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Daily News Officials Get Latino Reader Reactions

Attracting more Latino reporters and giving more positive coverage to the Latino community were among the issues raised March 7 at a town hall-style meeting sponsored by the Daily News. About 70 people attended the meeting done in conjunction with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists that took place at California State University, Northridge. About a quarter of those present work for the Daily News in the editorial, advertising, circulation and human resources departments. Editor Ron Kaye told the crowd that meeting to gauge what the Latino community thinks of the paper’s coverage was long overdue. “I see this as a beginning of something important for the newspaper and for the community,” Kaye said. When faced with a comment from one audience member that she did not see one Latino face among the paper’s management, publisher Tracy Rafter said the Daily News does need to do a better job across the board in attracting Latino employees. The Daily News has 13 Latinos in its newsroom, or 9 percent of its editorial workforce, Rafter said “The goal is parity of the community we represent,” Rafter said. “Our goal is to give coverage to everybody who lives in the Valley.” The meeting was the Daily News’s first event since joining the NAHJ’s Parity Project that aims to bring more diversity to newsrooms and improve coverage of the Latino community. Joining the project is a five year commitment and includes the establishment of a citizens advisory committee that meets quarterly to discuss the paper’s coverage. Rafael “Ray” Vega, owner of Casa Vega restaurant in Sherman Oaks, was one of several speakers who said the paper needed to report more on the good things happening in the Latino community and not just news about gangs and violence. “It’s important we have role models so the young people just don’t know about gangs,” Vega said. “They have to know about the businessmen and how important education is. I started out with an SBA (Small Business Administration) loan and I’ve been in business for 50 years.” Other questions raised by audience members zeroed in on how the newspaper chooses which reader letters to run to the sources used by reporters. A better job needs to be done to find experts on issues who are more representative of the community, said City of San Fernando Councilwoman Maribel De La Torre. “The type of people quoted needs to change,” de la Torre said. “It can’t always be the same.” The Daily News is the second newspaper in the region to join the Parity Project. The Ventura County Star joined in 2003. Of the 16 newspapers and two television stations in the project, 11 have seen an increase in the number of Latino journalists on their staff, according to the association. The association’s goal is to have 7.8 percent Latino reporters on daily newspapers by 2008. CSUN journalism department Chairman Kent Kirkton said that the meeting was a good idea because it gives a chance for newspapers to have direct contact with readers and get a reaction to its coverage. “I think we’ve relied, at least on the editorial side, on letters to the editor to see what our constituents are thinking,” Kirkton said. “It seems to me that the business side of newspapers does its share of surveys but the editorial side knows less about the response to its coverage.” Jose Luis Benavides, an assistant professor in journalism at CSUN, called the circumstances the Daily News finds itself in an interesting position because the paper is in a circulation area with a large Latino population yet had a low percentage of minority reporters. “In terms of diversification it is important for their survival in the business,” Benavides said. “If not, their readers are going to disappear. The other part of the problem is the readership decline, not only because of the emergence of the Internet. The one bright spot in newspapers are those targeting minority readers and especially Spanish language newspapers.”

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