Latinos Portrayal In Mass Media

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The mass media plays a significant role in forming public opinion. The hours spent watching television, reading the newspaper and flipping through magazines shape people’s views of the world outside the community and shape how each person relates to that world. Latinos are the largest minority group in the United States, yet their representation in mass media networks is stereotyped and often times negatively portrayed.
To understand the Latinos portrayal in mass media nowadays we have to take a look at the concept of race itself, and how this concept is introduced into society. Race is a socially constructed concept (Crouteau, Hoynes, Milan), meaning that we are not born with the knowledge of social and race difference, we socially acquire that knowledge through our parents, television programs, news, etc. For kids, a person is a person, no matter what is their skin color, their eyes color, or their background -which children usually do not even know that concept-. In fact, there is no biologically valid difference in the genetic makeup of different races (Crouteau, Hoynes, Milan). Parents and society in general are the ones who teach kids the meaning of race, and social difference.
The racial discrimination in mass media in the United states comes from the early 1920’s and 1930’s, time when the minority groups such as African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities were of little consideration to the media industry. Because these minorities comprised a small part of the population, mainstream media like radio, television, newspapers and magazines and specially the films industry did not see them as an important segment of the mass audience (Crouteau, Hoynes, Milan). The Latino community specifically has been ignored by these mass media outlets. Coverage of Latino-oriented news events and stories was generally left to Spanish-language media and smaller, community-oriented newspapers (summer 1997).
Since World War II, the trend has been toward more exclusiveness and growing sensitivity in media of all types, Latinos have appeared more often in television and print news, however, they have been negatively stereotyped, relating them to news such as immigration, vandalism, criminal activity and other sorts of negative aspects. The question that arises from this issue is: Who is responsible for this negative stereotype, and how does this affect the Latino minority group? Lamentably, mass media is constantly depicting and making stereotypes of groups, and the less familiar the people are with the group depicted, the more likely they are to believe the stereotype. What did North Americans know about Latinos a century ago? Not much if they were not in contact with them. The mass media gave them an identity, they presented this ethnic group to the North American society, but not surprisingly, it was not accurate to represent all Latinos. This kind of negative exposure produced a skewed perception of Latinos as a “problem population” in the eyes of mainstream society -which is basically what happened with African Americans-. Young Latinos in particular are the victims of this type of portrayal: Most English-language news stories featuring Latino youth involve them as drug dealers or users, gang members, teen mothers and high school dropouts (summer 1997). This is not fair for Latinos, the problem with stereotyping and generally depicting a certain ethnicity group does actually not represent that group at all, since there are infinite different types of people among that particular culture or ethnicity.
Television has had the most influence on this type of depiction. When Latinos started appearing in TV commercials or films, they portrayed as villains opposing the white hero in movies like Tony the Greaser (1911) and The Greaser’s Revenge (1914). Hollywood came up with the “Latin Lover” roles which portrayed Latinos as extremely passionate and sexual compared to their Anglo-Saxon counterparts (Gonzalez, 2010). On the other hand, Latina women were -and still are sometimes- portrayed in the media as sexual, sensual women, mothers or domestic workers.
Luckily, nowadays Latinos are breaking down the molds with the main help of famous actors and actresses and representing different roles in movies and commercials. Nevertheless, Dana E. Mastro and Susannah R. Stern’s study “Representations of Race in Television Commercials: A content Analysis of Prime-Time advertising”, Latinos are still primarily located in banking/finance ads or ads for food an entertainment, while whites -the mainstream race or ethnicity- appear in advertisements for cosmetics and were most frequently found at home.

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Argo

ImageThe photo is a link to Argo’s movie preview

Everybody knows the movie Argo. Directed by Ben Affleck, it came out on 2012 and it is the story about six U.S diplomats who were rescued from Tehran, during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.

But nobody really knew the details of the real story until last year, when the movie came out. Broadcast Journalist Ted Koppel was one of the people who helped keep the story as a secret. This delicate and dangerous mission carried out by CIA operator Tony Mendez was not put on the air when it happened just so the safety of the six diplomats who escaped from the attack to the embassy at Tehran wouldn’t be jeopardize. 
Koppel recalls in an interview what the secretary of state told him on 1979: “[…] it seems to us inevitable that if you put [the story] on the air, that the Canadian Embassy would probably be taken, and that the Americans that escaped from the U.S. Embassy would probably be killed”.
 So the story was kept a secret. The six diplomats were brought back to the U.S, and nobody really gave credit to the Canadians for helping them, but that’s another story.

