Media dragged their feet in acknowledging Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's victory in the Iowa caucus, calling the race "still too close to call" and smearing Clinton as a liar, despite the fact that the Iowa Democratic Party's caucus results show Clinton has an insurmountable lead over Bernie Sanders.
Last year, reporting from The New York Times Magazine's Nikole Hannah-Jones showcased a disturbing trend in American K-12 education: the resegregation of schools across the country and its negative impact on all students and communities. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it's worth revisiting Hannah-Jones' work for WBEZ's This American Life program, and her previous reporting on modern-day school resegregation for ProPublica and The Atlantic.
In April 2014, investigative reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones published a comprehensive exploration of racial resegregation in an Alabama city school district previously under a federal desegregation order. The report, released as part of an ongoing ProPublica series in collaboration with The Atlantic, focused on the state of segregation in American society and coincided with the sixtieth anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education civil rights decision outlawing racial segregation in schools.
The three-part series featured images from historic segregation efforts, submissions from students detailing their own experiences with racial segregation in schools, an interactive timeline on the trajectory of integration efforts nationwide, a short companion film, and in-depth reporting focused on the first-hand experiences of a black family in a highly segregated district in the city of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The project's editors at ProPublica described its scope:
The presentation includes: Hannah-Jones's extraordinary 9,000-word article; a beautiful and arresting collection of photographs taken by students in Tuscaloosa high schools; a partnership with Michele Norris's "Race Card Project" and NPR's Morning Edition; an interactive timeline tracing the arc of segregation, integration and resegregation; a feature that will provide the first-ever opportunity for readers to look up whether their districts remain under federal desegregation orders and just how integrated their school districts are today; and a moving, short documentary film by the award-winning Maisie Crow.
Hannah-Jones' reporting -- featured as the May 2014 cover story for The Atlantic -- connected the stories of three generations of the Dents, a black Tuscaloosa family, to the complicated realities of racial dynamics in schools across the country (emphasis added):
Tuscaloosa's school resegregation--among the most extensive in the country--is a story of city financial interests, secret meetings, and angry public votes. It is a story shaped by racial politics and a consuming fear of white flight. It was facilitated, to some extent, by the city's black elites. And it was blessed by a U.S. Department of Justice no longer committed to fighting for the civil-rights aims it had once championed.
In the hours after the parade, James Dent sat back in a worn wingback chair in the cramped but tidy house he and his wife rent in the West End. As dusk brought out the whirring of cicadas, he quietly flipped through a photo album devoted to D'Leisha's many accomplishments. She's the class president, a member of the mayor's youth council, a state champion in track and field. Later that night, she would be named homecoming queen as well.
Dent never went to college. One of 13 children born into the waning days of Jim Crow, he took his place in the earliest of integrated American institutions: the military. He served four years in the Air Force, including a year in Vietnam, before returning to the West End to spend the next 40 mixing cement for a living. The work was steady, but the pay meager.
Thin, with chestnut skin, and seldom seen without a Vietnam-vet cap, Dent is a reserved man, not prone to soapboxes. But after a long silence, he gently suggested that maybe his granddaughter deserved a little more than a 12-car salute at a brief and sparsely attended parade. When D'Leisha graduates this spring, she will have spent her entire public education in segregated schools. Just like he had.
"I think about it all the time, and ain't nothing I can do about it," he said. "It ain't going to get no better." He said he just hoped she was learning as much as the city's white students were, then grew quiet again. If integration was going to prove so brief, what, he wondered, had all the fighting been for?
Hannah-Jones' storytelling around the Dent family -- grandfather James, who attended segregated schools in Tuscaloosa; mother Melissa, who attended the high-achieving, integrated Central High School there; and daughter D'Leisha, a current student at the overwhelmingly black, failing Central High of the present-day -- wove through historical context about federal desegregation orders, local politics, and extensive research on the benefits of integrated education for black and white students alike. She concluded:
For black students like D'Leisha--the grandchildren of the historic Brown decision--having to play catch-up with their white counterparts is supposed to be a thing of the past. The promise was that students of all colors would be educated side by side, and would advance together into a more integrated, equitable American society. Polls show Americans embracing this promise in the abstract, but that rarely translates into on-the-ground support for integration efforts.
