Spanish-speaking reporters best serve citizens

Gabby Sanchez

In the state of Texas, Hispanics and Latinos make up 38 percent of the population, and Spanish is spoken in 29 percent of Texas homes. While a large amount of these individuals speak English, there’s also a large amount that do not. Many are quick to say that they should learn English, but few look at themselves and say that they should learn Spanish. This becomes a problem when monolinguals dominate working fields, especially in fields such as journalism.

Journalists in Texas lack access to the Hispanic community when they do not speak Spanish. News sources that produce content in Spanish and translate the stories and experiences of Spanish speakers into English are necessary in Texas. In a time when newsrooms are shrinking, hiring people who speak multiple languages going into the job and who could provide these services to the population of Texas is not only preferable, but necessary. Through effective journalistic coverage, Spanish-speaking communities would have the ability to understand the issues which affect them and have a presence in the halls of power. When lawmakers and other people in power read stories and understand their issues, only then can they act with their best interest in mind.

Now, more than ever, it’s crucial for journalists to speak Spanish. Many issues that representatives battle over in the Texas Legislature directly affect immigrants, who mostly speak Spanish. Lawmakers pass and implement legislation to the detriment of millions of people in the state without truly understanding their lives and language. Why would they, when journalists cannot give them a voice because of language barriers?

“The reporter who is multilingual can have their ear to the ground and really listen to the communities that are not heard for instance at the Capitol, or in the Legislature,” Spanish-speaking journalist Joy Diaz said. “How do you craft bills that benefit everyone when you don’t know what everyone thinks or everyone wants or what everyone needs?”

Established news sources such as The Dallas Morning News provide voluntary weekly Spanish lessons to their employees because they understand that individuals must know the language in order to serve a community. When Diaz, the first Spanish speaker to work at KUT, started the job in 2005, she knew the efforts needed to be intentional to create a newsroom that better reflects the state, not only in race, but in language.

“Be intentional when recruiting, say we need someone who speaks these languages, we need someone who immersed in ‘X,’” Diaz said. “If it’s someone who’s not a minority but they cover those requirements, more power to them, but more often than not, you’ll find that expertise in minority communities.”

Texan news sources such as the Austin American-Statesman effectively cover issues in the Hispanic communities in Spanish, but these articles and the topics they cover never meet the eyes of English speakers. The stories that are shared in these sections do not reach those with governmental power because they are printed only in Spanish. This is why Diaz values in working for newsrooms who publish their media in English.

“A lot of times people ask me why don’t I report for Spanish-speaking media, and it’s because I see the benefit of working for English-speaking media,” Diaz said. “Because the voices that I bring are the voices that my English-speaking lawmakers will never hear, unless I bring them to them.”

Bilingualism is the future of Texas, although it’s not one-sided. Spanish speakers in Texas must also work to speak English, creating a space between these two demographics where conversation can happen. The proposed “solution” that immigrants from Latin America and other parts of the world must learn how to speak English and stop speaking Spanish is unrealistic and erases key aspects of culture. Learning Spanish in the field of journalism will only make coverage more objective and fair.

Sanchez is a journalism freshman from Austin. She is a columnist. Follow her on Twitter @narwhalieee.