Open Letter to Time Managing Editor Richard Stengel

Dear Mr. Stengel,

When I noticed the lack of Latinos and Latin Americans in the 2011 Time 100, I thought: Again?  My criticism does not probe whether Gossip Girl Blake Lively should be on the same “list” as Afghan prosecutor general Maria Bashir or if the blonde bombshell took the place of someone more relevant.

The 2011 Time 100 Cover Courtesy: Time

Read the list here:

http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,2066367,00.html

“Meet the most influential people in the world” announces the introductory blurb.  According to whom? And the answer to this simple question explains the lack of perspective that plagues not just the media but politics, board rooms, and Hollywood.  Like other companies including Newsweek/the Daily Beast which recently published the list “150 Women Who Shake the World” containing few Latinas, Time‘s inclusion of musician Bruno Mars, FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff reveals the world’s largest weekly magazine doesn’t “get it.”  Hispanics such as U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, distinguished tenor and conductor Plácido Domingo, Univisión nightly new anchors María Elena Salinas and Jorge Ramos, and richest-man-in-the-world Carlos Slim are shaping the U.S. and the world through their contributions to law, the arts, and society.  The fact that only three Latinos were included (two Latin Americans and one U.S. Hispanic) exposes the lack of diversity at the decision-making level that is not representative of our country according to the 2010 U.S. Census results.

I read a reaction on Facebook to Newsweek/the Daily Beast’s decision to include Dara Torres–the sole U.S. Hispanic: “Why is it so important to have the approval of such a covey of pendejos [bozos]? We already know how this ball of inbred cretins think. Why get yourself all worked up by putting their monkey on your back. Do your own thing!”

I reject the accusation that editorial teams are racist.  Yet narrow viewpoints and parochial decisions by people who wield power, the so-called gatekeepers, have real consequences: it doesn’t represent the country or world around us or help us adequately identify issues of strategic importance.  For example, parts of Mexico that are steps away from the U.S. are controlled by drug lords and are being blown off the face of the earth with weapons that flow south from the U.S.  Most Americans don’t know this, giving them an opportunity to become outraged, because this story is not reported by mainstream news organizations the way they have covered the Arab uprisings or the Royal Wedding.

More dangerously as gleaned in the Facebook post, this myopic view creates separatism and resentment in our country during a fragile time of recovery.  If you turn on network or cable news, NPR, or log onto the websites and blogs of newspapers and magazines such as Time, the so-called New York elitist perspective (which refers to the general absence of other viewpoints) is over-represented.  This is not the case in the blogosphere and social media where minority voices, particularly Latina bloggers (called “leaders in social media” by experts) that feel excluded from mainstream news outlets have flocked, as have millions of eyeballs.

The far-reaching repercussions are currently on display: viewer and readership continue to plummet, further eroding mainstream news outlets’ relevance and already lean resources.  Latinos, at 50 million and counting, will not buy into the system because their exclusion makes them feel it is not theirs.  Our national discourse will continue its downward spiral because the principles of journalism–rigor in gathering and vetting facts, analysis, and multiple perspectives or “sides” of a story or issue–are not required in the blogosphere.

Countless qualified Latinos are ready to work, be promoted to high levels, and shape editorial decisions.  But this will require a commitment from news organizations like Time to not just show up with a booth at the summer ethnic journalism conventions, but to recruit and retain these professionals.

Mr. Stengel, I challenge you to lead Time Magazine and this field to promote Latinos so that your editorial decisions, coverage, and future “Lists” truly represent our country and world.

And Mr. Stengel, in case you need a sharp Latina perspective to review and contribute to next year’s lists, I’m avail.

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