Buzzfeed News highlighted a Columbia University study that found that "Media company mergers rarely result in a significant boost in representation for Latinos on or off screen, despite promises from studio executives to increase diversity."
Buzzfeed's report echoes prominent advocates for the Hispanic community who have previously underscored the importance of improving the representation of Latinos in the media. During a Media Matters-sponsored panel on September 17, 2015, Voto Latino's Maria Teresa Kumar pointed out that, although Latinos "are the second-largest demographic group of Americans," the policies, issues and opinions of this community "are completely missed from mainstream." National Council of La Raza's Janet Murguía added that media coverage of Latino issues often presents "a very shallow view of what the Latino voter looks like." The underrepresentation of Latinos in media is reflected across the board, including in government -- according to NPR's Latino USA, "Latinos make up 17 percent of the population of the country but only one percent of its elected officials."
Buzzfeed News' Adolfo Flores reported on January 15 that data from Columbia University's study showed "no significant increase in diversity behind the camera" after Comcast and NBCUniversal merged in 2011. The study also found that the percent of Latino senior executives at Comcast and NBCUniversal increased from zero to 3.1 percent, but that "only one [executive] held a senior position outside of Telemundo," the Spanish-language network owned by NBCUniversal. On-screen representation improved, but the "slight increase ... was accompanied by a significant rise in Latino stereotypes." Flores noted that the study examined all media mergers from 2008 to 2015, but focused on the Comcast-NBCUniversal merger "because it was the largets and well documented":
Media company mergers rarely result in a significant boost in representation for Latinos on or off screen, despite promises from studio executives to increase diversity, new research has found
The report -- The Latino Disconnect: The Impact of Media Mergers on Latino Consumers and Representation -- was provided to BuzzFeed News ahead of publication and analyzed the relationship between media mergers and Latinos from 2008 to 2015.
Researchers at Columbia University's Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race found there was no significant increase in diversity behind the camera after the 2011 Comcast-NBCUniversal merger, despite a pledge to increase Latino representation in programming.
"In general, we found that the increase in representation after the merger was very minimal and really only happens in front of the camera, which makes sense because it's the most visible," said Frances Negrón-Muntaner, the study's lead researcher.
Researchers looked at all mergers after 2008, but focused on the one between Comcast-NBCUniversal because it was the largest and well documented.
After the Comcast-NBCUniversal merger and through 2015, Latinos made up less than 7% of behind-the-camera talent across all categories on the network's top 10 shows, national news programs, and films. It also found that while the percentage of Latino directors increased on average 0.8% after the merger, the percentage of producers and writers decreased by 1.1% and 1.2%. Executive produce[r]s also declined by 0.4%.
The average number of all Latino actors on television increased from 6.6% before the merger to 7.3% afterward. The slight increase, the study states, was accompanied by a significant rise in Latino stereotypes on NBCUniversal. Latinos who appeared as maids, janitors, inmates, and police officers in NBC's top 10 scripted television shows nearly tripled from 2008 to 2014.
"Despite the fact that the majority of Latinos are U.S.-born and English-dominant," researchers wrote, "the percentage of Latino executives remained extremely low in the company's non-Spanish language media sector."
Researchers recommended that media companies develop plans to diversify leadership and creative positions and hire experienced Latinos behind the camera who can help writers avoid stereotypes.
UPDATE: Felix Sanchez, Executive Director and Co-Founder of The National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts told Media Matters in a statement:
"This report is a cautionary tale that media mergers can usurp progress for minority communities. We have to follow the adage of trusting but verifying commitments made by companies before they merged. Given the findings of this study, we can conclude that not all key promises made have come to fruition."
Media figures and outlets are strongly condemning Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. But while Trump's rhetoric is extreme, it is not unique -- several other Republican candidates have extreme anti-Muslim rhetoric without receiving such "universal condemnation," as The New Republic noted.
