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Media Prostitution: How ratings-driven networks are ruining Spanish-language TV

When bold journalism is a radical break from the mainstream, we know we have got a problem with what we call noticias. So when we tune into someone like Ruben Luengas, host of Telemundo network’s news program, “En Contexto,” who is not only willing to discuss the current media’s shortcomings, but do something about it —we know we have someone worth watching.

At an event on April 6 in Bunche Hall, organized by Undergraduate Spanish and Portuguese Association (USPA), Luengas discussed the declining integrity of Spanish language news. “When noticieros get into ratings, the prostitution of the media begins,” Luengas said.

Luengas takes an alternate route by pushing the boundaries of investigative journalism with “En Contexto.” His Emmy-award-winning news piece, “Los Olvidados,”  gives an account of the harrowing journey undocumented immigrants endure and the often deadly end they encounter on their way to the other side. During a recent piece, “Espaldas Dobladas,” Luengas made a journey to the Salinas Valley, where a vast majority of the nation’s produce comes from, to expose hardships Latino immigrant farm workers face in the fields and in political discourse.

His departure from the mainstream news show format is a risk Luengas knowingly takes, even at the cost of being unpopular among audiences. Jose Ortiz, a second-year history student respects his bold work ethic. “I tend not to agree with Ruben Luengas’ viewpoint, but I respect the work he does because he is not afraid to push the boundaries,” Ortiz said.

Luengas’ coverage of Latino issues is a personal mission.“I do stories like these because I want to show what is inside me, my family and the Latino community,” he said during the lecture.

But powerful as these stories are, the show is not guaranteed staying power. During the event, Ruben mentioned that his show may be cancelled because of lack of viewership. However, a report by the Nielsen Company, a media research and information corporation, indicated that Telemundo’s viewership among adults ages 18-49 grew 37 percent in the second quarter of this year. This increase may be due to popular shows such as “La Reina del Sur,” a telenovela which outperformed shows on ABC and CBS.

Telenovela programming is responsible for drawing a vast proportion of viewership in Spanish language networks. According to the Nielsen Company, during the week of May 2, the top 10 most popular TV shows among Latinos in the United States were all broadcast by Univision and nine of those shows were telenovelas.

Between news and telenovelas, Univision and Telemundo’s programming schedules leave much to be desired. Both stations broadcast an average of about two to three hours of news each day. In comparison, telenovelas dominate the programming schedule with five to eight hours broadcast on Telemundo and Univision, respectively. In an effort to remain prominent, Spanish-language networks organize their programming around the shows that will garner the most viewership.

Catering primarily to telenovela sensibilities among viewers is good for business, but otherwise leaves very little options for meaningful and engaging news programming. This is where Luengas’ style of journalism comes in and fills this information and entertainment gap for audiences.

“I enjoy watching Ruben Luengas because he is Latino, he gives the truth and he speaks his ideas,” UCLA housing employee Cecilia Gonzalez said, “Ruben’s news is always current and I know he is showing us the truth.”

Media Prostitution: How ratings-driven networks are ruining Spanish-language TV

When bold journalism is a radical break from the mainstream, we know we have got a problem with what we call noticias. So when we tune into someone like Ruben Luengas, host of Telemundo network’s news program, “En Contexto,” who is not only willing to discuss the current media’s shortcomings, but do something about it —we know we have someone worth watching.

At an event on April 6 in Bunche Hall, organized by Undergraduate Spanish and Portuguese Association (USPA), Luengas discussed the declining integrity of Spanish language news. “When noticieros get into ratings, the prostitution of the media begins,” Luengas said.

Luengas takes an alternate route by pushing the boundaries of investigative journalism with “En Contexto.” His Emmy-award-winning news piece, “Los Olvidados,”  gives an account of the harrowing journey undocumented immigrants endure and the often deadly end they encounter on their way to the other side. During a recent piece, “Espaldas Dobladas,” Luengas made a journey to the Salinas Valley, where a vast majority of the nation’s produce comes from, to expose hardships Latino immigrant farm workers face in the fields and in political discourse.

His departure from the mainstream news show format is a risk Luengas knowingly takes, even at the cost of being unpopular among audiences. Jose Ortiz, a second-year history student respects his bold work ethic. “I tend not to agree with Ruben Luengas’ viewpoint, but I respect the work he does because he is not afraid to push the boundaries,” Ortiz said.

Luengas’ coverage of Latino issues is a personal mission.“I do stories like these because I want to show what is inside me, my family and the Latino community,” he said during the lecture.

But powerful as these stories are, the show is not guaranteed staying power. During the event, Ruben mentioned that his show may be cancelled because of lack of viewership. However, a report by the Nielsen Company, a media research and information corporation, indicated that Telemundo’s viewership among adults ages 18-49 grew 37 percent in the second quarter of this year. This increase may be due to popular shows such as “La Reina del Sur,” a telenovela which outperformed shows on ABC and CBS.

Telenovela programming is responsible for drawing a vast proportion of viewership in Spanish language networks. According to the Nielsen Company, during the week of May 2, the top 10 most popular TV shows among Latinos in the United States were all broadcast by Univision and nine of those shows were telenovelas.

Between news and telenovelas, Univision and Telemundo’s programming schedules leave much to be desired. Both stations broadcast an average of about two to three hours of news each day. In comparison, telenovelas dominate the programming schedule with five to eight hours broadcast on Telemundo and Univision, respectively. In an effort to remain prominent, Spanish-language networks organize their programming around the shows that will garner the most viewership.

