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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.”

An Ignored Truth…

Another Wave of Immigrants:

The Hidden Truth about the Immigrant Other

Some people might call me Xicano (Chicano), or some might call me Mexican-American, or Latino or perhaps just simply American. But in the eyes of some right wing fundamentalists, I might be called an anchor baby. They say that because of my parents illegal status at the time of my birth that I shouldn’t be considered a United States citizen. Isn’t it fair to assume, though, that many of these same people, who use the derogatory term “anchor baby,” are also descended from immigrants?

I mean, if I’m an anchor baby because I was born from undocumented immigrants, then aren’t we all technically anchor babies ? I mean, aren’t we all a generation or generations descended from undocumented immigrants?

Unless, that is, you come from a Native American heritage, which last I checked the percentage in this country, was fairly low. In my estimation, the majority of us come from immigrant parents or grandparents or great grandparents or what not, who came with the same dreams and aspirations.

With recent policies and challenges to the 14th Amendment, however, it seems as though there is a looming wave of ignorance among the uninformed masses. They don’t see that we are all sons and daughters of immigrants and that we should be helping each other not hating each other.

Needless to say, let me remind them that the original 13 colonies were a group of dissidents from another country that  came here to improve their lives, while securing something for their future generations.

Also, because of them African slaves, as well as other groups, became a sort of “involuntary immigrant,” which became the primary reason for the creation of the 14th Amendment. It  allowed foreign-born slaves, or laborers, to produce US-born citizens into bondage.

After slavery was abolished and somewhat diminished, our country resorted to Chinese and European immigrants to deal with the shortage of free labor. The First Transcontinental Railroad was built on the backs of many different cultures.

Once they – Chinese Americans, Irish Americans, Italian Americans, Polish Americans etc. – began to assimilate and gain rights, these immigrants were persecuted very much like the immigrants of today. Interestingly enough,  the  Chinese Americans were subjected to a discriminatory policy i.e. the Chinese Exclusion Act that bares a close resemblance to recent immigration laws against Latino immigrants. It really is strange how the past really is never really past.

Current immigrants are met with the same ignorance that was shown to the Chinese, Irish, Italian and Black immigrants. Moreover, all of this is ignored while raking in the rewards from the huge services that documented and undocumented workers provide. The truth is that the undocumented worker of today is no different than any  another worker from the past; the slave, the servant, the laborer and the “other,” will it never end?

The views upon undocumented Mexican or Central American immigrants today may seem like a burdensome problem  to some, but the truth is many of the same people remain ignorant of the reality of immigration: they provide the cheap labor that has been the staple in any thriving US economy.

Let’s face it, these workers are doing the jobs no one else will do. The back bone of America today is Latino, and is being disregarded.

The following Telemundo report, about the agricultural immigrant labor in the Salinas valley, highlights the experiences of immigrants today and how they are filling the role of cheap labor.

The report analyzes the notion of stolen jobs by undocumented workers. The video is in Spanish, so put your Sombreros on 😀

I’m just saying, how many of us are willing to pick fruits and vegetables for a living? and shouldn’t we be more aware of the treatment of immigrant workers, so that perhaps they aren’t taken advantage of?