Popular TV shows such as “The George Lopez Show” and “Que Pasa USA?” have invited us to enjoy the lives of Mexican-American and Cuban-American families via the small screen. However, not all Latino families are Mexicans or Cubans, and that’s why NBC is looking for a new diverse family comedy. Dominicanos stand up! The network is… [Read more…]
Hispanic actors lead Walking Dead spin-off series
By SUSAN HORNIK
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Don’t be surprised if you see zombies the next time you are in East Los Angeles—the prequel AMC spinoff series, Fear The Walking Dead, recently started shooting in Southern California. Focusing on the early days of the undead apocalypse, the new series is set loosely around the time The Walking Dead‘s Rick (Andrew Lincoln) was in a coma.
Focusing on the early days of the undead apocalypse, the new series stars veteran Latin actor/musician Ruben Blades, Mercedes Mason, Lorenzo James Henrie, Alison Araya, Patricia Reyes Spíndola, and Elizabeth Rodriguez.
According to the U.S. census, East LA is 96.7 percent Latino. It’s hard to imagine that creators of Fear The Walking Dead didn’t take this into consideration when developing the plot; Hispanic actors get top-billing in the show’s cast. Executive producer Greg Nicotero said the series centers around “everyday people.”
“It’s the story of a highly dysfunctional blended family holding it together,” before devolving into zombie mayhem Nicotero said over the weekend at a panel discussion during San Diego ComicCon.
“Knowing that society could be unraveling underneath each of these characters as it’s happening and then seeing how they change really is at the heart of the show,” Nicotero continued. “Since these are regular city-folk, not survivalists, no one will have the skills they’re going to need to survive.”
Just a year ago NPR TV Critic Eric Deggans criticized the way producers handled diversity on “Walking Dead.” Deggans said it took a long time for producers to get it right, but that he’s hopeful they now have a better understanding on how to handle ethnic diversity–even in a zombie apocalypse.
“One thing I’ve noticed regarding diversity and television is that it’s easier to cast a person of color who is essentially written as a white person — nothing distinctive about their ethnicity or racial background makes it into the show. It’s especially easy for all-white writing staffs, who don’t have to worry about getting something wrong when they feature the character’s ethnicity. One has to wonder, is that really diversity?” Deggans said.
He continued: “But most people of color nowadays live in a world where sometimes their race and culture is a big part of their life and sometimes it isn’t. I think TV shows still struggle to portray that, especially with Hispanic/Latino characters.”
Science fiction shows tend to be more open about casting people of color – mutants, androids and aliens – but historically there still weren’t many Latinos in these roles. According to a 2013 report in Latino Post, the lack of Latinos present in science fiction is done “under the assumption that Latinos are not interested in alternative realities or the ‘consequences of scientific innovations,’ which is not true,” writes Nicole Akroukou Thompson.
Despite making up 17 percent of the U.S. population, Hispanics are few and far between when it comes to holding leading roles on TV shows and movies, according to a 2014 study on Latinos in media. Not so with “Fear The Walking Dead.”
Veteran jazz musician Ruben Blades is the lead actor in the series. He plays Daniel Salazar, an immigrant barber who wants to have a better life with his wife Griselda (Patricia Reyes Spíndola) and daughter Ofelia (Mercedes Mason).
“I always say that the first motivation for an actor to work is unemployment,” said Blades during the panel discussion at ComiCon. “I felt good about accepting this role, because it is a very complex character, and I also really like science fiction.” He describes his character as “a man who has come from a different environment, a different society to start a life elsewhere with his family. “Events occur that force him to revisit a past that he was trying to get away from,” Blades said.
In an interview following the panel discussion, Blades explained the role immigrant and Hispanic culture plays in the show. “The Latinos in Fear the Walking Dead have already had this displaced narrative in their origin story,” Blades said. “They’ve already uprooted. And now they are facing it again, but within a new conflict of catastrophe and cultures. This show asks how would we behave everything was being redefined all the time? And that’s also a question that immigrants face on different scales, day-to-day.”
“Fear The Walking Dead” premieres Aug. 23rd at 9:00 p.m. on AMC. Watch the official ComicCon trailer below.
In reporting on Latino racial identity, The New York Times doesn’t include any Latinos and MSNBC limits itself to one
The New York Times recently set off a firestorm of controversy with its report, “More Hispanics Declaring Themselves White,” by Nate Cohn. Now it appears MSNBC’s “All In With Chris Hayes” may have made matters worse.
It is already difficult for many journalists to decipher and explain complex issues involving race. But in both cases of the Times and MSNBC, the problem appears to be journalists talking and writing about Latino identity with limited or no authority.