A few months earlier, D'Leisha had talked about how much she looked forward to meeting people from different cultures at college and sitting in a racially mixed classroom for the first time. But her college hopes are thinner now than she'd expected then. As of this writing, they largely hinge on the tenuous promise of a coach at a small, historically black college outside of Birmingham, who has told her that the school will have a place for her despite her score. No official offer of admission has yet arrived.
At the end of 2014, Hannah-Jones' work on school resegregation appeared again at ProPublica, this time focused on the segregation of the Normandy school district in Missouri, where Michael Brown had graduated days before his fatal shooting by a white police officer. This work informed more in-depth, first-hand reporting on segregated schools for a piece in New York Times Magazine and a two-part investigative series for WBEZ's This American Life program last summer. The series was entitled "The Problem We All Live With" in reference to a famous Norman Rockwell painting depicting Ruby Bridges, the first black student to attend an all-white school in the South.
The program drew from Hannah-Jones' scholarly expertise on and personal connections to racial resegregation in schools, then pivoted to report on starkly different desegregation efforts in Normandy (bordering the city of Ferguson, Missouri) and Hartford, Connecticut, where a school district was actively integrating and facing an uphill battle to gain support from local parents. The series also featured a smaller vignette told from the perspective of a black student taking integration into her own hands, and an interview with then-Secretary of Education Arne Duncan conducted by Hannah-Jones and This American Life producer Chana Joffe-Walt. Hannah-Jones described the project as an effort to tell the story of Michael Brown's school district and "what happens to those children left behind" compared to students who are "given a chance to escape failing schools" (emphasis added):
I teamed up with Chana Joffe-Walt, a producer for the radio program "This American Life," to tell the story of Michael Brown's school district through the students who remain there. It is a story of children locked away from opportunity, what happens when those children are given a chance to escape failing schools and what happens to those children left behind. It is a story of how powerful people decided to do something only when the problems of the worst district in the state were no longer contained. And above all, it is a story of the staggering educational inequality we are willing to accept.
The first part of the series, framed around the death of Michael Brown, detailed an unintentional integration program instituted in his school district in Normandy, one year before Brown's death, when the district lost its state accreditation and students were allowed to transfer to neighboring, overwhelmingly white schools (emphasis added):
NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: I stumbled on this place by accident. I was watching the coverage of Michael Brown, almost a year ago, like the rest of America. There was one moment that I could not get out of my head. It's news footage of his mother, Leslie McSpadden, right after he was killed.
LESLIE MCSPADDEN: This was wrong, and that was cold-hearted.
HANNAH-JONES: She's standing in a crowd of onlookers, a few feet from where her son was shot down, where he would lie face down on the concrete for four hours, dead. And this is what she says.
MCSPADDEN: You took my son away from me. You know how hard it was for me to get him to stay in school and graduate? You know how many black men graduate? Not many.
HANNAH-JONES: I watched this over and over. A police officer has just killed her oldest child. It has to be the worst moment of her life. But of all the ways she could've expressed her grief and outrage, this is what was on her mind: school. Getting her son through school. Michael Brown became a national symbol of the police violence against youth, but when I looked into his education I realized he's also a symbol of something else, something much more common. Most black kids will not be shot by the police, but many of them will go to a school like Michael Brown's. It took me all of five minutes on the Internet to find out that the school district he attended is almost completely black, almost completely poor, and failing badly.
Schools in Missouri get accredited by the state. Almost every district is accredited, but if you're doing really bad, you get put on notice. That's called provisional accreditation. That's supposed to be like a warning, but Normandy had provisional accreditation for 15 years. That means there are entire classes of students, nearly all of them black, who came in as kindergarteners and graduated twelve years later without ever having attended a school that met state standards. In the St. Louis area, nearly one in two black children attend schools in districts that perform so poorly, the state has stripped them of full accreditation. Only one in 25 white children are in a district like that.
The second part of the series, reported by Joffe-Walt, expanded on Hannah-Jones' segment by providing a contrasting story of the Hartford, Connecticut city school district which is using sophisticated marketing strategies to gain support from white parents in its efforts to prioritize racial integration in its schools (emphasis added):
CHANA JOFFE-WALT: When you drive around suburban Hartford now, occasionally you'll see a sign on someone's lawn that says 'I Heart Magnet Schools.' Neighbors will ask, 'Hey, where does your kid go on the bus every morning?' The few-minute conversation that follows is the most powerful marketing tool available. It's what Enid or any marketer dreams of: a conversation where one parent goes to another, 'Oh, I think I've heard of that place. Does she like it? Is it safe?' Neighbor to neighbor, white person to white person. It is the same potent tool that, three decades ago, helped create segregated neighborhoods, repurposed to do the exact opposite.
