Each and every day, Fox News must walk the tightrope of both demonizing Latinos to appeal to their conservative, white audience and trying to get the growing Latino population to watch the channel, too. Some days it’s more obvious than others.
For the most part, Fox News and it’s Hispanic-oriented subsidiary, Fox News Latino, cover different territory, but every once in a while they grab the same stories and the sad, awkward dance of how best to pander to their intended audiences begins.
The political issues regarding immigration and America’s growing Hispanic population are of considerable interest to Fox News Latino readers. This poses a problem for regular, ol’ Fox News, though, because regular ol’ Fox News is stridently anti-immigrant. They tend to report on things like illegal immigration in the worst possible light, blaming undocumented workers from everything from the nation’s unemployment rates to crime to fear-mongering about Ebola. The slant totally works for the Fox News audience, being primarily very old, very white conservatives. It doesn’t really work for anyone else, and so when they write for Latinos specifically, we see the scrubbing of their normal content and replacing it with a sanitized new version.
As Media Matters pointed out, these two stories are exactly the same and yet are presented to their respective audiences in completely different ways. In one case, Fox News Latino readers got a title which is uplifting and personal. An undocumented student gets a big scholarship so he can go to school? Cool! In the other, the headline is replaced by a white-fear-inducing chyron that simply says “money for illegals.” Notice the “undocumented student” became merely an “illegal.” At the same time, all sentimentality has been stripped away. A university didn’t step up to provide a big grant to a prospective student, this “illegal” just got money.
In another example, Fox News and Fox News Latino both attempted to tackle the issue of what immigration reform would mean for America’s healthcare system.
Here’s Fox News’ take:
How’d Fox News Latino handle it?
How wonderfully balanced of them. Gone is the xenophobic fears of disease-ridden immigrants bogging down the healthcare system meant for hard-working Americans. Instead, the story covers the political landscape unfolding in Washington, with support and detractors on both sides. The writer even uses the words “Immigration reform” and “optimism” in the same headline, which was probably downright scandalous around the Fox News offices.
Notice that in both examples, the Fox News Latino readers got more information. They were treated to context and nuance. The titles explored gray areas. Fox News wasn’t so kind to its readers. The authors chose to focus on incendiary soundbites that would inflame the fears of their readers while leaving out almost all contextual information. The goal appears to be less about informing the public, then reaffirming their preconceived racial hangups.
And this makes sense given Fox’s business model. Fox News is a money-making operation and fear gets clicks. The media organization knows its audience and its audience expects a certain amount of anti-immigrant rhetoric in its daily news. I’m not being flippant about that, either. Fox News viewers really do hate Latinos.
Media Matters in 2012 wrote:
Americans who rely on Fox News or conservative radio as their main sources of information are more likely to have negative views of Latinos and immigrants than those who watch more mainstream outlets. That’s according to a new study by the National Hispanic Media Coalition, which found that “[c]onservative talk radio and Fox News audiences hold significantly more anti-immigrant and anti-Latino opinions.” NHMC stated that Fox News audiences are “more likely to agree that Latinos are on welfare (56%), take jobs from Americans (43%) and have too many children (42%).”
In recent weeks, as Fox News host Sean Hannity and others at the network have worked tirelessly to paint immigrant children as terrorists, drug mules, and even worse, future Obama voters. It’s been two years since that study took place, but it’s unlikely that those numbers have improved much.