Cohn’s column, for example, is based on a Pew Research report that, itself, was based on a yet-to-be-published study presented at the annual Population Association of America meeting. In it, he states that Hispanics are choosing to change their race from “some other race” to “white” on US Census forms. However, he provides scant evidence to support this conclusion and a co-author of the study told Latino Rebels that Cohn’s inferences were his own, not that of the researchers.
Not only did Cohn, who is white, fail to include a source with a Latino perspective in his column that may have lent credibility and nuance, Hayes did little better when he included only one Latino on a panel discussion about the issue. The fact that Hayes tried to pack too much into his 10 minute segment also likely confused matters.
Hayes first veered from talking about the Pew report to introducing a video clip about the overall false construct of race in America. That’s a big enough subject to tackle, but then he introduced Jose Diaz-Balart to talk about the multi-faceted issue of Latino identity. Hays also invited surgeon and conservative pundit Ben Carson and Demos President Heather C. McGhee, both African American, to discuss race blindness, the concept of not seeing race at all or seeing past a person’s race. Another big issue. Hayes ended his segment by talking about how a growing Hispanic population will impact US politics.
It was just too much packed into too little time, so that none of it was done well.
For the purposes of this blog post, I’ll stick with the one topic of how news organizations attempt to parse race issues, often clumsily.
Hayes asked Diaz-Balart, MSBNC’s newest host, about the messiness of the “Hispanic Latino category.” Diaz-Balart responded that for Hispanics, race isn’t that “big a deal.”
“I think race is much less a big deal among the Latino population than it is maybe in the white population or overall population in the United States,” said Diaz-Balart. “I really do believe that people in the Latino community are looking for people that have sensitivity towards their plight. And if you happen to be darker or lighter, what really matters is what you’ve done and what you say you are willing to do to help those people who have found that because of their race they are, maybe, not having the same opportunities that others do.”
The panel needed three Latinos at the table to challenge statements like the one Diaz-Balart made, said Julio Ricardo Varela, the founder of LatinoRebels.com.
“It leads to a better conversation that is real,” Varela wrote on a Facebook thread about MSNBC’s coverage of the issue. “We need to make sure we don’t tokenize ourselves either and let’s not pretend that the MSNBC segment was good TV or a good discussion. This has nothing to do with slamming anyone, it has to do with speaking out against irresponsible reporting by The New York Times and how such a misleading story leads to severe misinterpretation and a false narrative.”
Varela criticized the national newspaper for misreporting the original story. Varela wrote to the newspaper with questions, but said Sunday that he’s still waiting on answers. Varela said he’s worried that Cohn’s interpretation of the unpublished data is now being taken as fact, as MSNBC did, he said. “… if we perpetuate that fact, as journalists, we don’t do our jobs,” Varela added.
Diaz-Balart, who is also a news anchor for Spanish language TV network, Telemundo, made reference to his African slave ancestors during his MSNBC appearance. But with green eyes and light skin, he could pass for a white Hispanic. If that matters.
Still, other Latino journalists suggested that Diaz-Balart’s comments represented the point of view of only a slice of Latino communities. The panel, they said, should have included Latinos of various skin colors.
Not knocking Diaz-Balart, but he was an odd choice to be booked on the panel, said Yvonne Latty, an Afro-Latina and journalism professor at New York University.
“It would have been fascinating to hear from an Afro-Latino in this case, who could have added a different perspective,” Latty said. “I have nothing against (Diaz-Balart) and I don’t want to bash him or his positive perspective, even though it has not been my reality at all.”
Latty was also critical of Cohen’s piece in the Times, which left out a discussion of black Hispanics altogether.
“The thing I found most fascinating about the NYT’s piece was this idea that Latinos with light skin were saying they were white on the census and the idea that the culture would go the way of the Irish, Italians and other immigrant groups… Just be white,” she said. “But where does that leave Latinos with brown skin? We were not even mentioned in the article. Are brown Latinos choosing just black? I don’t think so for many reason. I personally have always struggled with any form that makes me choose who I am, since I am more than one thing. But I enjoy the conversations, as race and identity, is a constantly evolving issue for me.”
The lesson learned from the current “white Latino debacle?” When talking about complicated issues like racial identity, news organizations should have a few of those identities on hand to inform the conversation.
With the sale of half its stake in Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce company, Yahoo stands to reap up to $8 billion that the internet giant can add to the $3.5 billion in cash it already has on hand. Media watchers are salivating over what Yahoo plans to do with all of that money.
