Latino advocates rally to keep spotlight on diversity in pubTV

Originally published in Current, Oct. 22, 2007
By Katy June-Friesen

With the campaign about Ken Burns’ The War behind them, Latino groups are trying to use its momentum to keep diversity issues in the spotlight. “The Ken Burns thing is done,” says National Hispanic Media Coalition President Alex Nogales. “So we need to safeguard against this ever occurring again by being very proactive.”

The National Latino Media Council, a coalition of 17 organizations that includes the NHMC, will meet Nov. 7 with PBS executives — including the network’s newly hired diversity director, Haydee Rodriguez. Nogales says they will ask for statistics on the number of Latino employees at PBS, hours devoted to Latino-themed programming and the number of projects assigned to Latino producers. They also want to discuss staff diversity at stations and at companies that produce for PBS.

NHMC monitors all major TV networks. “Everybody talks a great game about diversity,” says Nogales, “but when it comes to negotiating something, diversity is the first thing off the table because there’s no one there to speak for diversity in a concrete kind of way.”

Defend the Honor, the group that led protests against The War, held a town hall meeting Oct. 8 with other groups in Washington, D.C., to discuss the film’s final form and brainstorm plans for the future.

“We’re getting a lot of pressure from people who feel like there’s really good momentum here,” says Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, co-founder of DTH. The group will send out an e-mail survey this week to ask supporters how it should further address Latino representation in media and historical accounts. “People have been upset about these issues for years and years—it’s a much bigger issue than PBS and Ken Burns. People feel empowered, and that’s why they’re not wanting to let this go.”

Rivas-Rodriguez hopes Haydee Rodriguez will have the power to make real changes at PBS. “What news operations do with diversity officers sometimes is they want to say ‘Okay, this takes care of us, so we don’t have to think about it anymore.’”

PBS hire to write diversity plan

Also published in Current, Oct. 22, 2007

PBS appointed Haydee M. Rodriguez as director of its Diversity Initiative for a one-year term. She has served as executive director of Maryland’s Governor’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs since 2005.

Before that, she was project/outreach coordinator for Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.); executive director of Centro de la Comunidad Inc. in Baltimore, and a special assistant to Kurt Schmoke, then mayor of Baltimore.

Rodriguez starts work Oct. 22 to develop a plan to increase PBS diversity “in ways that impact public television content,” working with PBS partners and thought leaders. Her work will be overseen by the PBS Board’s Diversity Task Force, which also launched PBS’s Leadership Development Program.

Web page posted Dec. 16, 2007
Copyright 2007 by Current Publishing Committee

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