The Annenberg School for Communication honored diversity and history Wednesday night with Voices for Justice: 200 years of Latino Newspapers, which celebrated the
influential history and future of Spanish-speaking media.
The event took place in the packed Annenberg Auditorium and, as Annenberg Dean Ernest J. Wilson III pointed out, set a record of attendance in the venue. It also kicked off a
month-long exhibit on the second floor of Annenberg’s lobby showcasing Latino newspapers and journalists.
Wilson opened the event by recognizing the place and power of America’s Latinos, from the key swing vote in the last election to the massive peaceful demonstrations about immigration reform across the nation in 2006.
“I hope you will see America as seen by Latino newspapers, and to the communities they serve,” he said, addressing the crowd. “I hope you will leave having gained new insights on our nation, and by knowing more about newspapers, better understand the Latinos that are a part of both.”
Professor Félix Guitiérrez, who specializes in diversity and media and served as moderator for the event, also addressed the attendees. He set the tone for the night, introducing the theme of “Liberation.”
“A liberation in terms of language, from Spanish to English, so that those here who are unfortunate to not speak Spanish, can still read, hear and
understand,” Guitiérrez said.
The event featured a panel, including Nicolás Kanellos, professor of Hispanic literature at the University of Houston and author of Hispanic Periodicals in the United States and Mónica Lozano, publisher and CEO of the nation’s largest Spanish-language daily newspaper, La Opinión. The audience also got a chance to view the film Voices for Justice: The Enduring Legacy of the Latino Press in the US directed by panelist Raymond Telles.
Telles, an Emmy winner, said he set out to bring life to the academic discoveries and history of Latino
journalism through the new media of film.
“It’s about bringing to life an important part of American history, and Latinos are for the most part, for many, many years, our history hasn’t existed in mass media,” he said. “One of the things that helps us bring it to life is that we have some damn good stories to tell. We have the opportunity in the film to bring these stories to life in a way that people get it.”
The use of the film to tell what was otherwise a print-based story made it meaningful and accessible to students, even those with no knowledge of Latino culture.
Josh Rosenbaum, a sophomore majoring in business administration, said that Telles’ film gave great insight into filmmaking as well as the issues.
“It caught my attention,” he said. “It conveyed important issues dealing with racial identity, that otherwise would go unnoticed by mainstream media. I didn’t think I had any interest in the issue, but the film captivated me.”
Christina Tasooji, a senior majoring in business administration and accounting whose grandfather was a Mexican immigrant, said the event’s message of history resonated with her.
“Especially for our young generation, at this time when immigration laws and politics are a big part, understanding history will let people see clearly,” she said. “This project as a medium to express the alternative points of view, to capture them, was great.”
The event was part of a larger initiative to emphasize Annenberg’s commitment to diversity and to further explore the wide range of cultures thriving in LA.
“The first newspaper in LA was the Los Angeles Star,” Guitiérrez said. “But it really was two newspapers. The front pages are the Los Angeles Star, and in the back, the last pages are La Estrella de Los Angeles.”
Guitiérrez emphasized that Latino journalism is not, as some believe, simply mainstream news translated into Spanish, but is its own entity with a long and storied history.
Lozano echoed this sentiment. She said La Opinión is meant to serve not only as a source of information but to be a vital tool in helping recent immigrants adapt to the US. Lozano cited the importance of recognizing Spanish-language media’s role in history.
“The point of view captured by this segment of the media is important, and people need to recognize the unique and important space Spanish-language media has in this country and the community they serve,” she said.