WEB POSTING from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists
August 15, 2012

NAHJ Calls for a Latino Voice in the Presidential Debates

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists calls for the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) to add a Latino journalist to its choices for moderators in the presidential debates.

While NAHJ shares in the enthusiasm of the inclusion of women (CNN’s Candy Crowley and ABC’s Martha Raddatz); it is concerning that a journalist of color was not chosen to also join PBS’s Jim Lehrer and CBS’s Bob Schieffer in questioning any of the candidates.

There has never been a Latino journalist chosen as moderator.

In a time when the Latino community is driving the population and economic growth of the United States (more than 50 million according to the 2010 Census; a 43% increase since the 2000 Census); how could it be that their voices are still being ignored?

The influence of the Latino community in the U.S. is far reaching. This population is driving the entertainment, health and technology industry with a purchasing power estimated at $2.2 billion in the first quarter of this year. This is significant on its own, a game changer when you consider that in 2020, it is projected that Latinos will account for nearly 20% of the total population in the U.S., one-third of the total population in 2050.

Latinos will help decide the next president of the United States.

The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) found that 40% of all new voters in 2008 were Hispanic. The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials(NALEO) projects this year the number of registered Hispanic voters will be 10 million. These voters do not only have an influence on domestic matters, but also internationally because of their deep roots to their country of origin. Those relationships, largely driven by the Mexican community (representing the largest group of Latinos residing in the U.S.) will have an impact on not only the next president, but all presidents and their governments from this point on.

The track record of a diverse group of moderators chosen by the Commission on Presidential Debates is disheartening. The last African-American to moderate a presidential race was Carole Simpson in 1992. No Asian-American has ever been at the helm of questioning (presidential and vice presidential debates).

NAHJ invites the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) to a discussion about the vetting process for chosing moderators. The Latino impact on media is astounding. Univision’s success in reaching Latinos (according to Nielsen: adults, 18-34) in both Spanish language and English language markets alone merits revisiting the CPD’s decision.

NAHJ shares in Univision President Randy Falco’s disappointment and observation that there certainly are many potential Latino journalists to consider, among them Univision’s Jorge Ramosand Maria Elena Salinas, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien and Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart.

Now, more than ever before, Latino voters have the power to decide the outcome of the presidential race. It is the National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ hope that the CPD consider adding a Latino journalist to the panel of moderators already chosen. Allowing their voices to be included will enrich the conversation and bring to surface social, economic and philosophical issues that will not only have a great impact on the future of the Latino community, but the entire country as well.

I ask the leadership of the UNITY alliance: Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), Native American Journalists Association (NAJA), National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) and the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) join us in making this request.


Hugo Balta
President, NAHJ

TEXT OF LETTER from Ralph B. Everett President and CEO Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies 

Ms. Janet H. Brown
Executive Director
Commission on Presidential Debates Via Email

Dear Ms. Brown:

I write to express the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies’1 (“Joint Center”) deep concern that the Commission on Presidential Debates (“The Commission”) has not selected any journalists of color to moderate any of the presidential debates being broadcast this election season. We respectfully ask the Commission to reconsider its approach for selecting moderators.

We also ask that the Commission take measures to remedy this oversight by adding more debates to the calendar. As such, we ask it to reconsider its decision to deny Univision’s request for a forum to be hosted by two of the nation’s most respected journalists--Jorge and Maria Elena.2 We further ask the Commission to pursue similar initiatives with other media outlets boasting large audiences of African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, Native Americans, and other people of color. In addition, the Joint Center would be willing to host a town hall with the candidates.

In your letter rejecting Univision’s request, you concede that “[t]he general election debates have always focused on issues of national interest that affect all citizens, including Univision’s audience.”3 However, it has long been the practice of the television industry to avoid placing people of color in front of the camera for fear of running afoul of such mass market concerns.4

The Joint Center sees the Commission’s exclusion of people of color as moderators from this year’s televised presidential debates as a derivative of that practice.

