Summary of a meeting with Cecilia Alvear, NBC News, National Assoc. of Hispanic Journalists; Marcela Sanchez, The Washington Post; Alfredo Corchado, The Dallas Morning News; Armando Trull, The Armando Group.

The growth of the Latino population is changing politics and society in the United States. This conference, as part of an initiative to promote an open forum of discussion on Latino issues and the role Latinos play in the policy process, brought together prominent Hispanic journalists to discuss their role as Latinos within the United States who report on Latin American affairs.

Cecilia Alvear began by stating that in the U.S., you have to define what it means to be Latino. In this country, Bolivar's dream of a united hemisphere comes true, where Latinos tend to group together and look for common bonds that will unite them. President Fox of Mexico recently addressed Hispanic journalists as a conduit to his constituencies in the U.S. Alfredo Corchado stressed that his job as a journalist is to give a voice to those without a voice. The fact that he is a Latino can help, but he is a reporter first. All of the panelists agreed that this issue sometimes alienates them on both sides; when advocates say they are not doing enough to cover positive news on Latinos, and when mainstream reporters accuse them of being lobbyists for their ethnic constituencies for not covering enough negative news. The job of a journalist is to report the news to their community. What is important is to be able to report it in a balanced manner. Their goal is to bring into the mainstream media images of Latinos that are not purely negative.

Marcela Sanchez believes that Latin American affairs are important to Latinos because they are increasingly interdependent. A reason for the success of Spanish language media is that it is the only source for extensive news coverage of Latin America. Armando Trull believes that English language media will only cover Latino issues when it believes it has gained a large enough Latino audience. Internet has become a major media channel for Latinos due to its ease of access to Latin American news from every corner of the world; and Latinos are beginning to see it as the great equalizer. Furthermore, Corchado stated that Latinos are rapidly becoming a community without borders, increasingly sophisticated and complex. As a Latino journalist in the U.S., you can't know one side without knowing the other.

by Julian Mayor