Jeremy Quittner at Inc. Magazine speculates that Yahoo could buy back shares to prop up its own stock price, issue dividends to shareholders, or the tech media company could soon be on another buying spree. In its push to become profitable, Yahoo has made several high-profile content buys including paying $1.1 billion for the social media platform, Tumblr, a year ago and hiring veteran newswoman Katie Couric in November. Yahoo also bought data visualization firm, Vizify, for an undisclosed sum.
Inc.’s Quittner reports Yahoo may be interested in buying popular news startups such as Buzzfeed, Nowthis News and Recode, or social media networks Pinterest or Yelp. That’s all well and good, but Yahoo’s expected windfall also represents an opportunity for the aging internet company to not only diversify its content offerings, but deepen its reach into more diverse markets. While NBC Universal and AOL Huffington Post acquired portals that reach deeply into Hispanic and African American markets, Yahoo has no such product.
According to the Inc. report, Michael Yang of SanFrancisco-based Comcast Ventures and former Yahoo employee said: “Yahoo is looking at how to increase reach or audience, and monetization or yield on monetization.” What better way than by acquiring startups that narrow-cast to diverse and growing user bases. Where AOL HuffPost and NBC Universal own Black/Latino Voices and theGriot.com respectively, Yahoo could look to buying scrappy start-ups that cater to women of color such as Atlanta-based Clutchmagonline.com or Washington, DC-based WiseLatinaClub.com.
Similarly, since CEO Marissa Mayer explained her company’s new video strategy of producing fewer original series, perhaps Yahoo will consider partnering with smaller cable television networks, such as Magic Johnson’s Aspire TV. Instead of creating programming, Yahoo would license the rights to shows Aspire produces, such as Exhale, the African American version of “The View.” If that’s not doable, then maybe Yahoo can distribute programming by independent filmmakers like Stacey Muhammad‘s powerful web series, “For Colored Boys.”
Communities of color commanded enormous buying power in 2013, and they will continue to outpace the growth of the white market as minority populations surge, according to a report from the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the Terry College of Business at The University of Georgia.
The report shows that Hispanic consumers in the U.S. commanded a $1.2 trillion market in 2013, thanks to high birth rates, immigration and an increase in Hispanic entrepreneurship. In addition, African American consumers added $1 trillion to the 2013 market, Native Americans contributed $96 billion, and Asian consumers supplied $713 billion.
“As minority groups’ buying power continues to outpace the growth of the white market, these groups should see more tailored treatment from advertisers, producers and media outlets,” said Jeff Humphreys, author of the report and director of the Selig Center.
If Yahaoo’s Mayer plans to go shopping again, let’s hope she buys companies that will lift the companies advertising revenue and extend it’s reach. It’s the perfect time to try on a few products and services that are of interest to more diverse audiences, especially when you have money burning a hole in your pocket.
To Code or Not To Code. That is not the question, nor should it be, writes Mathew Ingram for Paid Content. Journalists, he said, ignore a basic working knowledge of computer programming at their own peril. “Now more than ever knowledge is power,” Ingram states. “More than that, it means having an appreciation for how technology affects the way media and content are being produced, consumed and distributed — and if you don’t understand or appreciate that, or you think it’s someone else’s job to do so, then you are truly screwed.” The argument about whether journalists should learn how to code is an ongoing one that spilled over onto Twitter last week when Olga Khazan wrote a piece for The Atlantic arguing that most journalists don’t need to learn how to code because it wastes time that they should be using to write and report. “If you truly want to compete with the hundreds of other j-school applicants for a reporting job, you should be writing stories until you dream in active verbs, not making ugly code creations,” writes Khazan. This debate, like the ‘who is a journalist’ argument is likely to continue for a long time. Until there is a resolution, here’s a handy website that proclaims “… Anyone Can Learn To Code.” It lays out basic, how-to steps for building a website, scraping data from the Internet and making simple maps. Journalists might even find this coding site… informative.
