WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Hispanic Media Coalition shared some of the most revealing findings in this country’s communications history this month. Its studies should come with a warning label.
At a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute luncheon, NHMC President Alex Nogales released three academic reports expounding on “the power of media to breed hate, impact health and shape opinions.” Research by his Los Angeles group, which advocates accuracy and fairness in media, reveals how media hugely influences the way opinions about Latinos are shaped.
The underlying reason, it says, is because non-Latino Americans rely heavily on TV as a guide to these perceptions. It reported that about 66 percent of non-Latinos watch major network and cable telecasts for news and information. Only 30 percent trust Facebook, Twitter, social media or online news sources.
News and entertainment media lead in determining how non-Latinos perceive Latinos and immigrants. The portrayals, as they are slanted, can diminish or accentuate negative stereotypes.
But we already knew that, didn’t we? If not statistically, we at least have known it experientially for a long time.
The polling research seals the deal. NHMC research shows how people are influenced when they are exposed to negative news and entertainment about Latinos and immigrants. They found those pervasive portrayals lead non-Latino audiences to believe them as true.
Conservative talk radio and Fox News audiences are, for instance, less likely to be personally familiar with Latinos: yet they are among the most likely to hold anti-immigrant and anti-Latino views.
Media, through powerful images, works to solidify these views. For example, 17 percent have a common misperception that the majority of Latinos are undocumented.
By the use of such terms as “illegal alien,” negative feelings can be elicited, more so than if “undocumented immigrant” were used. Even better-informed people who have positive feelings about Latinos form less favorable opinions when exposed to negative entertainment or news narratives. Yet, people may also change their views to more positive ones just by taking in one minute of media content. For example, persons who consumed positive pieces were more likely to rate Latinos as intelligent.
The Los Angeles-based NHMC has some skin in the game and in the past has helped in pressuring the removal of hateful and inflammatory broadcasters, such as Lou Dobbs, later John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou from AM radio and the TV show “José Luís Sin Censura.“
Most often a successful approach comes about not by confronting the content provider, but instead to the sponsor. When they see how their commercials are associated with bad behavior, the sponsors wise up.
The multi-method NHMC research was conducted by the leading Latino polling organization, Latino Decisions. It consisted of a national survey of 900 non-Latinos answering more than 90 questions about news, entertainment, media content and opinions about Latinos. The second part included 3,000 non-Latino participants who provided opinions after watching video clips, listened to audio clips or reading articles.
The negative social consequences about social stereotypes should be enough to persuade the public to want over-the-top broadcasters to cut it out or find another line of work for your health’s sake.
Listeners subjected to hate speech experienced a spike in a hormone that could influence pathophysiological processes such as cancer and inflammatory diseases.
The study may be found at www.nhmc.org. Take it seriously. For better health, increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid listening to that negativity some media commentators use to portray people in the news. Too much of that could assault you hormonally and cost you your life. Those who spew hate and divisiveness are dangerous to us in ways we have not routinely thought about. I’m telling you — those broadcasters who spew hate and divisiveness are dangerous.
(José de la Isla is a nationally syndicated columnist for Hispanic Link and Scripps Howard news services.. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)