So I couldn’t help but wonder, what if this story had happened nowadays? We live in the 21st century, we have all technological developments possible and the use of social media is available to almost anybody.
 If this story had happened this year, would it be the same story? Would the journalist back off with a story like this?
Some people argue that it would be impossible to keep a story like this secret. Our media nowadays focuses on getting the story ASAP. Today we are so in a hurry. Everybody wants the led story. It is the race to being first with the story and be the one to have it first. And that’s why there have been more than a couple cases where some news network or newspaper gets the information wrong and has to retract from it. In other words, media nowadays bases more on the promptness rather than the accuracy.
 But even if the networks didn’t make the story public, somebody else would. We have Twitter and Facebook nowadays, blogs, Internet almost everywhere and cell phones. Social media is the most powerful tool people have nowadays. I am sure if somebody found out about the story today he would take no time to Tweet it or post it on Facebook. Back in 1979 the Internet didn’t exist yet, and it was much more complicated to share a story on the other side of the world. So personally, I don’t think it would be possible to keep a story like this from the public.

Now, the question that arise from this is: Is this a good or a bad thing? As Koppel said, he kept the story secret so that I wouldn’t jeopardize the diplomats safety. What if today somebody had found out about the story and had shared it with the world. These people probably wouldn’t have made it home. On the other hand, maybe they could have gotten some help from other people and the mission would have been a lot easier for Mendez.
But it would for sure have been an interesting event to happen nowadays, and it woud have been interesting to see how the media would have reacted and how it would have been handled.

The Newsroom

Last year I watched the first season of the show The Newsroom. It premiered on HBO on June 24, 2012. The show examines the lives of the people who work at Atlantis Cable News (ACN) a fictitious major news outlet, which broadcasts News Night. Jeff Daniels plays the main character, the anchor Will McAvoy, who puts together the news show a different way of telling the news. His ex (Emily Mortimer) is his new producer. Due to McAvoy’s “rough way of presenting the news” they face a lot of problems with their boss, the press etc.

It is an interesting show because it gives a different perspective of a newsroom nowadays. While all the media stations are biased towards their owners interest, The Newsroom presents a different way of telling the news, basing on facts and not worrying about the publics critics. Nevertheless, critics are hard to this show for its long and elaborated dialogs. It was not believed that it would even make to the second season, but they just signed for the third season, so for those who can’t get enough, get ready for more.

Here is a sneak peak of the second season that came out on July 14, 2013.

Representations Of Race In Television Commercials: A Content Analysis Of Prime-Time Advertising

I found this very interesting study that analyzes the frequency, context and equality of African Americans, Asian American, Latino, Latin American and white in television commercials.
In this study made by Dana E. Mastro and Susannah R. Stern, a one-week sample of prime-time television commercials where 2,315 speaking characters were analyzed. For this study, local commercials, political advertisements, trailers for television shows, movies and sports were excluded. As the authors explain, the third three speaking human characters in each ad were coded. The testing revealed that the majority of prime-time commercials contained fewer than three identifiable speaking characters.
According to Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) , the manner in which images are presented on television influences how viewers interpret and respond to the modeled acts. The result of this study was that the majority of the characters appearing on the 2,290 human speaking commercials were white (83.3%), the second largest percentage was black (12.4%), then Asian (2.3%), Latino (1.0%) and Native American (0.4%). Also, males of all races appeared more often than females with the exception of Latinos, who had an equivalent number of males and females.