Catering primarily to telenovela sensibilities among viewers is good for business, but otherwise leaves very little options for meaningful and engaging news programming. This is where Luengas’ style of journalism comes in and fills this information and entertainment gap for audiences.

“I enjoy watching Ruben Luengas because he is Latino, he gives the truth and he speaks his ideas,” UCLA housing employee Cecilia Gonzalez said, “Ruben’s news is always current and I know he is showing us the truth.”

ILLEGAL: How this anti-immigrant term contaminates public perception of undocumented immigrants

Illustration by Maria Esmeralda Renteria.

An invading horde of disease-carrying criminal aliens pours over an unprotected border, draining limited state resources.

This is the image of immigrants popularized by mass media.

There is no denying the influential power that words possess in shaping how people perceive the world around them. It is precisely this reason why the word illegal must be consciously removed from popular discourse regarding immigration.

“The word illegal sets the tone of how you treat someone,” said Nancy Meza, a UCLA alumna. “We need people to stop using the word illegal because it stops the conversation. When you call someone illegal you’re already demonizing them. This narrows the scope of understanding why immigration happens.”

Identifying herself as undocumented and unafraid, Meza stated that being unafraid means you are public about your status and what you go through as an undocumented person.

“We are not aliens, we are not criminals, we are not less than anyone else. We’re social refugees, economic refugees,” said Meza.

The use of the term illegal in mainstream media stigmatizes undocumented people by reducing them to criminals.  Subsequently, the veiled message the word conveys acts as a mechanism for racially-motivated attacks.

There is a direct link between the anti-immigrant message conveyed across popular media outlets and the atmosphere of violence and hate that manifests itself on the streets.

According to a 2009 report by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education, the increasing number of anti-immigration commentaries from high-profile national media personalities “correlates closely with the increase in hate crimes against Hispanics.”

The toxic manner in which the term illegal is irresponsibly spewed through the media is a catalyst for violence.

In July 2009 two men beat and stabbed 45-year-old janitor Maria Guadarrama in Orange County. After taking her wallet, they are reported to have said, “You’re worthless, you’re Mexican.”

On Oct. 14, 2010 two men in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, were convicted for the racially-motivated murder of Eduardo Ramirez Zavala. They are reported to have said, “Go back to Mexico,” and called him a “fucking wetback” as they beat the father of three to death.

News anchors, pundits and politicians on both sides of the debate use the term illegal. Its repetition has created a negative connotation that overgeneralizes and robs people of their humanity.  By calling undocumented people illegal, hardworking immigrants are unfairly cast as pedophiles, drug smugglers and murderers.

Linguist Otto Santa Ana, Associate Professor with the UCLA César E. Chávez Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at UCLA, has actively researched the representation of Latinos in print media.

“Those who favor the term illegal claim that unauthorized immigrants are criminals who deliberately violate US law. The argument continues that once in the US they abuse its social services, so they merit only punishment,” said Santa Ana.

“It’s a really horrible term to call people,” said Penelope Guevara, an undocumented student and third-year philosophy major at UCLA.

Guevara has lived in the US since she was a child and considers herself an American.

“If you know the story about undocumented peoples, you see they are not all these things, we’re people,” said Guevara.

Mexico

To travel or not to travel: Mexico

Mexico

Tourist hotspot or danger zone?

On March 16 an e-mail from the Dean of Students, Robert J. Naples, appeared in my inbox. The e-mail issued a warning about traveling to Mexico due to the recent drug-related violence in the border cities such as Tijuana, Nogales, and Ciudad Juarez. The Dean’s warning appeared to be more than a mere suggestion – it implicitly discouraged students from traveling to Mexico. I knew the university wanted to ensure that students had enough information about what was happening south of the border before embarking on any Mexican adventures, however, the e-mail relied on fear-mongering to exacerbate our feelings of suspicion and doubt regarding the safety of Mexico.

The media coverage of Mexico tends to focus solely on the high crime rates and sensationalized news, while the beauty of Mexico falls to the wayside. The statistical crime rates and televised news should be taken into consideration when planning a vacation, but they must not deter us from visiting a beautiful country that has much more to offer than what the media depicts.

The constant coverage of heinous crimes against tourists, reportedly the result of drug cartels, intensifies the trepidation of traveling to Mexico. The U.S. Department of State reports that in Mexico, “kidnapping, including the kidnapping of non-Mexicans, continues to occur at alarming rates.  So-called express kidnappings, i.e., attempts to get quick cash in exchange for the release of an individual, have occurred in almost all of Mexico’s large cities and appear to target not only the wealthy but also the middle class.” Interestingly, with 64 murders per 100,000 people, New Orleans holds the title of the most murderous city in the United States, according to the FBI.

With all this information, should one reconsider his/her travel itinerary? After graduation I’m planning to visit Guadalajara for the first time. As a future Mexican tourist, I don’t want to feel like a potential target for an array of crimes; I want to enjoy what Guadalajara has to offer. Instead of fearing the risk of kidnapping, I want to appreciate Guadalajara’s Metropolitan Cathedral, instead of worrying about the drug cartels I want to enjoy Guadalajara’s numerous public parks and squares, such as the Rotonda de los hombres Ilustres (Rotunda of Illustrious Men), and instead of spending yet another summer in L.A., I want to visit the Cabañas Cultural Institute which features several works by the renowned Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco. These are only a few of the perks Mexico has to offer. Unfortunately, they become overshadowed by the fear-mongering of the media and our own lack of understanding of what lies beyond the crime statistics.