After protests erupted across the nation in response to the killing of George Floyd, a Black Minnesota man who died in police custody, conversations about representation took precedence in newsrooms around the country.
At the Los Angeles Times, these conversations were robust due to the fact that while the population of Los Angeles County is almost 50 percent Latino, the newsroom is only 13 percent Latino, said staff writer Esmeralda Bermudez.
As a result, Latino journalists at the newspaper formed the Latino Caucus this summer and penned an open letter to management and to owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong addressing their concerns. Bermudez explained that her Black colleagues inspired them to create their own caucus after they formed their own caucus and letter with a list of demands.
The Latino Caucus letter calls out the various times the newspaper failed its Latino journalists and community, for example, passing over Latinos in promotions and referring to them as “greasers” and “wetbacks” in its coverage. It also lists 14 demands the caucus believes the company must meet to succeed. This plan includes building a newsroom that better reflects the demographics of L.A. County, expanding coverage on Latinos and creating a path for Latinos on staff to grow into influential roles.
More than 80 people signed the Latino Caucus letter sent to management, according to Bermudez. That is just about every Latino person that works for the company on the editorial side, which includes employees at the Times, Los Angeles Times en Español and Times Community News.
Bermudez shared that the caucus received “incredible support” from readers and the community when they launched their introductory campaign to inform readers of the formation of the Latino caucus, the letter and list of demands, and the launch of a Twitter account (@LATLatinoCaucus). In addition, several hashtags were trending including #SomosLAT, which will be used to promote the work of their Latino writers and journalism.
When E&P spoke with Bermudez in August, she shared that the caucus had received positive reception from management, but they were still waiting to hear back in writing regarding their demands.
“The Los Angeles Times cannot succeed, and it cannot survive, without the Latino reader. It’s a moral obligation to reflect your community,” Bermudez said. “You cannot have accurate journalism if you do not have folks in the room who understand the whole array of issues that come from being a part of that community.”