Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times, July 6, 2015
When the nation’s largest Spanish-language television network cut ties just over a week ago with Donald Trump, Univision executives said they were acting out of “a responsibility to speak up for the community we serve.”
“We see firsthand the work ethic, love for family, strong religious values and the important role Mexican immigrants . . . have in building the future of our country,” the network said in response to Trump’s derogatory comments about Mexican immigrants.
It was a characteristic move for Univision, which, like many Spanish-language media outlets in the U.S., defines itself not just as a media company but as an advocate and defender of the Latino community.
“They openly acknowledge their bias in acting in the interest of Hispanic America,” said Fernand Amandi, a Democratic pollster based in Florida.
That self-assigned role could have big consequences for next year’s presidential election. With a record 28 million Latinos eligible to vote, Spanish-language media companies are set to have their greatest impact yet in shaping a presidential race. Their advocacy stance has been on display as the campaign heats up, with reporters grilling candidates on issues of special importance to the Latino community, especially immigration.
“If the Spanish-language media has five minutes to talk to a presidential candidate about anything, they will talk about immigration,” said Gabriela Domenzain, a former Univision producer who is now advising Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley. That’s partly because reporters for English-language outlets often touch on the issue in less detail, if at all, she said.
That approach has provoked objections from some in both parties, but especially Republicans who see the focus on immigration and the activist stance of many Latino journalists as helpful to Democrats.
Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, probably the best-known Latino journalist in the country, has been a particular target. He recently defended the focus on immigration in an open letter to Republicans.
“The Republican Party has been complaining lately about how some Latino journalists, including me, only ask them about immigration,” he said. “That is correct, but what Republicans don’t understand is that for us, the immigration issue is the most pressing symbolically and emotionally, and the stance a politician takes on this defines whether he is with us or against us.”