Speaking of who is and is not a journalist. Jonathan Peters, a media lawyer and the Frank Martin Fellow at the Missouri School of Journalism, writes for PBS MediaShift’s website that defining the term ‘journalist’ is important in light of the proposed journalism shield law recently approved by the senate judiciary committee as well as new guidelines from the U.S. Justice Department that will limit the ability of its lawyers to obtain reporters’ records. Both the senate bill and DOJ’s guidelines attempt to define who will and won’t be deemed a journalist. Some journalists and advocates are pushing back against both DOJ and the senate because they fear government encroachment on press freedoms. “… the legislation is flawed because it should cover all citizens who engage in acts of journalism from being forced to give up their confidential sources,” writes Kevin Gosztola for Firedoglake.com, who argues that both governmental efforts are biased against bloggers and citizen journalists. But not all journalists and free press advocates believe the government’s attempt at defining journalists is necessarily all bad. “…the bill approved Sept. 12 by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is closer in spirit to the idea that journalism is an activity rather than a job,” writes Thomas Kent, deputy managing editor and standards editor for the Associated Press. In a piece for The Huffington Post, Kent argues that “the bill classifies a wide variety of people as journalists and even provides for federal judges to extend the “covered journalist” umbrella to others.” While journalists and their allies try to hash that out, Peters discusses in MediaShift, the findings of a recent study he and Fulbright Scholar Edson C. Tandoc, Jr. conducted in an attempt to nail down a more concrete definition. Culled from descriptions from several different sources, their definition is based on “shared common elements,” of the descriptions they reviewed, Peters writes. From that they came up with this:
A journalist is someone employed to regularly engage in gathering, processing, and disseminating (activities) news and information (output) to serve the public interest (social role).
The definition, the authors say, is descriptive and not intended to be, well, definitive. “…it would be unwise to adopt a definition that excludes unpaid bloggers and citizen journalists who gather, process, and disseminate news and information on matters of public concern. From contributors to CNN iReport, to editors at Circa, to reporters at the New York Times, all are capable of committing acts of journalism,” Peters writes. “Some do it better than others, some have more resources than others, and something is gained when reporting is done by stable organizations with money, logistics, and legal services — but all are capable.” This debate to be continued also.
Colorism In Latino Media. With the October 28 launch of Fusion network, the ABC and Univision joint venture aimed at English-speaking Latino millennials, Maynard Institute’s Richard Prince takes a look at colorism within Latino media. Colorism is a practice of discrimination by which those with lighter skin are treated more favorably than those with darker skin. Also called “the color complex,” it has long been a topic of concern among African Americans, but is also being talked about more openly among Hispanics. According to Prince, Arlene Davila, a professor of anthropology, social and cultural analysis at New York University and an expert on Latino identity and marketing to Latinos, wrote on Facebook about Fusion: “Remember ABC/Univision ‘Fusion”s promise to represent ‘Latino millennials’?? well get ready for more of the same: super white anchors, no Mexican Americans or Puerto Ricans or US Latinos but same old cast you’d find in any Latin American exportable show — except they speak English! Whoever is heading this thing needs to hit our barrios and get a reality check!!” One of her Facebook friends replied, “Well, but what can we expect from Blancovision?” and “The other phrase that we used was Uniblanco,” Prince reported. Prince asked Yvonne Latty, a clinical associate professor in journalism at New York University, for her perspective. Latty, who is Dominican and African American said she is not surprised by the lack of Afro Latinos on Fusion because they are invisible. “The same issues that plague African Americans in terms of jobs on air plague us, but with an unfair twist,” Prince reports. “If a market is interested in hiring a Latino, they will most likely hire a white Latino, that is why a great number of Latinos on air are white Latinos. And that just dates back to stereotypes on beauty and what is pleasing to a general audience. If a market wants to higher a black reporter they will hire an African American, not an Afro Latino…”
Online privacy now sounds like fiction. In advance of this weekend’s rally to stop mass spying by the government in Washington, D.C., Ben Scott and George Mascolo wrote for the New America Foundation’s The Weekly Wonk that “the Summer of Edward Snowden has given way to a Winter of Mistrust. The revelations from the former NSA contractor triggered all manner of responses – vocal support, shrugs, cries of outrage, and dismay. But now that he’s settled into legal limbo in Moscow, we’re left to confront what may be his most dismaying revelation: the basic expectation of private communications on the Internet is now commonly seen as fiction.” Earlier this week Macolo and Scott released a paper that addressed the challenge to finding a way back to trusted communication online, especially in light of the breach of trust revealed by reports of U.S. spying on Germany and other allies. The hard truth, they said: “There is no political or economic power in the world that can guarantee privacy and security in digital communications. The information systems of modern society are fundamentally insecure. We can never be completely certain that no one is watching.” An Amtrak train passenger was watching, listening and live-tweeting as former National Security Administration chief Michael Hayden gave an off-the-record interview to journalists. At one point during his tweets the passenger, political strategist Tom Matzzie, noted that he wasn’t a journalist but might as well be since his “live commentary was quickly picked up by dozens of political and news outlets as it was happening,” Mathew Ingram reported for Gigaom. Just more proof that somebody’s always watching.