LAS VEGAS (TheStreet) -- Jorge Ramos, the longtime Univision anchorman, cited the labor leader Cesar Chavez as a "great man, a wise man" as he accepted an award this week from the National Association of Broadcasters, the first Latino to receive the television industry group's most prestigious prize.
Ramos, a journalist who has become the face of news reporting at Univision, the country's most popular network regardless of language, cited the words of the United Farm Workers leader Chavez, the country's first nationally known Latino leader, to illustrate how U.S. Hispanics have gone from being a marginal if exploited minority to a group whose population is taking an increasing higher profile in American life.
"We have seen the future, and the future is ours," Chavez said at one point during the long years of strikes and organizing as he attempted to force the U.S. government to extend labor protections to migrant worker toiling in the farm fields of California in the 1960s and 1970s. Chavez was a deeply divisive figure at the time, revered by many while scorned by large agriculture companies and the California governor at the time, Ronald Reagan.
Ramos went on to say that House Speaker John Boehner and his Republican leaders are blocking immigration reform in the House, and if they continue with this "anti-immigration position," they will lose the White House in 2016, 2020, 2024, and so on. For good measure, the Univision anchor added that if President Obama "really wants to be a friend of the Latino community, he has to stop deporting us." Obama has deported more people than any other president in this history of the United States, Ramos said, and "that has to stop."
Ramos' citing of Chavez, Boehner on immigration reform and Obama on deportations was especially notable because they are the kinds of associations and assertions that prompted outrage from self-appointed media-watchers.
The Media Research Council said as much in one of those "oh-my-goodness" reports that pundits love to parse over. The Reston, Va.-based media monitor, which would hardly deny its conservative leanings, said in a study made public on April 1 that when Univision chooses guests to appear on the network, there are "left-leaning sources overwhelmingly dominating domestic coverage."
The council's report, which also included Univision's Spanish-language rival Telemundo, said that out of 667 stories on domestic events and politics recorded from November through February, more than six times as many "tilted left/liberal" as those deemed "right/conservative." That is, 45% to 6% with the remainder, 49%, characterized as "neutral."
In his speech, Ramos didn't mention the Media Research study, but he did take aim at the slippery benchmark of impartiality.
"Sometime we say that to be neutral is what we should do as journalists," he said, after accepting the award from NAB President Gordon Smith, the former Republican senator from Oregon. "But I think we're wrong on that. To be neutral has sometimes been an excuse not to do our job. Many, many times journalists in this country are way too close to the powerful, and as journalists we have to make them uncomfortable."
Indeed, Ramos has done that. Bolivian President Evo Morales ended a 2006 interview after six minutes during which Ramos asserted that Cuba was anything but a democracy. Morales couldn't handle the questions, so he got up and left. Ramos did the same with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and has charged his successors with murdering student protestors.
The assertion that journalists lean left has been around for a long time. Of course, it's probably a natural interaction. Those in power tend to defend the status quo while those "tilting liberal/left" tend to question it. It's a natural dichotomy, and journalism can provide the platform to exert dissent. Ramos makes no excuses for his politics. He views immigration reform and the end to deportations as unequivocal positives for U.S. Latinos.
"We have to say in Venezuela, that the leader of the regime, because it's not a democracy, is responsible for the killings of dozens of students," Ramos said. "We have to say that as journalists."
"The role for journalists is to question those who are in power. We have to speak truth to power."
--Leon Lazaroff is TheStreet's deputy managing editor.
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Leon Lazaroff is TheStreet's deputy managing editor.