Multiple media outlets documented the Islamophobic and conspiratorial views of Frank Gaffney, the president and founder of the right-wing Center for Security Policy (CSP), after Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump cited a CSP poll to justify his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
Media figures across the ideological spectrum are condemning Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States, calling it "dangerous," a violation of the First Amendment, and "fascistic." Trump's proposal builds on previous calls from Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush to exclude Muslim Syrian refugees from entering the United States.
Right-wing media have repeatedly exploited the November 13 ISIS-led terror attacks in Paris to stoke fears about Syrian refugees posing a terror threat in the U.S., falsely claiming that the United States lacks a rigorous refugee vetting system, that most Syrian refugees are adult males "of fighting age," and that, like the attacks in Paris, the Boston Marathon bombing and Ft. Hood shooting were perpetrated by refugees.
Right-wing media seized on the November 13 terror attacks in Paris to make at least five false or misleading claims about Syrian refugees, past statements from Hillary Clinton, President Obama's strategy against ISIS, the release of Guantanamo Bay detainees, and how guns in civilian hands could have supposedly changed the outcome of the attacks.
Political reporters and media critics chided Fox Business for its handling of the November 10 Republican presidential debate, pointing out that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) faced few substantive questions and was allowed to completely avoid controversial topics like immigration reform and his personal finances.
Despite the crowded field of Republican presidential candidates, conservative talk radio seem unified on their favorite: Donald Trump.
Thanks to talk radio, Buzzfeed News' Rosie Gray noted in her August 27 article "The Real Media Machine Behind Trump: Conservative Talk Radio," "you can almost listen to pro-Trump News all day." Gray pointed how "some of the biggest names in conservative talk radio -- Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, and Savage -- have praised Trump and his bashing of the politically correct left and Republican establishment":
Unlike cable news, conservative talk radio speaks directly to the disaffected conservative base fueling Trump's rise. Rush Limbaugh's is still the most-listened-to talk radio program in the country, pulling in 13 and a quarter million weekly listeners, according to estimates in Talkers magazine, an industry publication (Limbaugh himself has estimated it in the past at 20 million). Talkers puts Sean Hannity in second, with 12.5 million. Mark Levin ties with Glenn Beck (a Trump critic) for fourth, with 7 million. Savage has more than 5 million, according to Talkers' estimates.
And if you're someone who listens to a lot of talk radio, you can go from Ingraham to Limbaugh to Hannity or Savage to Levin in a day and hear nary a word of displeasure with Trump.
Though many hosts have avoided a formal endorsement, they've heaped praise on the candidate and signaled to their listeners that Trump is their guy.
Indeed, Limbaugh has spent the summer praising Trump for tapping into the base Republicans need to win and for his "ability to illuminate" issues. Hannity has lauded Trump as "impressive and refreshing," while Ingraham has claimed he resonates with voters because he's willing to say what "no one else is saying."
It's not mere compliments spewing from talk radio -- the conservative pundits are championing Trump's offensive and dangerous proposals. And as Gray noted, "[i]f Rush Limbaugh or Mark Levin or Sean Hannity or Laura Ingraham decide that birthright citizenship is going to be a big issue, then lo, it becomes the issue of the week, or month." She went on:
And right now, Trump's embrace of hardline immigration ideas like ending birthright citizenship matches up perfectly with the policies that some of these hosts have been promoting for some time. The Trump-inspired debate over immigration is allowing them to mainstream ideas that once didn't have much purchase, the birthright citizenship question being a notable recent example. Both Levin and Limbaugh have seized on a quote by Sen. Jacob Howard, the original sponsor of the Citizenship Clause, that they're using to bolster their case that the 14th amendment doesn't guarantee citizenship to the children of people in the country illegally. Laura Ingraham has also referenced it.
Limbaugh has bragged that Trump's smear of Mexican immigrants as "rapists" and criminals is similar to what he's been saying on the radio for years. On birthright citizenship, Limbaugh applauded Trump's call to end the constitutional right, saying Trump "has people standing up and cheering." Hannity and Levin joined forces to declare that "Trump was right" on the 14th Amendment.
The praise should come as no surprise, as Trump's call to end birthright citizenship is itself taken from right-wing talk radio talking points. For years, Ingraham and Levin have been demanding an end to birthright citizenship, which Levin dismissed as a "nut-job policy" and Ingraham attacked as "nonsense."