Hartford parents, right now, are frustrated for the exact same reason parents were frustrated with Hartford schools in the 1980s, when [civil rights lawyer] John Brittain sued: their schools are inferior. Magnet school kids do great. They go to integrated schools, and 80 percent of them pass state tests. Hartford public school kids go to segregated schools. Less than 40 percent of them pass state tests. Magnet school kids can explore space on the first floor of their school. Hartford public school buildings have gotten better, but they're not like that.
For the 50 percent of Hartford families who can't get their kids into the beautiful, integrated magnet schools, things are exactly the same as they've always been. Only worse, because now there's a school with a planetarium down the block that they can't get into. That school with the planetarium, by the way? The environmental sciences magnet? It used to just be Mary Hooker Elementary before integration. It was just a regular public school. And back when it was a regular public school, it was almost entirely Latino, there was no planetarium, no Lego lab or butterfly vivarium. Those came when it went magnet. Those came with the white students.
The argument against 'separate but equal' was never that separate schools couldn't be equal, theoretically. Just that it never, ever happens.
"The Problem We All Live With," along with Hannah-Jones' previous work, brings the first-hand stories of students and parents to the forefront of America's ongoing racial conversation, and connects these experiences to data highlighting the failures of persistent segregation in schools and the complicated strategies used to address it. This powerful reporting, weaving personal experiences from different communities and generations with the facts of school segregation's lasting impact, warrants another look today.
Media figures have credited House Speaker Paul Ryan with thrusting the supposedly "forgotten" issue of poverty into the 2016 Republican presidential race following his participation in the January 9 presidential forum on poverty, but failed to mention that despite his new rhetoric, Ryan has a long history of promoting harmful policies that would "exacerbate poverty, inequality, and wage stagnation."
Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt dubiously claimed that a newly released email shows former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton broke a "statute [that] prohibits misuse of classified information" because she allegedly "directed [an aide] to alter and send [a document] over a non-secure system." Yet, according to a State Department review, officials "found no indication the document in question was sent to Secretary Clinton using nonsecure fax or email."
Leading up to the 2016 elections, media should be careful not to perpetuate the same myths about Latino voters that many pushed in 2015, including portraying Latinos as a monolithic voter bloc exclusively interested in immigration or superficially attracted to Hispanic or bilingual candidates regardless of their policies, and suggesting this growing demographic will be a "non-factor" in 2016.
NPR host Terry Gross highlighted the long history of anti-choice violence against abortion providers and explicitly linked this year's uptick in threats and violence to the hateful rhetoric that followed the release of deceptively edited videos from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), Media Matters' 2015 Misinformer of the Year. In spite of this violent history and recent upsurge, right-wing media has consistently pushed the narrative that violence against abortion providers is minimal and that anti-choice groups are peaceful.
On the December 17 edition of NPR's Fresh Air, Gross interviewed David Cohen and Krysten Connon, and discussed their new book: "Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism." Cohen and Connon discussed the long pattern of violence towards abortion providers and their families and the importance of classifying such attacks as the acts of terrorism they often are. Objections to classifying acts of violence against providers and clinics as domestic terrorism are pushed by the right-wing media by denying the systemic nature of the violence, and claiming people like accused Planned Parenthood shooter, Robert Lewis Dear, are "kooks" while ignoring a history of violent rhetoric directed at abortion providers.
As RH Reality Check explained, the November 27 attack on the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood "was not an isolated incident." In an interview with CounterSpin, RH Reality Check editor-in-chief, Jodi Jacobson, noted the Colorado Springs attack was "just one in a long series of attacks on Planned Parenthood." Since the Colorado Springs attack, there have already been further incidents of violence and harassment. On December 12, a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis was vandalized when someone threw rocks through the front windows. Similarly, a Washington man, Scott Anthony Orton, was recently arrested for making death threats against employees of StemExpress, the biomedical company targeted in several of the discredited CMP videos. As reported by The News Tribune, Orten posted over 18 different threatening messages that led to his arrest:
Orton posted his first message on the Internet: "The management of StemExpress should be taken by force and killed in the streets today."
