Dear Governor Newsom,
Ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, Latino communities across the state are reeling from some of the highest rates of infection, death, and economic devastation, and face an uphill battle toward recovery. California’s Latino media outlets have never been more vital to this vulnerable population which is so often sidelined by mainstream media and government outreach. Outlets have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, the resulting economic downturn and now as communities fight toward recovery, to provide critical,often life-saving information and guidance. That’s why the 2021 state budget’s failure to include Latino media in its ethnic media spending plan is a slap in the face to Latinos, working people, and communities of color across the state.
Latino media has been a lifeline to these communities throughout this historic crisis, providing trustworthy, in-language and community-specific news coverage, guidance and information even when government outreach efforts and mainstream media failed to do so. Our recent study of Latino and other community media outlets entitled ““The State of Community & Ethnic Media in California: Impact, Resource Gaps, and Opportunities” found that as many as 30% of surveyed outlets started covering the pandemic in January, before it became an issue of widespread concern in the United States and 61.8% provided fact checking or debunked pandemic misinformation. As misinformation and trust in government has eroded in our communities, local community and ethnic media continues to be the main source for trustworthy news. Latino media has been essential for Latino communities throughout the pandemic and are absolutely critical to their recovery.
We, the Latino Media Collaborative, a broad coalition of broadcast, print and digital media outlets, are taking the extraordinary step of addressing you publicly, Governor Newsom, because your failure to act during this crisis leaves us with no other option. Our media partners have been a strategic supporter of your administration and efforts during this pandemic and beyond, committing unprecedented resources to informing and protecting Latino lives during these difficult times. We sat down with your staff and communicated the urgent needs of these outlets and the vulnerable communities they serve, and we asked for your leadership. Your office claimed to recognize the need for immediate investment in Latino media, and committed to deliver. We expected leadership from you and your office, but your actions ignore our requests and points to yet another failure to prioritize California’s Latino population in this critical moment of recovery.
Despite being California’s majority racial or ethnic group, Latinos have suffered the greatest impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic by almost every metric. Throughout the state, Latinos face drastically higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 than whites (23.6% versus 2.9%), suffered a COVID-19 case rate more than three times that of whites and died as a result of the virus 1.5 times more often than whites.1 Latinos are also disproportionately excluded from economic relief, despite being among the hardest hit by the pandemic downturn.2
After years of systemic advertising and outreach underinvestment by government agencies, revenue loss as a result of the pandemic has presented major pressures on the sector just when California’s Latino population needs it most. By failing to advance equitable policies and investment priorities inclusive of Latino media and the devastated communities they serve, the proposed state budget risks making the same mistake all over again: neglecting and underinvesting in Latino communities. If you are truly committed to an equitable COVID-19 recovery, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is and allocate funds to Latino media through the state budget or subsequent legislation immediately.
The Latino Media Collaborative, in partnership with the California Latino Legislative Caucus, are committed to finding solutions. For the remaining days of the 2021 legislature, we will continue to advocate for our priorities and we hope to recruit your leadership and support in these important efforts. Ethnic and community media is a critical lifeline for many California communities. The time to act is now.