Right-wing media figures jumped to the false conclusion that 305 Clinton emails contained classified information after the State Department announced that those emails were under review by intelligence agencies. In reality, it is not yet clear how many of the emails, if any, contained classified material, and such reviews are "common in large FOIA requests that involve documents from multiple agencies."
BuzzFeed News reported that Breitbart.com may be accepting "financial backing" from GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump in exchange for "fawning headlines," according to sources inside the conservative outlet.
Trump has received mixed reviews following the first GOP primary debate -- though declared one of the winners of the night, mainstream and conservative media alike have condemned his subsequent attacks on Fox News host and debate moderator Megyn Kelly.
Within the conservative media war over Trump, Breitbart.com has consistently taken his side, devoting numerous front page headlines to hyping Trump's excuses that his attacks on Kelly were justified and taken out of context. The outlet has long been giving Trump credit for sparking the debate over illegal immigration after he deemed Mexican immigrants "rapists" and criminals, while the GOP candidate has seemingly gleaned several of his talking points from Breitbart.com, such as the myth of 34 million undocumented immigrants and his notorious birther claims.
Now, four sources at Breitbart.com have reportedly "complained since at least last year that the company's top management was allowing Trump to turn Breitbart into his own fan website," according to an August 9 article by BuzzFeed News, calling their employer's fawning over Trump "despicable" and "embarrassing":
Inside the most pro-Trump news outlet on the right, some employees say the billionaire candidate has provided financial backing in exchange for fawning headlines -- a charge management strongly denies.
According to four sources with knowledge of the situation, editors and writers at the outlet have privately complained since at least last year that the company's top management was allowing Trump to turn Breitbart into his own fan website -- using it to hype his political prospects and attack his enemies. One current editor called the water-carrying "despicable" and "embarrassing," and said he was told by an executive last year that the company had a financial arrangement with Trump. A second Breitbart staffer said he had heard a similar description of the site's relationship with the billionaire but didn't know the details; and a third source at the company said he knew of several instances when managers had overruled editors at Trump's behest. Additionally, a conservative communications operative who works closely with Breitbart described conversations in which "multiple writers and editors" said Trump was paying for the ability to shape coverage, and added that one staffer claimed to have seen documentation of the "pay for play."
Breitbart.com's senior staff denied the charges, telling Buzzfeed, "We have no financial relationship with Donald Trump as an investor, advertiser or in any other capacity at this time -- nor have we ever. The insinuation that we do -- or did -- is a lie."
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson endorsed a congressional candidate's assertion that "the homosexual movement" is "destroying America."
On July 22, Georgia Republican Jody Hice won the Republican primary to succeed Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) in the state's 10th congressional district. In the wake of Hice's victory, BuzzFeed's Andrew Kacynski highlighted 11 examples of Hice's history of inflammatory commentary on LGBT issues.
The passages Erickson endorsed included Hice's claim that "the homosexual movement is ... destroying America by aggressively seeking to destroy traditional families, religion, and marriages for the purpose of removing all societal moral boundaries":
The item Erickson thought most conservatives would "maybe" agree with concerned Hice's suggestion that gay people can change their sexual orientation:
Two recent stories based on faulty premises -- an Illinois Review post that falsely claimed President Obama had supported "Stand Your Ground" as an Illinois state legislator, and a since-corrected BuzzFeed report that pushed the erroneous conclusion that gun violence prevention group Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) has suffered a membership drop -- have nonetheless spread throughout the right-wing media.
The cases are not parallel -- Illinois Review is a minor conservative Illinois political blog (their Twitter handle has about 3,000 followers) whose story was too good to check for the right-wing media, while the BuzzFeed story is an unfortunate outlier for a publication that typically produces good reporting. But the articles nonetheless illustrate the first-mover problem of correcting misinformation -- once a charge is levied and begins gaining momentum it becomes difficult to stop, no matter how clearly false the claim, due to the right-wing media apparatus that will push any story considered damaging to progressives.