Over the next four hours, according to officials, Orton posted 18 additional messages, ranging from "Kill StemExpress employees. I'll pay you for it" and "Stop the death of innocents. Kill the killers," to "StemExpress your lives don't matter nearly as much as your deaths do" and "I think I'll take a little trip to Placerville this weekend. I hear there's some good hunting down Placerville way ... "
The affidavit says Orton identified "Victim 1" by title or name in other messages. Those included:
- "Someone needs to double tap the (officer) of StemExpress. She lives in Placerville CA."
- "(Victim 1) will have to face the souls of the babies she's bought and sold when she arrives on the other side. I'm sending her there early."
- "(Victim 1) must die. End of story. If we as humanity accept her actions we're to be judged in the harshest manner possible."
- "(Victim 1) your life isn't worth squat."
The final message quoted in the affidavit was posted the next day, July 17: "(Victim 1) of StemExpress should be executed by hanging."
As explained by Cohen during the Fresh Air interview, terrorism is the most appropriate word to describe threats of this nature, despite right-wing media's reluctance to admit it. "Terrorism," said Cohen, "is violence or the fear of violence used to accomplish a political goal when normal politics have not accomplished that goal." He concluded that, "that's what's happening here with anti-abortion extremists...they're using violence and the fear of violence to try and accomplish this goal, and that's what terrorism is."
Cohen further argued that the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood attack resulted from the proliferation of dangerous rhetoric following the release of the now thoroughly debunked videos from the Center for Medical Progress. Cohen explained that the language utilized by the accused shooter, Robert Lewis Dear, "almost exactly mirrored the language that we've been hearing" following the release of the heavily edited videos. Cohen additionally discussed the similarities between past attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics and "what Dear did in Colorado," to contextualize the "rampage" within a historical pattern of violence (emphasis added):
TERRY GROSS (HOST): Since you've been studying acts of violence and threats of violence against abortion providers, did you see anything in the Colorado Springs rampage that was different from what you've seen in the past?
DAVID COHEN: What happened in Colorado Springs with the almost indiscriminate shooting of people at the Planned Parenthood was not entirely new because in Boston in 1994, John Salvi went into a Planned Parenthood and a preterm within a few miles of each other - two abortion clinics in Boston - and killed a receptionist in both places and wounded five others, including a security guard and a couple of patient supporters who were there - very similar to what Robert Dear did in Colorado. So as much as there's been violence against abortion providers in the past - and it's mostly been providers including doctors and other staff - there have patient supporters and security guards who have also been harmed in serious ways by anti-abortion violence, which is what Robert Dear did because he did not kill any staff or doctors at the abortion clinic or at the Planned Parenthood, and he did not kill any patients but patient supporters and first responders. And that has happened before.
GROSS: Let's talk a little bit about the rhetoric of extremist anti-abortion people. And what struck you about what Robert Dear said about his motivation for his shootings at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs?
COHEN: What struck me was that the language he was using about no more selling babies or selling baby parts mirrored almost exactly the language that we've been hearing for the past several months, ever since those videos about Planned Parenthood were released in July of this summer. And so he was taking that language almost directly and shouting that in the process of committing this violent act.
And if you think about it, using language like abortion providers are selling baby parts, or abortion providers are murdering children, or abortion providers are killing babies - that kind of language is going to have an effect because to some people, they're going to say, oh, that's what's happening? If that's what's happening, we need to stop it because who's not against killing babies? We're all against killing babies. And if I knew that babies were being killed somewhere, that would be horrible. I would want to try and do something about it.
And so it encourages people to try and do something about it - and for a lot of people, in ways that are legal - by talking out about it - but in - for other people who don't have the respect of the law - for the law - or who feel that they can take things into their own hands, like Robert Dear, to do what he did. And so I think this rhetoric is something that absolutely contributed to what happened in Colorado Springs.
Gross also focused the conversation on disproving the false yet oft-repeated right-wing media allegation that Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue donation and reimbursement program violated the law. As David Cohen explained (emphasis added):
COHEN: The transaction that occurs - and this is perfectly permitted under federal law - only allows for the exchange of money for the compensation for costs associated with, say, storage of fetal tissue or transportation of the fetal tissue, so we're talking about 10s of dollars here. We're talking about 30, 40, $50, in terms of time for staff and costs associated. That's it. So the money that was discussed in these videos was about that, and that's perfectly allowed under federal law. And in fact, if you look at the investigations that have occurred throughout the states since those videos have been released, Planned Parenthood has now been found to violate no laws by every investigatory body since the release of those tapes.
