Panel of Hispanic American Newsers Discuss Their Careers: ‘It’s Frustrating to See Across All the Networks Very Few People in My Position’

By A.J. Katz Comment

Some of the most high-profile Hispanic-American TV newsers gathered yesterday for a virtual panel hosted by Paley Center.

Moderated by Mariana Atencio (formerly of NBC News/MSNBC), PaleyImpact: Hispanic Heritage Month: Hispanic Voices in Media focused on the role the media plays in informing, educating and impacting Hispanic Americans when it comes to issues like the upcoming presidential election, the Covid-19 pandemic and immigration, as well as explore the growing power and influence of the Hispanic community in American life.

CNN’s Ana Cabrera, Telemundo and NBC News’ José Díaz-Balart, Univision’s (KMEX-TV) León Krauze, ABC’s Tom Llamas and Fox News’ Bryan Llenas all participated.

“I’m covering news and shining light on people who oftentimes aren’t able to speak because they’re not given the opportunity to speak,” said Díaz-Balart, the elder statesman of the group. “I see my life as kind of a thread of doing the same thing, but everyday a different way.”

News is slightly different for Hispanics living in America, he said. “What’s extraordinary about Spanish-language television is that, for a majority of Latinos in the United States, the act of leaving their home is an act of strength and courage because they don’t know if they’re going to be able to come home that afternoon,” said Díaz-Balart, “Kids don’t know if their parents are going to come home from work.”

He added: “So for that group of people, watching television is one of the safe ways of learning about the world outside … a safe window to the present.”

Cabrera, originally from Denver, spoke about starting out in a small market (Spokane, Wash.) and climbing her way up to CNN.

She then spoke of her current on-air work: “As we know, Latinos are going to make up the largest non-white voting bloc in 2020, up from where we were in 2016, and we have almost doubled the percentage of Latinos who are able to participate in the election since 2000. We’re a growing population, which means we’re a growing viewership, and I take seriously being someone our community can watch for information and really trust and feel connected to as we cover stories that are impacting all Americans, but disproportionately the Latino community and other communities of color when we’re talking about the coronavirus.”

Cabrera also said she wants more representation of doctors who are Latino or small business owners who are Latino on TV news, something that’s not happening.

Krauze explained that he began his career 25 years ago as a sports journalist in print, but added that American politics has always been a passion of his. “What really set me on this path that I’m on today and brought me from Mexico to the United States and Los Angeles in particular—maybe 15 years ago now when I had a chance to meet and live with a family of immigrants in Alabama. Being with them for a couple months and learning how they go through life and the struggles they go through really made me the journalist I am today and I decided I wanted to tell the story of the immigrant community from a city like Los Angeles.”

Llamas, World News Tonight Weekend anchor and the network’s chief national correspondent, hails from Miami and said news was always a part of his life. “My parents are Cuban exiles like Jose’s parents, and I can’t remember a time when we weren’t talking about Cuba, when we weren’t talking about American politics, or elections … we were a very ‘news junkie’ family,” he said.

Llamas talked about starting out in TV news at age 15 as an intern at a Miami station, working there through high school and college, before taking a job at MSNBC as overnight production assistant. Llamas worked his way up through the production ranks. He eventually went on air at the Miami NBC station, before WNBC in New York and now ABC News.

“I’ve covered local politics, to hurricanes, to immigration … it is awesome to see where the business was, and now 20 years later to now see a panel like this, of all these successful Hispanics. And I know we have a long way to go, but we’ve come a long way,” said Llamas.

Llenas, Fox News website production assistant-turned-national correspondent, echoed Llamas, adding, “And it’s not just on camera, it’s behind the camera. So, I think, at least for me particularly, I do feel a burden and a responsibility to make sure that I get it right. To make sure I’m doing everything I can to try to tell these stories. And you do put this like responsibility on—you put the bar up here because you do feel like well I’m the only one. If I don’t do it who else is going to do it, so there is a pressure that comes with that.”

Who influenced Llenas, whose background is Dominican?

Well, in addition to baseball players Pedro Martinez and Sammy Sosa, he named news anchors, including one on the panel: “Growing up in South Florida, I’m going to say Jose Diaz-Balart, Jorge Ramos, Rick Sanchez. Rick Sanchez was big for me, he was just everywhere. I saw him on CNN for the first time. He was the first Latino along with Jorge and Jose.”

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