Covering Immigration: Establishing Links Between U.S. and Latin American Media

This training program on coverage of immigration brought together journalists from U.S. community-based Spanish- and English-language media and Latin American media for a hands-on training workshop on covering immigration issues, followed by several days of reporting on the issue under the guidance of experienced trainers. It took place in Washington, D.C., April 16-24.

Even as the immigration debate has grown more complicated and more vociferous in the United States and abroad, little attention has been paid to the media that reach immigrants – and potential immigrants – themselves. The burgeoning Spanish-language media in the United States have not had the kind of training their English-language counterparts have had in such issues as in-depth reporting, explanatory journalism, media ethics and specialized reporting on business, consumer, legal and health issues important to immigrants. English-language media in smaller communities affected most by rising immigration also need help in understanding the rapidly changing issue. Media in the countries that send immigrants to the United States have had little opportunity to learn the intricacies of U.S. policy, resulting in potential immigrants having a poor understanding of what awaits them upon crossing the border.

Selection and Eligibility:

Seven journalists from the U.S. Spanish-language media, seven from U.S. English-language news organizations and seven from Latin American media were selected. Journalists with proven record of covering immigration issues from the print, radio, television or on-line media were eligible to participate. The program was conducted primarily in Spanish, with simultaneous interpretation for non-Spanish speakers.

The immigration coverage program was competitive, and participants were selected and recruited according to several criteria:

-At least 3 years of experience as a journalist;

-Strong commitment to reporting issues related to immigration and its impact in the community and abroad;

-A spirit of adventure and a curiosity about the link between global issues and the local community; and

-Enthusiasm for and understanding of the mission of the training program.

For applicants from Latin America, preference was given to those from countries that have large-scale immigration to the United States and do not have overseas correspondents. For applicants in the United States, preference was given to journalists working for Spanish-language media or from community-based news organizations in cities impacted by immigration.

The seminar portion of the program included:

-Informational sessions featuring experts on immigration policy, legal issues, etc.;

-Training sessions on in-depth reporting about legal, social, business and consumer issues, featuring hands-on exercises;

-Panel discussions about current issues in immigration featuring a range of advocates from those promoting greater amnesty to those favoring tougher sanctions;

-Field trips to such places as health clinics or day-laborer gathering spots (often monitored by anti-immigration activists) in which journalists would report under the guidance of trainers;

-Visits to media, government and non-profit institutions such as The Washington Post and its Spanish-language daily, the U.S. Congress and the National Council of La Raza.

-Discussions of journalism ethics while covering immigration issues, including such topics as anonymous sources, fairness and balance, and hidden cameras;

-Brainstorming sessions on stories the participants will pursue during the reporting phase of the program.

After the seminar, journalists were expected to conduct reporting in the Washington area as part of the training, producing stories for their news organizations. The trainers were available for coaching and editing.