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Some other aspects of this study that were observed were that viewers learn from what they see in the media, like behavior. The manner in which images are represented on television influences how viewers interpret and respond to the modeled acts. Evidence in the research indicated that Black viewers prefer ads (Williams, Quails & Crier, 1995) and programming featuring blacks (Nielsen Media Research, 1998). And that Latinos favor Spanish-language programs. Additionally, studies showed that children are more likely to want to be like media characters of their own racial/ethnic background.
So the next step was examining how often and in what context characters from different racial/ethnic backgrounds are depicted in commercials. The researchers focused on three primary areas: Frequencies, selective presentation and presentation quality.
In the frequency area, it was revealed that racial/ethnic minorities have been chronically underrepresented in television commercials despite their proportions in the population. Nevertheless, Taylor and Stern’s results showed an exemption to this statement. Black portrayals in television ads occupied a 35%, Asian Americans were depicted in 8.4% of commercials, Latinos in 8.5% and whites in nearly every advertisement (98%).
In the selective presentation area, these portrayals in terms of product association and setting were examined: Blacks appeared in integrated ads for food, cars, alcohol and institutional/service advertisements. On the other hand, whites appeared more often in advertisements for cosmetics and were most frequently found at home. Asians were most in ads for retailers while Latinos were primarily located in banking/finance ads or ads for food an entertainment (Wilkes & Valencia, 1989).
Finally, on the presentation quality area, the qualities associated with these presentations were examined. The results were that racial/ethnic minorities appear most regularly in minor or background roles and group settings and less likely to be pictured as parents or spouses, and less likely to give orders.

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As Mastro and Stern conclude in his analysis of contemporary television advertising indicates both progress and stagnation for racial/ethnic minority representations. Even though Blacks are generally portrayed in a more diverse and equitable manner, Asian American, Latinos and Native Americans remain underrepresented and even negatively represented some times. Whites and Blacks have the greatest number of potential models in current television advertising. Asian are usually depicted as young, passive adults dedicated to work only. Nevertheless, they make clear that this study is far from showing the complete picture. This analysis utilized sampling and analytical techniques that provide objective and generalizable information nevertheless, they exclude the inclusion of groups with minimal absence of representation.

The “Secret War” of Vietnam. A story never told

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“The Americans gave us weapons and told us to shoot the enemy, then they left us and we’ve been slowly dying here ever since…When the Lao Army kills one of our men, they feel as though they’ve killed an American in revenge for us helping them during the war.’”

I heard about the “secret war” of Vietnam for the first time the other day in class when we talked about the Hmong. While we are told about the Vietnam war in school, we never learn of the “secret war” fought on behalf of the United States during this time. The “secret war” refers to the thousands of Hmong who were recruited by the U.S military through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to help fight the war against Communism in Southeast Asia. According to Daphne Winland, the Hmong belong to the Sino-Tibetan language family. Being culturally similar to the Chinese, Hmong origins can be tracked back to China, where they lived peacefully hundreds of years. The word Hmong mean “free people” or “mountain people”. They were chosen by the CIA because of the geographically strategic location in the mountains of Laos. In the 1960s, the CIA began secretly enlisting Hmong to prevent North Vietnamese troops from entering and moving supplies to South Vietnam through Laos. The Hmong suffered devastating losses estimated at more than 100 time greater (proportionately) than the United States. Most experts agree that more than 25,000 Hmong lost their lives fighting for the United States during the Vietnam War.

Due to intense political pressures at home, the United States had vowed not to escalate the war into Laos. Thus, the Hmong became known as “the Secret Army” and their participation in the war was called “the Secret War”. In 1975, the United States withdrew its forces from Vietnam. Concurrently, a Communist-backed government, supported by the Vietnamese and Soviets, assumed power in Laos. One of the foremost goals of the new Laotian government was to annihilate the Hmong people because of their alliance with the United States. The Communists tortured, raped, and murdered thousands of Hmong. They napalmed their villages and slaughtered their cattle. There is evidence that the Communists used chemical and biological weapons in their attempt to wipe down the Hmong. With the United States having withdrawn from Vietnam, the Hmong were left without any allies in the middle of their enemies and a new war. Many Hmong immigrated to the United States, Australia and France. Nowadyas, approximately 150,000 Hmong live in the United States, with little or no recognition for their efforts, and without any veterans benefits. In 1997, the U.S finally acknowledged Hmong veterans with a granite marker in Arlington National Cementery.

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Life has not been easy for the Hmong immigrates in the U.S. New coverage of the Hmong often referred to them as a “pre-literate”, “primitive”, and “hilltribe group”, writer John Duffy explains in his book. Meanwhile, in the jungle back in Vietnam, Hmongs live miserably, living in terrible conditions and hiding, trying to survive with little food they get from sympathetic farmers. “If the Americans don’t want to help us,”a veteran said on an interview to the New York Times, “they should drop a big bomb on us and end our misery.”

