Speaking to the heart – why the ethnic news media exists

Rosa works in a meatpacking plant in the Back of the Yards. She gets $11 an hour. That’s after 18 years and on a tough job.

When her company checked her social security number, it found out that it was not proper and she was let go. So were about 200 workers from the same plant.

What’s the heart of this story?

It’s a story that runs nowadays throughout the immigrant news media, but more so in the Latino news media which is larger and with great concern as well because of the large number of workers in the community without legal documents.

In the hands of La Raza reporter Fabiola Pomareda this story then becomes an explanation of government polices, of who speaks up for workers, of the economics of losing such a job on people with little recourse to good paying jobs and of the humanity of the people involved.

It is a two-page spread with fotos and links and it’s free as long you get to a box that still has a copy of La Raza.

How does she do this?

She explains the US government rule that requires companies to verify workers’ social security numbers and then, leaning on experts, explains the marked expansion in companies and workers cited for violations.

Next she goes to a community group which has rallied to the workers’ side and which raises issues that concern the workers and the larger community. What matters here is the link that has now been made in the article between the workers and the community.

While there’s a community group involved, the union that represents the workers doesn’t seem to have taken up on their behalf. She tries to reach the union but there’s no response. So there’s another story here: what does a union local do on behalf of undocumented workers. Does the union deserve their loyalty and their dues? Who is accountable for this?

Next she steps back to look at the bigger picture and what’s happening with what appears to be an increase in government actions against companies in these situations. Here she brings up an in-depth report indicating that such actions have been driving the undocumented further into dismay, poverty and the shadows across the country. She quotes an expert nationally and links to the article.

What we have here is a lesson in what happens when the ethnic news media does its job. It takes an issue close to the heart of the community, humanizes it and then proceeds to explain what is happening and why and what lies down the road.

This takes more work and patience for the usually incredibly understaffed workers of an ethnic news outlet. But ultimately these are small costs because without this, the ethnic news media will only shrink because it won’t matter as much as we hoped it would.

We are deeply lucky we have reporters that do this work.






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