By Hilda Garcia
Maynard Institute, Richard Prince's Journal-isms
If you're looking for an honest assessment of Hispanic opinion, "don't rely on Washington Hispanic organizations. So many of them are owned by Walmart, Comcast and AT&T," according to Charlie Ericksen, who founded the Hispanic Link News Service 31 years ago and still serves as its managing editor.
Ericksen, 81, whose Washington-based creation has trained more than 1,000 Hispanic journalists, was part of a panel Wednesday assembled by LatinoWire, "a Business Wire service that provides comprehensive distribution of press releases and multimedia to leading Spanish-language news outlets . . . ."
He told the National Press Club audience in Washington to "go to community organizations if you want a legitimate answer." At one recent event, he said, one had to sit through greetings from five sponsors before hearing President Obama, he said.
Not surprisingly, representatives of some of those organizations, sitting in the audience, took exception.
Kathy Mimberg, senior media relations specialist at the National Council of La Raza, recalled later, "I said NCLR is a non-profit and non-partisan organization and that we do our work with funding from government, corporations and foundations. I objected to Charlie being negative about our corporate sponsors who spoke before President Obama's speech at our Annual Conference luncheon because I said that these were positive, general statements from organizations that want to interact and engage with the Latino community."
Scott Gunderson Rosa, communications director of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, told Journal-isms, "My point in speaking in response to Charlie was simply to clarify that we did not have four or five sponsors speak before the president at our gala on September 14 and that our mission to develop the next generation of Latino leaders is made possible by the financial support we receive from our corporate partners.
"His comments would not apply to CHCI as we do not take positions on policy issues nor do we comment on them. We are a non-partisan organization with all sides represented on our board, from corporations and unions, to non-profit and community leaders.
"Charlie is actually a great friend to CHCI and we have worked together for a long time."
Most of the 85 who attended came for the promise of learning how to reach the fast-growing Hispanic audience through the media they consume. Julio Aliago, news director of Telemundo's Washington affiliate, and Erica Gonzalez, executive editor of El Diario/La Prensa in New York, emphasized that their outlets were geared toward helping immigrants navigate life in the United States.
They urged that news releases be sent in English and Spanish and that no one person ever be portrayed as speaking for the entire Hispanic community. "Get at least two," Aliago said.
Hilda Garcia is vice president of multiplatform news and information for ImpreMedia, noted for ImpreMedia's multimedia packages on the Web, including its report on Latino involvement in the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and a state-by-state report on Latinos, based on 2010 census data.