Perpetuating Stereotypes  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  Letters
From AJR,   October/November 2004

Perpetuating Stereotypes   


Your profile on Macarena Hernández, the San Antonio Express-News reporter at the center of the Jayson Blair debacle, was shallow and disappointing (The Beat, August/September 2004).

The piece is largely self-serving and Gigi Anders' attempt to portray Ms. Hernández as a martyr doesn't hold water. She isn't; her reputation as an aggressive and promising reporter has remained intact, if not elevated, by Mr. Blair's plagiarism fiasco.

Furthermore, Ms. Hernández does a great disservice to those who want to create diverse meritocracies in newsrooms across the country. When it comes to diversity, Ms. Hernández seems to be at odds with herself. She rightly criticizes newsrooms for using a quota system to hire minorities, but she perpetuates the belief that the push for diversity is only skin deep. She tells Ms. Anders, "I'm just a brown girl down here in the valley, trying to figure things out and make sense of them." Ms. Hernández, last time I checked, Mexican Americans come in all colors, shapes and sizes. They are white, blond and blue-eyed or tan with brown, curly hair.

And Ms. Anders does her share of perpetuating stereotypes -- specifically that white editors do little to further the careers of minorities. Apparently, Ms. Anders was stunned to learn that Ms. Hernández's cheerleaders included "Anglo men." Why is that unusual? That comment was irresponsible and irrelevant to the story.

Ms. Hernández is tired of reading immigrant-related stories about Western Union wire transfers and Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Probably as much as I find tiresome reading stories of people who pettily market themselves as the poor, brown Mexicans who made it big.

Margarita Martín-Hidalgo
Dallas, Texas

I get a little worried when I see young newspaper reporters like Macarena Hernández putting so much intellectual energy into trying to "find my own voice." Clearly, if the people you quote in your article are to be believed, she is a talented reporter and writer, but hasn't anyone told her that the readers of newspapers don't want or need her "voice"?

Her job is to gather the news and write it clearly, succinctly and objectively for the entire range of newspaper readership. Her Latina perspective certainly will be useful in reporting some kinds of stories, but until she moves on to producing a column or magazine-style articles she has no need for a distinctive personal "voice," and her editors shouldn't want it either.

Jeffrey Ulbrich
Retired Associated Press foreign correspondent
St. Justin, France

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