This is the story never told by the government of the United States. President Johnson, in coalition with the Central Intelligence Agency, kept the “secret war” as a secret from all the Americans. The Vietnam War was planned and implemented step-by-step by five administrations and principally directed by the Central Intelligence Agency. Once secret documents, referred to as the “Pentagon Papers” and “McNamara Papers,” have shown the U.S. government, during the war, systematically deceived the American people as the secret strategy unfolded. Deception is war’s key weapon (Rockstroh, 2010). Why was this sotry never told? Simply because it would jeopardize president Johnson’s popularity.

This is just one of many examples of how easly we can be lied to and how the forvernment and media keep information from the main public just for the interest of some.

For further insight, here is a short documentary of the “Secret War”. Sworn to Secrecy: Secrets of War: Wietnam: Johnson’s War

6 Corporations control 90% Of The Media In North America

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GE, News Corporation, Disney Company, Viacom, Time Warner and CBS. These 6 conglomerates control 90% of the mass media in North America nowadays.

Media ownership is becoming more and more concentrated these days as multi-billion dollar companies such as News corporation, Time warner and Disney company control almost all the shares of the mass media. A total of six corporations control almost 90% of the mainstream media nowadays. That means that out of all the TV channels we watch, the radio stations we listen to and the movies we see are owned by one of these six main corporations. Is this a good or a bad situation? Is the fact that almost the whole media is owned by a very few a positive or a negative aspect? Some argue that this brings benefits to the free market, the multi-billion companies and ultimately, the viewers. On the other hand, others say that this concentration of media ownership has a negative effect on the market and on society as a whole (articleworld.org).

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People are almost “forced” to wonder if the media controls as well our public taste and interest. They control the information we receive, but not only that, they control exactly what we receive and the way we do, therefore they control what we think. Media companies do not care about how they can be more objective and provide people news and information with a neutral  point of view (even thought it sounds contradictory). We could say that they “unintentionally” or “indirectly” tell us what to think and what to believe. A newspaper finds some news and automatically interprets them, even though journalists try to focus on the facts, as many claim, they subconsciously have and opinion about whatever subject they are reporting about. This takes us to the point of “lack of diversity” that is a reality nowadays and that so many criticize. Danny Schechter, a television producer, independent filmmaker, blogger, and media critic states that “we have many channels and a tremendous lack of diversity.” It wouldn’t be strange to think that a news broadcast would withhold information if it had a negative effect on the company.

From an international perspective, this situation of media merging is also beneficial for the big conglomerates. For instance, News Corporation owns the top newspaper on 3 continents, that is the Wall Street Journal in the U.S, The Sun in Europe and The Australian in Australia (Lutz, Jason, 2012). The positive aspect of this, is that the spreading of this “influence” is good for the company, and at the same time, readers get what they want, which is reading that newspaper. However, the bad aspect is that big conglomerates are big companies, and big companies main priority is always money, above everything else. Getting more readers, viewers and listeners is for the one and only purpose that matters to them: Money. That is what brings bad or “controversial” consequences, and one of them is that in 2012, they avoided $875 million in U.S taxes (Lutz, Jason, 2012). That would have been enough to double FEMA’s budget, or to fund NPR for 40 years. Nonetheless, technically this cannot be criticized since they are a private corporation after all. Another issue that is a big concern in the European Union is the media transparency and plurality. Transparency is an essential component of pluralism (Stolte & Smith, 2010). Although the Council of Europe and the European Parliament have brought out recommendations regarding media transparency in the last few years, these have not been acted on. It is left to Member States to implement legislation regarding media ownership transparency, and there is by no means a unified or standard approach to be found across Europe (Stolte & Smith, 2010). This is a big issue in the European Union. The media’s duty is to provide objective information to the public through newspapers, television and radio, in order for the public to make public as well as personal decisions in the diverse fields.

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It may sound scary -and it does to a lot of people- the fact that all our media is controlled by a few big conglomerates, forming an oligopoly, with the power of doing -almost- whatever they want. Also, it is true that this situation implies a very few and personal points of view, and the opportunity for those big conglomerates to “control” in a way what gets out, and how it does. Making the audience think in a certain way. This Infographic shows the media ownership in the U.S currently.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: PROGRAM OR BE PROGRAMMED

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“We do not know how to program our computers, nor do we care. We spend much more time and energy trying to figure out how to use them to program one another”.

