Immigration and border security have dominated the headlines this week in New Mexico and across the nation. Latino USA’s Maria Hinojosa has been covering these issues for many years and she says this is one of the most horrible, beautiful times to be a journalist. The founder of The Futuro Media Group spoke with KUNM's Megan Kamerick.
HINOJOSA: I understand perhaps more deeply than at any point in my career the kind of impact a journalist and team of journalists like ours can have in a national conversation. Every time I leave New York and go out to anywhere, someone will come up to me – usually a young woman, a young Latina woman, and they will literally start crying in my arms to talk about the impact that this work, our journalism, has had on their lives, on helping them to center their identity, on helping them to feel like they are part of this country. What could be more beautiful than having people, young people, come up to you and say that your work as a journalist has touched them so deeply that they're in tears?
On the other side of that equation, this notion of people being deported families being ripped apart people being put into detention camps, this is not new but it certainly has intensified. And the rhetoric around the divisions in our country definitely is at an all-time high. So that is the horrible part, the horrible part of having to actually document these stories, of being in the presence of people whose lives are literally being blown up by policies that are being administered from a White House that has made its positions on race pretty clear.
KUNM: So what are the primary issues you think media needs to be covering right now about immigration?
HINOJOSA: Part of the problem in my view is that the entire conversation about reporting on immigration, demographic change, for the last 30 years has basically been coming from a perspective of 'Oh my God the demographics are changing! This is so scary! If new people are coming that means that we're somehow going to lose out!' And that the entire narrative around demographic change in this country that is through this perspective of a white male gaze, has been put into the context of, 'We should be afraid of this change,' as opposed to, 'What an extraordinary moment it is that we're living through right now.'
How do you open up a dialogue to say 'We've got to look really closely at the kind of coverage we've been doing for the past 30 or 40 years to understand the role that mainstream media has has played in creating this scenario.'
That's on the one hand. On the other hand I didn't think that I would see the day when DREAMers or young people who want to be identified as DREAMers or people who are part of DACA, that this would be talked about on Saturday Night Live. And it is! I mean, how much more mainstream can you get?
That's the good side of it. The bad side of the conversation is that we have to recognize that there is less diversity now in American mainstream news rooms than there was before 9/11. That is incongruous with what's happening demographically.
We each have to take stock to see what we can be doing better and this is definitely a time for a lot of self-criticism. And certainly among journalists I hope that we can look at ourselves and say, 'what are we doing to make the conversation easier to understand and frankly to lessen fear?' I think if we tell the truth, if we tell the facts, that will actually assuage people's fear because in my view there's really not – there's nothing to fear. We are already who we are becoming. I'm not sure why we should fear that.
Maria Hinojosa will join New York Times journalist Simon Romero for a conversation about covering immigration and the border as part of The U.S. Mexico Border: Place, Imagination and Possibility show from 516 ARTS.
- KiMo Theatre, Albuquerque
- Friday, April 13 at 7:00 p.m.