by Andrea Smith and Joey Hinojosa
Class lectures, detailed articles, and discussions concerning the struggles and triumphs of ethnic-oriented media provide a foundation for students interested in working with diverse populations in mass communication fields. While such classroom study is insightful, meeting with working professionals provided students in Dr. Kent Wilkinson’s course, “EMAC 6315: Ethnic-Oriented Media” new and valuable perceptions. The October 2007 visit to Dallas offered College of Communications graduate students a chance to see a more extensive range of media practices and learn directly from specialists working in ethnic-oriented media industries.
Our first visit was to Dieste Harmel & Partners, an agency which focuses on advertising to multicultural populations. An account representative, Joel Hernandez, a graduate of Texas Tech’s public relations program in December 2003, met with us and described the agency as a “pioneer in Hispanic marketing.” Dieste Harmel focuses on Hispanic segmentation, emphasizing psychographic factor such as consumers’ buying behaviors rather than demographics alone. Hernandez spoke of a new trend called “retro-acculturation,” a process by which second- and third-generation Hispanics are exploring and reclaiming their heritage. Hernandez stresses that the trend should be acknowledged by advertisers and others in mass communication fields; professionals should depict realistic Hispanic culture instead of what is typically seen in the media today. Advertisers will only be successful in reaching the “re-acculturated” Hispanics by understanding and appealing to genuine Hispanic culture.
Our second day in Dallas began with a visit to KNON 89.3 FM, a community radio station that serves lower- and middle-income populations. A special station tour was led by, Mr. Tunde Obazee, whose program “Empowerment Radio” is aired nationwide. A particularly memorable part of the station visit occurred when blues musician and volunteer radio host Gregg Smith dedicated one of his songs to Texas Tech University and briefly interviewed two students live on the air. The students came to appreciate the dedication required to run a community-based radio station by observing KNON employees’ and volunteers’ strong work ethic.
The publisher, editors and journalists at The Dallas Examiner, an African-American newspaper, clarified how they select and report news that is relevant to their community. The visit was especially significant considering the racial conflicts that had recently occurred in Jena, Louisiana. The staff elaborated on how racial biases in mainstream media affect news reporting. For example, some mainstream print media described the Jena incident as Black men who attacked a White teenager. The depiction is inaccurate, however, considering that all individuals involved were of similar age. The Examiner’s managing editor, Gordon Jackson, gave an abbreviated account of the black press’s historical development and the challenges it has faced. He also emphasized the black press’s creed, “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.” The staff highlighted the importance of objectivity because the media plays a strong role in shaping people’s social views. It was also stressed that journalists need to ask the hard questions and seek to obtain the whole story, which many contemporary journalists fail to do. The Examiner staff feels strongly that reducing biases in the press is essential to productive and accurate journalism and stressed this to future media professionals in the class. Students finished the visit with a clearer understanding of how ethnic-oriented media should be approached.
A discussion with Alfredo Carbajal, managing editor of Al Día newspaper, concluded formal appointments of the trip. Al Día is a daily publication of The Dallas Morning News that serves the Dallas/Fort Worth area’s Spanish-speaking and bilingual populations. According to Carbajal, typical readers are first generation immigrants who desire a connection to their homeland and information to help orient them in the Metroplex as well as U.S. society in general. Therefore, the paper pays significant attention to health and education resources, specifically for immigrant families with children. Mr. Carbajal cites Al Día’s main purpose as explaining issues affecting the area’s Hispanic population in an understandable manner. Accordingly, Al Día emphasizes objectivity as key in gaining respect among its audience. Mr. Carbajal also discussed how being a “true journalist” means seeking the truth rather than settling for stories that underscore common misconceptions about the Hispanic population.
In addition to the site visits, students enjoyed an informal dinner with Mr. Greg Davis, the general manager of WRR-FM and a Texas Tech alumnus who was recently elected chair of the College’s advisory board. Davis’ vibrant personality shone through in his recounting of media endeavors from college days up to his present position. His optimistic attitude is inspiring to future media professionals who are likely to encounter highs and lows in their careers. As a successful African American in the media industry, Davis has learned to work through prejudices. He explained how he avoids placing blame or engaging in self-pity which he considers wastes of time. Davis also offered students an encouraging outlook of media opportunities in today’s industry.
Each visit included an underlying theme of striving to depict the truth and speak accurately about, and for, the people being served by ethnic-oriented media. The media professionals we met did not advocate offering preferential treatment for ethnic minorities, but rather focused on our developing true professionalism, a quality that some believe has been in short supply in recent years. Attaining greater empowerment among diverse populations may be achieved by our embracing cultural differences. The passion that students observed in each of the professionals we interacted with was remarkable and not something a classroom setting can provide. Students completed the Dallas visits with broader and richer perspectives on the communication industries they will soon enter as well as the populations they will strive to serve.