach to issues is inherently broadened and enriched by our life experiences. My grandparents immigrated from Peru in the late 1920s, and their history, struggles and perseverance had a profound influence on me, even as I grew up in the relative comfort of the Bay Area suburbs.

I know these sensibilities shaped everything from my work ethic to my appreciation of cultural differences. It unquestionably plays into my view of everything from federal immigration reform to recently signed state legislation on domestic workers' rights. (My single-parent grandmother worked for years as a domestic).

Today, I remain active in the National Association of Hispanic Journalists partly out of my commitment to help nurture and inspire journalism students to bring a new generation of Latinos into the profession. Their perspective is going to be only more important with the nation's changing demographics.

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 Mariel Garza, Los Angeles Daily News 

Garza photo

I don’t think a great deal about my Latino-ness in relation to my work, or even my life. I am who I am -- and that’s a Californian whose family is connected -- still, in my case -- to Mexico.

It makes me more common than not on the streets of L.A. But it does seem to matter a great deal to other people  -- both in a negative and positive way. Though I definitely notice less of the positive and more of the negative in recent years.

When I was recruited  to the board of the L.A. Daily News as a writer and columnist in 2003, I know that my ethnicity was a factor. But it didn’t make me the “hispanic” writer.  I wrote mostly about local and state politics, which is what I wrote about as a reporter.

And often my columns would provoke letters. Sadly, there were many of the “go back to Mexico” variety, as in: “You’re wrong about this topic, and by the way, you should go back to where you came from,” or, “What you say doesn’t count because you’re probably just here because of affirmative action.”

It was a terrible revelation for me, as I had never been the subject of such naked discrimination. This is the 21st century in Southern California!

On the flip side, I know there are people who see a Mexican (and perhaps, female) name on the masthead as a positive thing, inspiration or progress.  It balances out.

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Calle photoBrian Calle, Orange County Register, by email:

For me, and my road to my position, I've been embraced every step of the way. Most people do not realize I am Hispanic until we get into a discussion about my last name or I tell a story about myself,  so I did not endure any bumps. When people find out that I have some Latin roots they tend to get more excited and intrigued, if anything. I'd say what's caused me the biggest bumps and stories is my age/youth. 

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Some event-related sites: 

http://hispanicheritagemonth.gov/ (several federal agencies, many of them down or outdated during the October 2013... shutdown)
http://www.hispanicheritagemonth.org/ (bilingual)
http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/heritage_month/hhm/ (short, links)
http://www.pbs.org/about/news/archive/2013/pbs-celebrates-hispanic-heritage-month/ (programs to Oct. 29)
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/09/13/presidential-proclamation-national-hispanic-heritage-month-2013
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*The five that Prince found in large dailies were:
Myriam Marquez, Miami Herald http://www.miamiherald.com/editorial-board/
Mariel Garza, Los Angeles Daily News http://www.dailynews.com/editorials
Arnold Garcia, Austin American-Statesman http://www.statesman.com/s/opinion/
Brian Calle, Orange County Register http://www.ocregister.com/articles/editor-521957-opinion-register.html
John Diaz, San Francisco Chronicle  http://www.sfchronicle.com/author/john-diaz-/
Do readers see a geo-demo-graphic pattern?
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(posted 2013-10-11-17:00cdt update 17:45; update adding Garza copy 10-12 13:35)


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