In his book Program Or Be Programmed: Ten Commands For The Digital Age, Douglas Rushkoff’s presents 10 commands that are each based on one of the “biases” of digital media. In computer programming a “command” is a directive to a computer to perform a specific task. But Rushkoff’s commands are not directives for human behavior as much as a code of ethics that, like the 10 commandments of Judaism in what was a new text-based age, help us navigate a new age of computer mediation and abstraction.

Rushkoff’s book is divided into 10 different chapters that explain the 10 commands and cover points like technology “addiction”, evolution of technology and our relationship with and to technology and with others. This book, far from being critical, is kind of a guide of how to behave when working (or dealing) with media. Rushkoff tries to makes us think about technology, new technologies and that it is not always “better” to use technology despite the common thought that it will make our life easier.

We have the power of using technology in two ways, Rushkoff explains: Receiving and giving. But rarely do we use it the second way.

Rushkoff’s main argument is that in the emerging, highly programmed landscape ahead,  one will either create the software or will be the software. It’s really that simple: Program, or be programmed. He supports his main argument in the following 10 chapters explaining in a detailed way this 10 commands he proposes:

1. Time. Do not always be on
2. Place. Live in person
3. Choice. You may always choose none of the above
4. Complexity. You are never completely right
5. Scale. One size does not fit all
6. Identity. Be yourself
7. Social. Do not sell your friends
8. Fact. Tell the truth
9. Openness. Share, don’t steal
10. Purpose. Program or be programmed

The first chapter is called TIME. Do Not Be “Always On”. On this chapter Rushkoff explains that we live in a world dictated by time. However, to our digital devices, time is an unknown concept. They are characterized for their “asynchronicity”, this means that, unlike a regular conversation or phone call where we exist together in the same moment and speak back and forth in real time, these online conversations are more like passing back and forth (Russhkoff, p.23)

On the second chapter PLACE: Live In Person. The main argument is that we lose our sense of place, as well as our home field advantage by using a dislocating technology for local connection. This means that digital media is biased away from the local, and toward dislocation. Our problem nowadays is that we have lost the sense of “being in person”,  since it is very easy and absorbing being connected with somebody that might not be in the same geographical space that us. “In-person interaction should always be option number one”, Rushkoff proposes, “There is no substitute. Digital media should be used only the former is not a viable option”. He very well supports his argument with a short story that makes the reader picture the reality and it is a good example to follow through.

Rushkoff supports his argument throughout the book by giving examples and facts from some studies and research done. For instance on chapter III, CHOICE. You may always chose none of the above, he explains his argument that we are constantly making choices, sometimes unneeded, illustrating it with an example of how computers work and that, by taking care of the indiscrete issues -making discrete choices-, they have us making other choices that their program demand.

In general terms, I think this book is based on goodand deep research and therefore, exemplifies what is happening nowadays. Since technology is biased towards dislocation, we tend to be more online and trying to stay connected with people that are not physically with us. The digital technologies and the world itself have been reduced to a bunch of choices we have to make to -as Rushkoff says- move on, and sometimes those choices are not even needed. Also, nowadays is very easy to hide behind some false identity on the internet, that is why Rushkoff says that we should always be ourselves. He also talks about how easy is to steal information from the internet and how easy it is to make up a lie. Nevertheless,  in my opinion, some points Rushkoff talks about are not quite accurate to the present. I do not see that people lie that much on the internet about their identities. It is true that there are lots of people who post comments on websites from an account they created with a different name, just not to be identified, but I think overall, people do not mind when it comes to telling who they are. For instance, almost everybody that uses internet on a daily basis -if not everybody- has a Facebook account where they like to post pictures and comments from their life for their friends and family to see and keep in touch.
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Rushkoff’s main objective is persuade the reader to be a better user. Basing his theory and advice on real facts and studies, and giving examples of everyday situations, he easily gets  the reader’s attention in order to make his point later on, on how to follow the command he proposes on each chapter. He clearly supports his arguments and is straightforward when it comes to explaining his point. In my opinion, the book as a whole is well structured and very thoughtful, it makes the reader understand a little better the technological world in which we live nowadays, and it is a great guide to help us make the right choices and act  accordingly to the moral code, in other words, it helps us program technology, instead of being programmed by  it.