April 19, 2018
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Hispanics In The News: An Event-Driven Narrative



Monday, December 7 — Most of what the public learns about the Hispanic population comes  from event-driven news stories in which Hispanics are one of many elements discussed, according to a study released jointly by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Pew Hispanic Center.


And from February through August, 2009 only a fraction of the news stories—57 out of all 34,451 studied—focused directly on the life experiences of Hispanics in the U.S.


The event that drove far more of the coverage than any other was the historic nomination of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The issue of immigration drove less than a quarter as much.



Among the key Findings:


  • During the six months examined, 2.9% of the news content studied contained substantial references to Hispanics. That was more attention than any other group studied except for Muslims. Nearly all of the Muslim coverage involved foreign affairs, while the majority of Hispanic coverage concerned domestic issues and events.    


  • The nomination of Sonia Sotomayor made up the largest share of this Hispanic-related news, 39.4%, more than twice than of any other storyline. The Mexican drug war came second at 15.1%; the outbreak of H1NI flu (with its origin in Mexico City) was third, at 13.0%.


  • Immigration, the number four topic, accounted for just 8.4% of the coverage involving Hispanics during these six months. When immigration was discussed, however, Hispanics were the group mentioned most often. Looking at all of the news about immigration, 34% referenced Hispanics, 10 times that of any other ethnic group.


  • In the small portion of coverage that dealt with the experiences of Hispanics living in the U.S., the most common story line was the effect of the recession. Next was the immigrant experience, after that was population growth and changing demographics, and then the question of fair treatment and discrimination. 


  • Looking at Hispanic figures mentioned in the news, Justice Sotomayor received far more coverage than anyone else. She was a lead newsmaker in 30% of all stories with a Hispanic element. The only other people to garner of the total even one percent were leaders of Latin American countries: ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya (1.7%), Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (1.4%), and Mexican president Felipe Calderon (1.1%).  


  • The degree to which Hispanics are covered in the news varied by media sector.  Newspapers gave them then most attention, with Hispanic references in 4.3% of the front-page coverage studied.  Hispanics were least likely to be referenced on cable television, appearing in 1.9% of the newshole studied. (Newshole is the percent of total time on TV and radio and space online or in print studied.)


These are some of the findings of a study that examined coverage of four prominent ethnic, racial and religious groups—Asians, Africans/African-Americans, Hispanics and Muslims—in 55 U.S. news outlets including 13 newspapers, 15 cable programs, the 7 broadcast network evening and morning news programs, 12 prominent news websites and 9 news radio and talk programs. This study was designed and produced by jointly by PEJ and the Pew Hispanic Center, both of which are projects of the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C.


Read the full report.


Contacts:    Mary Seaborn Pew Hispanic Center, 202-419-3606, Amy Mitchell, PEJ, 202-419-3650        




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