New York's Hispanic media
is not what it used to be
By Miguel Pérez
If you know anything about the news media, you know that local news has been thrashed by the Internet, that hundreds of newspapers have disappeared and that local politicians now have a much better chance to get away with all kinds of repulsive behavior that should be exposed.
But when we hear about this shrinking local media, it’s usually about some small town where the local newspaper is gone, or where the remaining media is so dependent on political advertising that they would not dare bite the corrupt hands that feed them. It's called presstitution!
But perhaps we don’t realize that this media blackout is happening in big cities like New York, especially in our shrinking Spanish print media. But that realization came to me very vividly in the past couple of years, as I saw how the New York City Hispanic news media treated the petition campaign initiated by my Lehman College students to “Save the Medallions” on the Avenue of the Americas.
In the old days, City Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez would not have been able to hold a single phony “press conference” without being challenged by reporters asking whether it’s true that he stole the idea of replacing the old medallions from a student project. Or why he has been unwilling to give those students credit.
In the past year, Rodriguez has held three press conferences to shamelessly take all the credit for himself. At the last one on Wednesday, he said the job is complete, and that the 300 medallion he had promised to replace have been replaced by 172. This man is an embarrassment! Even his math is an embarrassment!
But in the past couple of years, (with very few exceptions) exposing Rodriguez’ shameless behavior has been a struggle — perhaps because it is hard to believe that even a politician could stoop so low, or perhaps because journalists are afraid of confronting politicians, or perhaps because some of them are presstitutes!
Gradually and without much notice, our local Hispanic media, especially television, has become so superficial that, for those who remember the old days, it becomes difficult to watch. We see too much farandula and not enough substance, too many faranduleros and not enough journalists.
But it was the way they treated (or refused to treat) the medallions story that made me realize that I needed to write this column. People need to know that our local Hispanic news media lacks the cojones to defend them from local politicians when they try to pull the wool over our eyes.
I was constantly surprised by the way today’s local Hispanic journalists reacted to me and my students when we sought publicity for our medallions project, especially when it became clear that we would criticize Rodriguez’s selfish behavior.
A Telemundo weekend show where I was a frequent guest to discuss many other issues kept giving me excuses for delaying a show about the medallions. They have not invited me again and I would never go there again. But later learned that one of Telemundo’s producers is a good friend of Rodriguez.
A NY1 Noticias reporter who did a good report on our student project and who knew that Rodriguez was not aware of it until she told him, later neglected to do a follow-up report exposing what she knew. And later I found out that she is also a friend of Rodriguez.
The Spanish-language weekly Impacto Latino did a front page story on both their tabloid and their website about our “Save the Medallions” campaign on May 6, 2022.
And yet in Oct. 14, 2022, they ran an article about the press conference Rodriguez announced the idea he had stolen and never mentioned the article they had written about my students five months earlier! https://impactolatino.com/emblemas-de-casi-300-paises-volveran-a-adornar-la-sexta-avenida-de-nueva-york/
The reporter who wrote the initial story never returned my calls after that. I believe he was ashamed of what his newspaper had done. So, what is Impacto’s relation with Rodriguez? Good question!
But the lack of professionalism was not only obvious in the Spanish-language media. It was blatant at NBC4-TV. If you search for “medallions” on the NBC4 website, you see that they did a report on my student project on July, 4, 2022 and then proceeded to ignore it in their reports on October. 13, 2022, Jan. 30, 2023 and Nov. 16, 2023. (See photo) These people do new stories without checking their own records!
I practiced journalism for more that 40 years and taught journalism for more than a decade. But please, will someone please explain: What kind of journalism is this? Even when we didn’t have computers that allowed us to instantly check our records, respectable newspaper had a library of clippings where reporters were expected to check to see what had already been written on any particular subject.
So the question arises: Did these media outlets purposely ignore our student project because they were intimidated by controversy, or are they so unprofessional that they were unaware that they had already covered our medallions petition?
This is Third World journalism, the kind where “journalists” are far from independent and actually serve as propagandists for politicians. But this is the kind of journalism that the New York Hispanic media had already overcome before the Internet, before reporters were afraid to challenge politicians.
Throughout the medallions ordeal, I have kept thinking of many of my former colleagues in the Hispanic news media who are no longer with us, either because they are retired or writing for much better publications in heaven. I keep asking myself what the old timers would have done, and frankly, it makes me chuckle with nostalgia.
Back in the 1980s, when I wrote columns for the Daily News, I know things would have been different. I kept thinking of all the editors who would have insisted on exposing Rodriguez's shameless maneuvers, and a long list of names ran through my head: Rudy Garcia, Antonio Espinal, Wilda Rodriguez, Fernando Moreno, Rossana Rosado . . .
What would have Samuel Quiñones written when he was writing columns and editorials for El Diario? How many times would Mayor Eric Adams have to respond to Evido de la Cruz’s questions about the medallions if he was still covering City Hall? And what about Jesus Rangel at the New York Times, or Howard Jordan at The Latino News, or Rafael Prieto or Santiago Oms at Noticias del Mundo, or Enrique Fernandez at the Village Voice, would they not have questions to ask about the medallions? And when Myriam Ayala was at Univision, would she not be sticking a huge microphone in Rodriguez’ face? lol And when Jorge Ramos was the anchor and Helga Silva was the news director, would Telemundo be so politicized?
I could go on and on. I miss those people. Perhaps the New York Hispanic community doesn't know how much it misses those people and their news coverage, but it really does! Our advocates in the media are mostly gone. It’s very sad!
And how do I know that the oldtimers would have responded differently, without fear of political repercussions? Because I'm not the only one who did! When Rodriguez presented a list of his proposed medallions that excluded Puerto Rico and my students had to distribute a second petition to sound the alarm, journalist Gerson Borrero called him out on Twitter, Telemundo reporter Ricardo Villarini mentioned our student project when he covered one of Rodriguez's press conferences and El Diario's cartoonist Carlos "CABE" Bernales, came back from retirement to illustrate Rodriguez' repulsive behavior.
I wonder how many young Hispanic journalists would follow their lead nowadays, and how many news outlets can afford to have independent voices. Muy triste.
Last column, April 10, 2023
WE MADE IT HAPPEN!
First column, April 24, 2022:
LET'S SAVE THE MEDALLIONS
On the Avenue of the Americas
Second column, Nov. 4, 2022:
WHY IS PUERTO RICO EXCLUDED from the new medallions for the Avenue of the Americas?
Third column, January 20, 2023
WE WON! But why did Ydanis Rodriguez have to be such a loser?
Our Original Petition!
What People Are Saying
Our Press Release!