They have not violated the law, but this language has permeated our politics and our culture, and that has effects. And we've seen that with the increase of threats to abortion providers, the violence that was in Colorado Springs. There have been arsons against Planned Parenthoods, vandalism. A Planned Parenthood in St. Louis was just vandalized this past weekend with rocks thrown through their glass windows, with thousands of dollars' worth of damage. Thankfully, no one was in there so no one was hurt by the shards of glass. There've been death threats against the people who were featured in those videos. And so the language has - and in these videos have - not resulted in any findings of criminal wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, but they have resulted - and we knew this would happen - they have resulted in more targeting, more harassment and more violence.
In response to this violence, the Feminist Majority Foundation has launched a new ad campaign which asks: "When did the right to life become the right to terrorize abortion providers?"
After NPR's The Diane Rehm Show hosted a spokesman from a notorious anti-gay hate group during a discussion of same-sex adoption, NPR's ombudsman admitted that the show erred in failing to properly identify the group.
On the December 10 edition of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, guest host Melissa Ross interviewed Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council (FRC), to discuss legal battles over parenting and adoption rights for same-sex couples. While the Southern Poverty Law Center has listed FRC as an anti-gay hate group since 2010, NPR didn't identify Sprigg as a hate group spokesman, and Sprigg used the platform to peddle misinformation about LGBT equality.
In a post responding to criticisms of the segment, NPR's ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen joined Diane Rehm in acknowledging that the show erred by "not us[ing] a clear identifier" for Sprigg. Rehm admitted that she has "to do a better job of being more careful about identification":
I heard from many people after Media Matters for America, which calls itself a "progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media," wrote a blog post objecting to a guest on the Dec. 10 Diane Rehm Show (which had a guest host, Melissa Ross, that day). Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, was one of four guests invited to discuss the day's topic: legal battles over parenting and adoption rights for same-sex couples.
Media Matters wrote that NPR (which distributes the show but does not produce it) gave Sprigg "a national platform to peddle misinformation about same-sex parenting." The organization Faithful America also sent an email blast that said: "Tell NPR: Don't let anti-gay hate group speak for Christians."
In the last 45 seconds of the program, as Ross was focused on wrapping up, Sprigg said that "most orthodox Christians" believe that "engaging in homosexual conduct is contrary to the will of God," a claim that depends on the murky definition of "orthodox Christians." (See this May 2015 Pew Research Center poll looking at Americans' attitudes over whether their religious beliefs are in conflict with homosexuality.) But as I read the transcript, the show's other guests forcefully pushed back against Sprigg's other claims at pretty much every turn.
I asked Rehm about the guest booking. Her view (with which I agree): "I certainly don't see that there's a problem having someone like that on the program." Where the show erred, she said, "was we did not use a clear identifier [for Sprigg] other than the title of his organization." She added, "We have to do a better job of being more careful about identification."
Media outlets have called out CNN for selecting conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt as a moderator of the December 15 Republican primary debate, noting that the inclusion of this "highly [...] partisan" conservative media figure is the result of Republican Party "carping." The Republican National Committee (RNC) has pressured networks to include conservative media figures as debate moderators, a move received with criticism from former debate moderators and network executives.
NPR hosted a spokesman from a notorious anti-gay hate group during a discussion of same-sex adoption, giving him a national platform to peddle misinformation about same-sex parenting.
On the December 10 edition of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, guest host Melissa Ross interviewed Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council (FRC) to discuss legal battles over parenting and adoption rights for same-sex couples.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed FRC as an anti-gay hate group since 2010 due to the organization's propagation of known falsehoods about LGBT people. The group has a history of making wild and inflammatory attacks on LGBT equality while masquerading as a serious policy organization in the media. Sprigg, who served as an ordained Baptist minister before joining FRC, has called for recriminalizing gay sex in the U.S. and suggested LGBT people should be "export[ed]" from the country.
But NPR didn't identify Sprigg as a hate group spokesman, and Sprigg used the platform to peddle misinformation about LGBT equality. Sprigg cited a widely discredited paper to suggest that children raised by same-sex couples perform poorly, and resurrected the long debunked horror story that Catholic adoption agencies have been shut down for refusing to serve same-sex couples. While guest host Melissa Ross did not push back on Sprigg's talking points, fellow guest Emily Hetch-McGowan, Director of Public Policy the Family Equality Council, called out FRC's use of discredited research:
PETER SPRIGG: And I think that certainly there is abundant reason to believe that children do best when raised by a married mother and father. And within the context of foster care the judge has an obligation to do what's in the best interest of the child. And he exercised that discretion.