The Commission’s refusal to either select people of color as presidential moderators, after more than 20 years, or grant Univision’s forum request is especially disturbing given the nature of the current political climate. A number of issues being debated this election cycle are of particular concern to people of color. For example, while the nation’s overall unemployment rate was 8.3% in July, 2012, the African American and Hispanic unemployment rates were 14.1% and 10.3%, respectively.5 This is compared to the White unemployment rate of 7.4%.6 Health policy is also an issue of critical concern to people of color, given the correlation between low life expectancies and census tracts with a higher percentage of people of color and low-income residents.7 Presidential candidates should have the opportunity to address these issues before moderators bearing some rational resemblance to the Americans who are most negatively affected by these disparities.

While the Joint Center is concerned about the exclusion of journalists of color as moderators, we applaud its selection of Candy Crowley and Martha Raddatz as the first female presidential debate moderators in 20 years. In 1992, Carol Simpson was the last woman—and African American—to moderate a presidential panel. The Joint Center hopes the selection of Ms. Crowley and Ms. Raddatz will set a new course for the Commission.


Ralph B. Everett
President and CEO

1 The Joint Center for Political and Economic studies is a catalyst for research on topics of concern to African Americans and other people of color. Initially founded to encourage African American political participation in the wake of the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the Joint Center continues to promote civic and political engagement, and support black leadership as the primary route to greater equality and opportunity for people of color.

The Joint Center's current research and analyses address critical issues in four key areas: media and technology, political participation, economic advancement, and health policy. In conducting research and policy analysis and in disseminating our products, we seek to build partnerships and coalitions with black elected and appointed officials at every level of government.

2 Letter from Randy Falco, President and CEO, Univision to Janet H. Brown, Executive Director, Comm’n on Presidential Debates (Aug. 15, 2012) available at http://images.politico.com/global/2012/08/120815_janet_h_brown.html.

3 Dylan Byers, Debate Commission Denies Univision Request, POLITICO (Aug. 15, 2012, 10:35 AM) available at http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2012/08/debate-commission-to-univision-no-forum-132224.html.

4 MICHAEL CURTIN AND JANE SHATTUC, THE AMERICAN TELEVISION INDUSTRY 25 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) (“[African American viewers were] an audience that the three major networks ordinarily ignored, believing that theywould follow the tastes of the mass-market, white audience. The majors furthermore contended that programmes pitched at African American viewers ran the risk of alienating white viewers ...”).


6 Id.

See JOINT CENTER FOR POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC STUDIES, PLACE MATTERS FOR HEALTH IN COOK COUNTY (2012) available at http://www.jointcenter.org/sites/default/files/upload/research/files/Place%20Matters%20for%20Health%20in%20C ook%20County.pdf.

PRESS RELEASE from UNITY Journalists

August 20, 2012
Media Contact:
Onica N. Makwakwa, Executive Director
UNITY Journalists
UNITY Journalists Joins Call for Diverse Moderators of Presidential Debates

UNITY Journalists joins the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in calling for the Commission on Presidential Debates to add a journalist of color to its moderators for the presidential debates.

The lack of racial and ethnic diversity among the debate moderators is a problem, and the CPD should take steps to ensure that debate moderators reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the United States.

Although UNITY is pleased that female journalists will moderate one of the presidential debates, as well as the vice presidential debate, it is time for the CPD to take similar steps in ensuring that journalists of color are represented among the debate moderators.

It has been 20 years since a journalist of color moderated a presidential debate.

In an effort to open dialogue about decision-making processes, NAHJ President Hugo Balta reached out to the commission and has asked for a meeting this week with CPD Executive Director Janet Brown, a request that UNITY strongly urges the commission to grant.

“The moderators for our presidential debates should reflect the diversity of our nation,” said Joanna Hernandez, president of UNITY Journalists. “The time for this to occur has come and gone.”


About UNITY: Journalists of Color
UNITY Journalists, an alliance of four journalism organizations representing more than 4,000 journalists, is the nation’s most diverse journalism organization. It is a strategic alliance advocating fair and accurate news coverage about people of color and LGBT issues and aggressively challenges news organizations to increase diversity in whom they employ at all levels of their companies.