San Francisco: Spanish-language TV journalists paid less

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Jul 14 12:46:34 UTC 2008

Spanish-language TV journalists paid less
Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer

Monday, July 14, 2008

  (07-13) 17:20 PDT -- As their contract negotiations intensified this
week, the newsroom employees at San Francisco's leading
Spanish-language news station - KDTV Channel 14 - should have been in
a strong bargaining position. Not only is the newsroom full of coveted
bilingual journalists, but for the past two ratings periods KDTV has
beaten most of its Bay Area English-language competitors in various
ratings contests. But when it comes to Spanish-language television
news, high ratings don't translate into high salaries. Many KDTV
reporters and producers, like their counterparts at Spanish-language
stations across the country, earn roughly one-fourth less in base pay
than their competitors at English-language stations, even if the 6
p.m. newscast they're producing is attracting more viewers in the
coveted 25-54 demographic than every Bay Area station except KGO-TV.

Their plight is echoed across the country. While the foreign-born
Hispanic population in the United States grew 25 percent between 2000
and 2006 to 17.6 million, according to the Pew Hispanic Center,
analysts say the advertising world has been slow to adapt to the
demographic changes in Spanish-language media - and the effects have
trickled down through the media food chain. So while the
Spanish-language news audience may be growing, many advertisers don't
perceive Hispanics to be the "right audience," according to bilingual
television advertising expert Roxane Garzon.

"There's still a perception in the marketing world that most of the
Spanish-speaking audience is poor and uneducated," said Garzon, who is
broadcast media director for Casanova Pendrill, which buys time on
Spanish-language TV for corporate clients such as Kohl's, L'Oreal and
General Mills. While Spanish-speaking households may have lower
incomes, she said they tend to be brand loyal, regardless of price.

Still, advertising rates for Spanish-language programming are
one-third to one-half of what they are for English-language
programming, she said.

While major market TV journalists aren't holding up
will-report-for-food signs, base pay for many Spanish-language TV
journalists (about $70,000) can be around one-fourth less than their
English-language counterparts in town. Photographers and news writers
at KDTV are paid roughly a third less at top union scale than some of
their English-language counterparts in the Bay Area, according to
figures supplied by union officials familiar with the disparity.

In general, salaries vary wildly among top TV reporters, many of whom
have contracts that run into the low six figures. But there is little
doubt about the pay differential at the base salary scale level,
according to analysts and union officials.

Others see another cultural perception behind the pay difference that
has little to do with the price of advertising detergent or

"Why are brown people who speak two languages paid less?" said Carrie
Biggs-Adams, a union organizer for the National Association of
Broadcast Employees and Technicians. She has helped negotiate
contracts at Spanish-language stations across the country. "In any
other profession, there is a premium placed on being bilingual. But
for some reason, not here."

"It demonstrates a larger problem across the culture of Latino people
earning less," said Mari Castaneda, associate professor of
communication at University of Massachusetts-Amherst and an expert on
Latino media.

Said a spokesperson for Univision, the Spanish-language network that
produces local newscasts in 14 cities: "It is Univision's policy not
to comment during labor negotiations."

The newsroom staff at KDTV and their colleagues around the country are
at the end of a media/advertising money trail that analysts say hasn't
recognized the full consumer power of the Spanish-speaking market. And
for some of the journalists at Spanish-language stations, there aren't
a lot of other career options in their chosen field.

Because of increased media consolidation over the years and shrinking
budgets, news organizations have been shutting foreign bureaus and
cutting back on overseas coverage. Since Univision dominates the
Spanish-language TV news market, there is a limited number of domestic

"The way a top anchor at an English-language station gets more money
is to threaten to go to the station across the street," said Doug
Darfield, Nielsen Media Research director of multicultural
measurement. "But that possibility doesn't exist for the most part in
the Spanish-language market."

"And if you have an accent, you can't work at an English station,"
said one former employee of a Univision station in California. She
asked not to be identified for fear of being blacklisted by other

Jessica Aguirre, an anchor at KNTV in the Bay Area, worked at a
Univision station in Miami before moving to the CBS station in the
same market. But her crossover is still uncommon.

"I think it is possible to make the transition - I did it myself," the
U.S.-born Aguirre said. "But I do think it is much easier for Latino
journalists who were raised in the U.S. and for whom English is their
first language, or as in my case, a person who is completely

Many Spanish-speaking journalists are torn between their desire to
serve their audience and a dissatisfaction with their pay and
benefits, said Federico Subervi, who heads Texas State University's
Center for the Study of Latino Media and Markets.

In a 2004 survey for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists,
Subervi found that 78 percent of Hispanic journalists said they were
motivated to be in the business by their desire to inform and educate
the Latino community. But 42 percent said they were unsatisfied or
very unsatisfied with their salary.

However, many Spanish-language journalists won't have a lot of
leverage with their pay needs until advertisers better understand the
market. Univision only accepts Spanish-language advertising, and
analysts said many companies don't want to devote additional money to
create Spanish-language ad campaigns.

Slowly, advertisers are starting to change. Advertising spending in
Spanish-language media increased 3 percent over the previous year to
$5.78 billion in 2007, according to a Nielsen Monitor-Plus study
released this week.

The question remains how much of that will trickle down to the
employees of local news stations.

E-mail Joe Garofoli at jgarofoli at

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