NY Daily News Journalist Addresses Diversity in Media

The seventh annual Diversity Convocation at Ramapo College welcomed esteemed Latino journalist Juan Gonzalez as its keynote speaker.

His lecture, titled “The Changing Face of America: Media Images and Reality,” provided students and attendees with a glimpse into the controversial topic of the inaccurate portrayal of minorities by history and mainstream media.

This controversy is at the center of Gonzalez’s critically acclaimed books “Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America” and “News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media.”

“I hope that students will take a more critical look at the media they consume and realize the vastly inaccurate portrayals of minorities in this country,” said Gonzalez.

 [Video created by Katie Bruno]

Gonzalez, who is a two-time recipient of the prestigious George Polk Award for excellence in journalism, has been a columnist at the “New York Daily News” for 25 years. He is also a co-host of the nationally syndicated TV and radio show “Democracy Now!” where he casts a spotlight on wrongdoing and pursues justice on behalf of misrepresented workers and the disenfranchised.

In his lecture, Gonzalez stressed two points that are at the heart of his book “Harvest of Empire.” The first was that the United States is dramatically changing in its ethnic composition.

The 2010 United States Census shows that the category of people who identify themselves as Latinos or Hispanics is the fastest growing demographic in the country. As of April 1, 2010, approximately 50.5 million Hispanics or Latinos were living in America and account for 16 percent of the total population, up from 13 percent in 2000. More than half the growth in the total population of the country over the past decade is due to the rise of this sole demographic.

Gonzalez also pointed out that there are many misconceptions in reference to this dramatic rise and its affects that are prevalent throughout mainstream media and the general population, who often wrongly pinpoint this growth to illegal immigration. Gonzalez stressed that although this does have some type of affect on the rise, it is connected to more important factors that fall by the wayside.

One of these important factors is the long and impactful history the United States government and private corporations have had on Latino and Hispanic countries. Political and capitalistic involvement, such as the colonizing of Puerto Rico, led hundreds of thousands of “cheap-laborers” to flock to the United States in search of work between 1920 and 1960.

Gonzalez further emphasized the theme of misinformation and misrepresentation in media by showing images of some of the first newspapers and early American minority journalistic works that he and his team uncovered while researching his newest book “News for All the People.”

He pointed out that many of these examples reported mainly on aspects of relations between different races in early America. Many of these newspapers “reported” blatantly false accounts of events including, the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898 that led to the burning down of a local minority paper and the only coup d’état to ever occur in the history of the United States.

Some snapshots of early newspapers included the cover of La Patria, a 19th century Spanish daily newspaper based in New Orleans and the Chinese-Sacramento daily newspaper which was not only the first Chinese paper in the United States, but in the world.


Most of those in attendance have never heard of, let alone seen, such early works, including Kaylee Lazzaro, a senior journalism student who writes for “The Ramapo News.”

“I really enjoyed it,” said Lazzaro. “It was interesting to learn about how race and ethnic newspapers were neglected throughout history even though they were very impactful in the history of our country.”

Edna Negron, a professor at Ramapo and former colleague of Gonzalez, was pleased with the attendance and Juan’s address to the students, staff and faculty.

“I think it was very good, the turnout for it was good and I’m really glad Juan could come here,” said Negron.