MELISSA ROSS: And what research does the Family Research Council cite to buttress the claim that a child is better off with a heterosexual couple?
SPRIGG: Well, there's an abundance of research showing that children do better overall when raised by their own married biological father who are committed to one another in a life-long marriage. There are just reams of research showing that. Now this is a slightly different situation because of the fact that you're dealing with a situation where they are being removed from their biological parents. But we think that there is evidence to suggest that children would do better with a mother and father even if it's not their biological parents.
Right-wing media have defended Donald Trump's proposed ban on Muslims entering into the United States, despite multiple legal experts arguing the ban is likely unconstitutional, illegal, or lawless. Right-wing media have also cited prior country-specific restrictions on immigration to defend Trump's plan, despite the fact that these policies did not ban people based on their religious affiliation, and would be unlikely to survive judicial scrutiny today.
In recent months, media investigations have revealed that Exxon Mobil peddled climate science denial for years after its scientists recognized that burning fossil fuels causes global warming, prompting New York's Attorney General to issue a subpoena to Exxon and all three Democratic presidential candidates to call for a federal probe of the company. But despite these developments, the nightly news programs of all three major broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, and NBC -- have failed to air a single segment addressing the evidence that Exxon knowingly deceived its shareholders and the public about climate change.
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.
On the November 6 edition of NPR and the Futuro Media Group's Latino USA, host Maria Hinojosa highlighted four important facts about the Latino vote that media and pundits often miss. Hinojosa and several show producers debunked the myth that Latinos are a monolithic voting bloc, explained how the "representation gap" affects Latinos more than "almost any other group," highlighted the significant demographic overlap between millennial and Latino voters and the issues that motivate them to vote, and noted that the impact of the Hispanic vote could be even greater than previously thought due to low naturalization rates among certain groups of Latinos legally living in the U.S.
1. The Latino Vote Is Complex, Not Monolithic
Hinojosa and producer Fernanda Echavarri explained that although "politicians and pundits talk about" the Latino vote "as if it were one vote, for one party, or one issue," "that is not true." The media have a long track record of portraying the Latino vote as mostly concerned with the single issue of immigration, but Echavarri explained that treating the Latino vote as a monolith has alienating effects. Recent polls have shown that Latino voters identify education, the economy, and health care as issues they are most concerned with:
MARIA HINOJOSA: What is the Latino vote? Politicians and pundits talk about it as if it were one vote, for one party, or one issue. But here at Latino USA, we know that is not true. Our producer Fernanda Echavarri spoke with a family who really exemplifies that.
FERNANDA ECHAVARRI: That's right. I came across the Canino-Vasquez family who have very different political beliefs, and that leads to some lively conversations at the dinner table.
HINOJOSA: I mean, even my own family, I remember my young brother, radical, young, high school student, arguing with my father, the American citizen, medical doctor, very serious -- I mean, it happened and yes, and then we'd have dinner and you would be ok.
ECHAVARRI: And actually, that happens more than we think across the United States in Latino families, and for the Canino-Vasquez family. And it really bothers Rose and Ana, when politicians and some in the media try to address Latinos and the Latino vote as if they were all the same.
ROSE CANINO: Ultimately, the effect is an alienating one. And I think if they realized how alienating and how much of a turn-off that sort of one-size-fits-all perspective is. If they realized that, I think they might make a different decision about how they talk about stuff.
ANA CANINO-FLUIT: When people say that the Latino vote is monolithic or it's one issue, it erases the idea that we all come from different nations and different countries of origin who have different issues.