The basis of the July 22 BuzzFeed article was that MAIG is losing membership ("is finding it hard to keep its membership up") because it has become too strident in its recent push for stronger gun laws. But BuzzFeed's premise was false: MAIG has actually seen an increase in membership during the period the article covered, with more than 100 mayors joining the coalition during that time of increased political action.
Buzzfeed has since updated its article, making a minor change to the text "to reiterate the fact that Mayors Against Illegal Guns is gaining more members than it's losing." But of course, that "fact" completely repudiates the premise of the article.
And of course, the damage has been done. The idea of MAIG shedding membership has already spread through the conservative echo chamber. The story was picked up by a number of right-wing outlets, with Breitbart News and the New York Post stating outright that the story indicated that the group's membership was down overall. The Post article in particular, which ran under the headline "weakened arsenal," linked the group "struggling to replace ex-members" to their focus "on banning weapons and other tough new gun-control measures" (by contrast, a New York Daily News piece cited the BuzzFeed report but framed the story with the fact that the group is larger and growing faster than ever before).
These sorts of misguided stories have an impact on the political debate. One NRA activist, who acknowledged that the number of mayors leaving "isn't a huge blow to MAIG," wrote that BuzzFeed's story "isn't good for MAIG. They will have to counter this meme, and that's good for us. Make them work for it."
Buzzfeed is alleging that the gun violence prevention group Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) "is finding it hard to keep its membership up," citing a few dozen of the group's hundreds of mayors who have resigned their offices, lost re-election, or chosen to leave the group due to "political heat." In reality, the group has seen its membership increase by 17 percent during roughly the period of time the article discusses.
In suggesting that mayors would flee a group that supports stronger gun laws in the face of political pressure from the National Rifle Association, the Buzzfeed article buttresses a long-running media myth that politicians who oppose the NRA should fear being defeated for reelection.
In the article, headlined "Mayors Abandon [NYC Mayor Michael] Bloomberg's Gun Control Group," Buzzfeed called MAIG "a rare group battling in the trenches against the well-organized and deep-pocketed" NRA. The article cites four mayors who "appear not quite to have signed on for that level of political heat" and left the organization because they disagree with some of its recent policy stances. The article further stated:
According to an old version of its member list, saved on a blog dated back to late February, more than 50 mayors who were then listed on MAIG's website are no longer there. Most of the mayors whose names are no longer affiliated with the group are off the list either because they resigned or lost an election, but others have specifically asked to be removed.
BuzzFeed reached out to dozens of the replacement mayors and none of them would confirm if they planned to join the group or if they were even considering it
Buzzfeed reported halfway through the article that, according to the group's executive director, MAIG "is growing much faster than it is shrinking" -- a claim that, if true, would seem to debunk the premise of the story. After all, if the group is replacing members at a faster rate than it is losing them, the group could hardly be said to be "finding it hard to keep its membership up."
The reporter does not appear to have attempted to verify this statement, instead placing it in opposition to the balance of his reporting. But a review of membership lists published on the group's website indicates that MAIG has seen a dramatic increase in mayors choosing to affiliate with the group in recent months.
Buzzfeed did not link to the "old version of its member list" it compared to the group's current roster of affiliated mayors. But the version of the group's membership list saved to the Internet Archive on January 27 lists 857 mayors; the list currently posted on MAIG's website features 1005, an increase of 148 mayors. According to a Media Matters review, MAIG has seen its representation increase in 33 states during that period; it has held level in 6 states and decreased in 8 states.
UPDATE: Buzzfeed has updated their article, changing their original report that MAIG "is finding it hard to keep its membership up" to indicate instead that the group "is finding it hard to maintain some of its members." In a correction appended to the piece, Buzzfeed explained that the change was made "to reiterate the fact that Mayors Against Illegal Guns is gaining more members than it's losing."
Newly hired BuzzFeed D.C. editor Benny Johnson described President Obama as a "truly committed statist" with a "seedy past" and "extremist ideas" who believes "there is no God above the state" and who acts as "a celebrity-in-chief."