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TV Notes: 12/13/03

Friday, December 12, 2003

Study faults TV newscasts for poor Hispanic coverage

Television's evening newscasts offer scant and stereotypical coverage of Hispanics, focusing mostly on crime and immigration, according to a study released Thursday.

For the eighth year, the "National Brownout" study by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists found inadequate attention paid to America's largest and fastest-growing minority.

"This year's report once again highlights the dismal progress the networks have made in their coverage of the nation's Hispanic community," association President Juan Gonzalez, a New York Daily News columnist, said in a statement.

The 120 Hispanic-related stories made up less than 1 percent (0.75 percent) of the approximately 16,000 that aired on the major newscasts in 2002, the study found. That represents a small increase over 2001's 0.62 percent.

Hispanics make up more than 13 percent of the U.S. population.

Two-thirds of all evening newscast stories concerning Hispanics were about crime, terrorism and illegal immigration, according to the study of ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN.

The kidnap-murder of 5-year-old Samantha Runnion in California and subsequent arrest of Alejandro Avila, who awaits trial, dominated the crime category with 18 stories.

Also heavily covered with 21 stories was the case of Jose Padilla, a former Chicago gang member who is accused of plotting to detonate a radioactive bomb.

There were efforts to report on Hispanic life more comprehensively with, for example, politics and the growing Hispanic vote the topic of eight network stories, the study found.

ABC led the way with more balanced coverage of Hispanics and with stories on a wide range of topics, the study found. One ABC correspondent, Judy Muller, was singled out for her contributions.

Overall, there was an increased use of Hispanics as interview subjects and a slight increase in the length of Hispanic-related stories (from two minutes, 25 seconds in 2001 to two minutes, 51 seconds in 2002).

The failure to reflect a broader, more balanced view of Hispanic life may stem in part from the lack of Hispanics in newsrooms and in broadcast management, the journalists association said.

Networks have consistently rejected a request to report on the racial and ethnic makeup of their newsrooms, although newspapers and local radio and TV broadcasters conduct such studies, the association said.

(Lynn Elber, Associated Press)

More minorities writing

The number of minority writers working on television series rose in 2002, part of an overall hiring increase, the Writers Guild of America-West said Thursday.

The total number of writers working in prime-time TV increased from 1,334 in 2001 to 1,576, while the number of minority writers rose from 135 to 205 in the same period, the guild said.

Guild President Victoria Riskin credited industrywide meetings initiated by the union and involving production and labor-relations heads at the major networks and studios.


Sawyer gets Bush interview

President Bush will grant an interview at the White House next week to ABC News' Diane Sawyer, the network said Tuesday.

The interview will air on "Primetime Thursday" Dec. 18. Parts will also be shown on "Good Morning America," which Sawyer co-anchors.

Meanwhile, ABC also announced Tuesday that it had raided CNN to hire reporter Jonathan Karl, who will cover the State Department and foreign affairs. He replaces Martha Raddatz, who has shifted to the Pentagon.

ABC News also said it had hired Laura Marquez, an anchor and reporter for ABC's San Francisco station, as a Washington-based general assignment reporter.


More 'GMA' to come

ABC's affiliate board on Thursday gave the network's news division the go-ahead to produce weekend morning news shows to compete with CBS and NBC.

The network plans to start weekend editions of "Good Morning America" next fall, spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said.

ABC needed the OK from its stations because they will have to clear the time on their schedules to make way for the programs. On Saturday mornings, many ABC stations air children's programming.

ABC previously had weekend news programs, but they were eliminated several years ago in a cost-cutting move.


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