2. The Representation Gap Affects Latinos "More Than Almost Any Other Group"
Hinojosa also explained how "the representation gap," or the disproportion between the Latino share of the population and the percentage of Latinos in public office, affects Latinos "more than almost any other group." Latinos make up 17 percent of the nation's population, but just one percent of elected officials. Latino USA producer Marlon Bishop pointed to Pasco, Washington, a city with a Latino majority where "the representation gap is particularly dramatic," likely due to low Latino voter participation. According to Bishop, "even though Latinos are a majority in Pasco, it's mostly white people who are doing the voting." The Washington Post has pointed out that "addressing the policy needs" of the growing Hispanic demographic "will be a challenge if minority representation in state and local legislatures continues to fall short":
HINOJOSA: By the numbers, there are 26 million Latinos elegible to vote in the United States, and that keeps growing, but only about half of them actually show up to vote on election day. Low turnout is also part of the reason why you don't see a lot of Latinos in public office. Latinos make up 17 percent of the population of the country but only one percent of its elected officials. Now this is called the representation gap. And, get this, it affects Latinos more than almost any other group. And actually, in some counties with a majority Latino population, there isn't a single Latino representative. Latino USA producer Marlon Bishop is going to take us now to one place where the representation gap is particularly dramatic: Pasco, Washington.
MARLON BISHOP: About 30 percent of Pasco's Latino community is believed to be undocumented and cannot vote. But for the Latinos in Pasco who are citizens, voter participation is really low. So even though Latinos are a majority in Pasco, it's mostly white people who are doing the voting.
3. There's A Significant Demographic Overlap Between Millennial And Latino Voters
Hinojosa, Echavarri, and producer Antonia Cereijido explained that a significant portion of the millennial vote is Latino (about 20 percent), but that "a lot of them aren't getting to the polls," -- a phenomenon they say is likely caused by a shortage of information. Noting that the goal "is to get this fast growing population involved in the voting process," Echavarri turned to Voto Latino president María Teresa Kumar to explain that millennial Latinos "are much more drawn to issues than to candidates." Kumar also pointed out that, because Latinas are more politically involved than their male peers, reproductive health rights and the wage gap, which is larger for Latinas, are issues that will likely drive them out to the polls (emphasis added):
HINOJOSA: If there's another voting demographic talked about as much as Latinos, it's millennials. Of course, these two demographics overlap. A major chunk of potential Latino voters are millennials. But a lot of them aren't getting to the polls. Two of our millennial producers, Fernanda Echavarri and Antonia Cereijido, got together in our studio to talk about what Latino millennial voters care about and why they're not voting more.
ECHAVARRI: So it's really not that young Latinos do not care about the political issues but maybe it hasn't sort of been instilled in them. It hasn't been taught in their homes.
ANTONIA CEREIJIDO: Yeah, I mean it's very, very likely that their parents weren't voters. You know, if they're the child of immigrants, now they're first time voters, you need to know a lot of new information if you're going to do that. And that's the thing, these people really do care about very specific things in their lives and they want to be engaged.
MARIA TERESA KUMAR: If you look at the recent studies, millennial Latinos are much more drawn to issues than to candidates. And I think it's because they are more skeptical of the system, they're learning the system.
ECHAVARRI: So, what did María Teresa tell you were some of those issues that Latino millennials care so much about?
CEREIJIDO: There is one issue that makes Latinas in particular go out to the polls.
KUMAR: They are more likely to register and vote if, at the local level, there is a woman's right to choose on the ballot.
CEREIJIDO: For some reason I was shocked by that because a lot of Latinos are Catholic and maybe I doubt their moms feel the same way.
KUMAR: One of my biggest irks is when people cite $.70 on the dollar that a woman makes and fail to realize that the largest generation behind us of Americans are young women who happen to be Latina who are earning $.55 on the dollar.
CEREIJIDO: Latina women have to work this much harder to make a certain amount of money. Having a kid and having more expenses, it makes sense that it's something they really care about.
ECHAVARRI: And what about men? Did María Teresa say anything about how young Latinos are driven to the polls? Any issues that are particularly important to them?
CEREIJIDO: Not really. In fact Latino millennial men are, they're just like less involved. 51 percent of Latinas who are registered to vote actually vote in comparison to only 39 percent of Latino men.
ECHAVARRI: So the idea here is to get this fast growing population involved in the voting process, and millennials are changing the demographics of even what the Latino vote has been in this country.
4. The Latino Vote Could Actually Have A Bigger Election Impact Than Previously Thought
Hinojosa explained that "the Latino vote could be bigger than we thought, maybe even sooner than we thought." As Pew Research Center's Mark Hugo Lopez noted, there are five million foreign-born Latinos with legal residence in the U.S. who are eligible to become naturalized citizens have not taken that step. According to Lopez, that's "a potential pool of voters who could be pushed to citizenship and have an impact on Latino voter participation in the upcoming election":
HINOJOSA: We've been talking throughout our show about Latino voters. There are 26 million Latinos who could be voting in the next presidential election. Now that's enough to tip the scales one way or another, and the candidates know it. But when we spoke with Mark Hugo Lopez of the Pew Research Center we learned that that number could actually be even higher because of one particular group.
