Some members of the Los Angeles Times Guild, the union representing the journalists at the paper, have formed a Latino Caucus and written an open letter to management that calls for several changes.
Their demands include: Don’t treat Latinos like a minority group in a region where they comprise about half the population, and add representation to teams covering the November election, courts and crime, and investigations (each of those beats includes one or no Latinos).
Most newsrooms are reckoning with systemic racism right now. The Times is significant because of its sheer size, importance to the region, and the fact that Latinos make up only 13% of the paper’s newsroom.
LA Times staff writer Esmeralda Bermudez is among the nearly 80 staffers who signed the open letter seeking a truer reflection of LA’s demographic makeup.
“Covering Latino stories and having a staff that's representative of our region — it's not only a moral issue, it's also about accurate journalism. It's also about, frankly, financial sense,” she tells KCRW.
She says in the LA Times’ 139 years, only three Latinos have joined the paper’s masthead, or the senior editorial leadership of the paper.
She also says lacking representation in a city like Los Angeles does a disservice to all members of the community, whether or not they’re Latino.
“When you do not have enough Latino staffers in a place like LA, you're shortchanging the community of storytellers ... who don't come from those communities and understand all the intricate nuanced layers,” Bermudez says.
Bermudez, who is a Salvadoran immigrant, notes that her own experiences provide a unique perspective to Latino culture and can help inform the stories she writes.
Before the LA Times, Bermudez worked at The Oregonian in Portland. She says she aspired to work at the LA Times, but was concerned that going in as a cub reporter would mean being overlooked or getting lost in the mix.
She says Latinos currently fill 12 of the 109 editor and manager positions at the paper, and Latinos have applied for other positions but didn’t get them.
Bermudez says a lack of visibility and representation led to retention problems. “You've seen that greatly impact our ability to retain journalists. It's like a revolving door. Sadly, it's very heartbreaking.”
The talent pipeline
In an internal analysis, the Latino Caucus found that only 10 journalists from its Metpro Training Program came from California State Universities, where nearly half its students have Latinx backgrounds.
Bermudez, who is a USC graduate, wonders whether she got into the LA Times because of her big name university.
“I always wonder if I had not, at the last minute switched over to USC, would the LA Times have taken me seriously? Now I've been at the paper [for] about 12 years, and it is something that constantly kind of hits me in the belly sometimes.”
The Latino Caucus follows the footsteps of the LA Times Guild’s Black Caucus, which is also demanding more inclusivity and pay equity.
“It's not our movement. It's us and our Black colleagues. We're working very much in conjunction with each other [and] supporting each other. Their numbers are incredibly low, and so we are here to lend our support in any way to them, and we really move forward together.”