Newswires: Do they meet the informational needs of Hispanics?
Though newswires have endeavored to provide content more useful to their Hispanic clientele, print media professionals in the United States concur that the newswires could be doing more to provide the Hispanic community with information it wants and needs.
Cathy Areu, Publisher of Catalina magazine, has these comments regarding the differing expectations of Hispanic and mainstream editors. "Mainstream and Hispanic editors both need up-to-date information; everyone of course looks at newswires for items of interest to their target audience. I honestly would like to see more Hispanic news on the wires, with more Hispanic expert sources listed. Too often in our market, wire reports quote non-Hispanics as experts. Sometimes we won't run a story if we can't find a Hispanic expert from a company, a university or such."
Ms. Areu sees other flaws in newswire offerings to the Hispanic media. "In our market, there is a problem with the definition of Hispanic news. What I know my readers want, and what I consider to be authentic Hispanic news, is smart news about, and news directly affecting Hispanics. Some wire services believe that anything remotely related to a Hispanic person is newsworthy, while others believe that as long as it's diverse, it should be listed as Hispanic. African-American and Asian items frequently get listed as Hispanic news." What this means for newswire providers is that they shouldn't confuse sushi with ceviche or Usher with El General.
Diana M. Backlund, Sales Director for the Newscom news agency has been working with U.S.-based Hispanic newspapers for several years and knows the habits of the Hispanic reading public. "Hispanics in the U.S. tend to get national and international news from the mainstream papers, and then turn to their local periodicals to get the news as it relates to them. They want to know how they, their families and friends are affected by the events being reported domestically and internationally."
Domestic Hispanic news
Asked to comment on where there might be information shortfalls between newswire content and the interests of the Hispanic community, Ms. Backlund says "Larger international agencies tend to be weak in producing coverage of domestic Hispanic news, focusing more on events in Latin America or other international regions. Having said that, let me go on record as admitting that many agencies are recognizing the importance of the Hispanic market. Some have made concerted efforts over the last couple of years to improve their Hispanic coverage. It is getting better, but there is certainly a lot of room for improvement. In all fairness, I must say that the bigger agencies who are trying to provide better coverage of Hispanic events in the U.S. have a difficult time because they are not based here. It is hard for a European or Latin American agency to deliver the news in a format as specialized and as diverse as the Hispanic community wants and/or needs to read."
Ms. Backlund adds that in recent international the involvement of the U.S. Hispanic community went largely ignored. "Take the coverage of the Hispanic Americans participating in the Olympics; no one had stories or photos that covered this group. Hispanics fighting in Iraq have also been under-represented in the press. People need more content, photos and stories that relate directly to Hispanic Americans." The lesson to be learned from her remarks is that when there are American Hispanics overseas, newswires would be more useful to U.S.-based editors of Hispanic publications if they would provide news about those people, and provide it with a specific Hispanic slant.
Based on her experience at Newscom, Ms. Backlund has further observations which might help newswire providers to more effectively serve the Hispanic community. "The majority of the smaller weeklies are looking for shorter articles; there is only so much space to fill in the paper. In terms of content, many are looking for soft news stories that talk about everything from travel and culture to tales of success about Hispanics doing well in the U.S. When such stories are on the longer side, they can be broken up into a weekly series. Then, among the more serious items for which there is high demand in the Hispanic community you have in-depth analysis of immigration issues."
Newscom is a service which aggregates content from all providers and offers it on an à la carte basis to newspapers and magazines across the United States, giving Ms. Backlund a reliable perspective on the needs of the Hispanic community from coast to coast. "We get many requests for the type of content this very specialized media group needs for their readers. The requests are quite similar across the country; they need more coverage of Hispanic events and people within the U.S.A." This indicates that not only the international newswires, but also the domestic ones could better serve the Hispanic community by providing more items with a specific Hispanic slant.
Whereas Ms. Backlund makes a strong case for the necessity for newswires to catch up to the needs of the Hispanic community, Ruben Keysoyan, Executive Editor of La Opinion has a milder point of view. "You should understand firstly that a newswire is support, not a main source of information. Newspapers have to use their own reporters well to get solid coverage of the local community. AP, Reuters and many other newswires, including the Spanish-language ones, do an excellent job and are very useful to us. I will say this; were the newswires able to get us heavier local content, that would be a dream come true. Then there is this problem; many newswires which offer bi-lingual content only provide the Spanish translation several hours after the original English. We can translate in-house, but beyond the expense, we often don't have time to translate before going to press. If newswires could offer us simultaneous Spanish-language and English-language content, there would be more timely reporting overall in U.S. Hispanic print media."
The state of Hispanic newswire content
Getting better . . .
? Many agencies are recognizing the importance of the Hispanic market and putting out new products.
? There have been concerted efforts to improve Hispanic coverage.
? More content is available (e.g. Soft news stories that talk about everything from travel and culture, longer articles broken down in weekly series. In-depth analysis of immigration issues.
...but room for improvement
? More coverage of Hispanic events and people within the U.S.A.
? More Hispanics used as expert sources.
· “Smart” news about Hispanics and news directly affecting them
· Diverse does not mean Hispanics
· Too much focus on Latin American events instead of “domestic” Hispanic events
· Better coverage of the involvement of the Hispanic community in international events
· Smaller weeklies, look for shorter articles
? Heavier local content
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