MARK HUGO LOPEZ: There are five million Hispanic adults who are in the country legally -- they are foreign-born, they are immigrants -- but they haven't quite yet become U.S. citizens. There's a lot of effort to get this particular group to citizenship, so in other words, having them apply for and obtain U.S. citizenship, and ultimately, they would then be able to vote. Among Mexican immigrants who are in the country legally, only about 36 percent ultimately take that step to become a U.S. citizen, and that is the lowest naturalization rate of any of the Hispanic origin groups. Many of these immigrants have been in the United States for fifteen, maybe even twenty years, and still haven't quite taken that step. So that's really a potential pool of voters who could be pushed to citizenship and have an impact on Latino voter participation in the upcoming election.
HINOJOSA: That's right. The Latino vote could be bigger than we thought, maybe even sooner than we thought, if they just signed up for citizenship. Which is why it's important that politicians learn how complex a group we really are.
John F. Burnett contributed research to this blog.
NPR executive editor Edith Chapin and ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen agree it is "unfortunate" that NPR has thus far failed to cover groundbreaking reports documenting that ExxonMobil funded efforts to sow doubt about climate science for decades after confirming that burning fossil fuels causes climate change.
In a November 2 post on NPR's website, Jensen noted that NPR received criticism from some listeners for failing to report on the recent reports by The Guardian, InsideClimate News, and the Los Angeles Times documenting that Exxon amplified doubt about climate science after Exxon's own scientists confirmed the consensus on global warming. Jensen quoted Chapin as saying of the Exxon story, "NPR should have reported on it in some fashion on at least one of our outlets/platforms," and Chapin also said "[i]t is unfortunate that this topic didn't come up [in NPR's daily editorial discussions] or in any conversation or email that I was a part of." For her part, Jensen agreed that the story "seems to have fallen through the cracks," and that given the growing calls for an investigation of Exxon, "the lapse was unfortunate." Jensen noted that the story was addressed in September by WNYC's On the Media, which was at the time distributed by NPR but is no longer affiliated with the outlet.
Since the media investigations were published, climate scientists, members of Congress, and Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Martin O'Malley have called for the Department of Justice to investigate either Exxon specifically or oil companies more broadly to determine if they knowingly deceived the public about climate change.
As one listener wrote to NPR: "Considering the importance of the issue and the prominence of Exxon's role, this story deserved, and still deserves, to be headline news on the national broadcast." Jensen agreed, concluding that "the issue is still a live one, and it's not too late for NPR to find some way of following up."
Andrew Ratzkin, a listener to the New York City member station WNYC, wrote that the only reporting he heard on the issue was in September, by On the Media, which is produced by WNYC (at the time, the show was distributed by NPR, but that business deal ended Oct. 1 and it is no longer NPR-affiliated). That reporting, examining the InsideClimate News reports, included a contentious interview by On the Media co-host Bob Garfield with Richard Keil, a spokesman for Exxon Mobil, who disputed the InsideClimate News claims.
"This is not enough," Ratzkin wrote. "Considering the importance of the issue and the prominence of Exxon's role, this story deserved, and still deserves, to be headline news on the national broadcast."
Edith Chapin, NPR's executive editor, told me by email that she believes NPR dropped the ball.While it was not a major headline story, I think it meets the interesting test and thus NPR should have reported on it in some fashion on at least one of our outlets/platforms. Exxon Mobil is the world's largest publicly traded multinational oil and gas company and the debate and research decades ago is interesting in light of contemporary knowledge and action on climate change. Daily conversations at our editorial hub typically cross a range of subjects and stories from across the globe. It is unfortunate that this topic didn't come up there or in any conversation or email that I was a part of. It should have been flagged by someone so we could have discussed it and made an intentional decision to cover or not and if so, how.
My take: The story was on the radar of at least some in the newsroom, but it seems to have fallen through the cracks. Given the latest repercussions--Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is among those calling for a federal investigation--the lapse was unfortunate. But the issue is still a live one, and it's not too late for NPR to find some way of following up.