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Hispanicize 2014 Kicks Off with "The State of Hispanic Journalists" Report of First Ever Survey

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First Posted: Apr 01, 2014 04:15 PM EDT
Hispanicize 2014 : The State of Latino Journalists panel
Cal State Fullerton: Dr. Dean Kazoleas and Inez Gonzalez; National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ President Hugo Balta, and Manny Ruiz co-founder of Hispanicize, Florida International University: Dean Raul Reiss (Photo : LatinPost: Keerthi Chandrashekar)

Hispanicize 2014 kicked off this week appropriately with a look at the state of Hispanic journalism. The session revealed the results of the first ever survey of U.S. Latino journalists and included an in depth discussion of the changing media and technology landscape, and how it affects Latinos.

Latino journalists report and analyze the news every day, but rarely is that mirror turned back on reporters. The State of Hispanic Journalism 2014 is the first look back at the Latinos behind the news. The results were released at a session Tuesday at Hispanicize 2014 -- and Latin Post was there to report the news about our own industry.

Moderated by the founder of Fox News Latino, the session included a panel with major players in Latino news, including educators, the President of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Hugo Balta, and Manny Ruiz, the CEO of Hispanicize, the organization behind the whole week of events in Miami.

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The survey results describe the climate of the media industry for Latinos, which was boiled down by Dean Kazoleas, Director of the Maxwell Center for International Communications and professor at Cal State Fullerton, to the term "guarded optimism."

Guarded Optimism

Guarded optimism portrays how both English and Spanish-language Latino journalists feel about their industry, which has been revolutionized in the past decade by advancements in technology and media. "We found an even split," said Kazoleas, between people who feel things haven't changed, people who are excited about the future, and those who are still concerned about their job or future career prospects. Put on a 1 to 100-point scale of pessimism/optimism, the overall "mixed feelings" about the ever-changing media industry placed at 62.

Interestingly, Spanish-language journalists were more pessimistic or nervous, in general. Over the past decade, journalism has been one of the media industries most revolutionized, and cut down, by changes in technology, and more Spanish-language Latino reporters reporters said they felt those cuts.

This has been seen in some Latino-focused segments of mainstream media just this year, like when CNN announced in February that it would shutter its Latino news division of CNN en Español. In a country where Latinos are increasingly bi-cultural and bilingual, and where the label "Latino" gets progressively broad and nebulous, barriers between Spanish and English are less pronounced. "Having the ability to produce in both languages will be an asset," said Inez Gonzalez, Director of the Latino Communications Initiative at Cal State Fullerton, one of the universities that sponsored the survey, "those that are producing exclusively in Spanish have been challenged."

When it comes to new changes in technology, a significantly (statistically) higher percentage of Spanish-language journalists felt social media had a negative impact and/or was a challenge. "Technology," said Gonzalez, "presents the most opportunity and the biggest challenges" to Spanish-language Latino journalists.

Technology and Latino Entrepreneurialism

The mixed bag of optimism and pessimism in Latino journalism is mainly motivated by changes in business strategies, which have mostly been led by technology.

Those with the entrepreneurial spirit, especially in digital journalism, lead optimism in the industry. Out of the 294 respondents, which were picked for the 31-question study because they were specifically Latino journalists in the U.S., 56 percent were practicing online journalism and more than a fifth had blogs.

When asked if they would run their own website or digital content platform if it were economically viable (basically meaning if you didn't starve doing it for free), 54 percent of Latino journalists said they would. The top skill that the respondents said they wanted to acquire (besides figuring out Twitter) was to learn how to build their own websites or digital platforms. And an overall 58 percent said the explosion of online media was having a positive impact on their career.

The big takeaway from the survey (view the full results here) and panel's discussion was that continuing learning how to use new digital tools and Latinos' entrepreneurial spirit were the biggest reasons for optimism in the new digital mediascape. Manny Ruiz, CEO of Hispanicize, emphasized that learning technology and business aspects of digital media was just as important as being good at the job, making an analogy between success in the new journalism climate to success in Hollywood: "They say in Hollywood, a lot of people get caught up in the whole 'show' part of [show business] and they forget that there's what? Business." Ruiz called on journalists who want to be equally successful not to ignore the second part of the term "news business."

President of the NAHJ Hugo Balta put it this way. "Change is going to happen, whether you like it or not," he said. "You're either going to lead change or change is going to lead you."


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