Roundup - Decision 2012: What Media Need to Know about Voters of Color - MIJE Unity '12 Panel
August 16, 2012
By Maynard Staff
Mark Trahant, a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, held up a tribal identification card bearing his name and photo. “This ID is not acceptable at the polls” in his home state of Idaho, he said, although it is the only type of identification that many Native Americans carry.
Trahant, board chairman of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education and a former president of the Native American Journalists Association, was among five panelists in a program sponsored by the institute at the Unity 2012 convention in Las Vegas. They discussed increased impediments to voting.
New laws in some states tightening rules for voting, including requiring photo identification, are “a solution in search of a problem” because there’s little evidence of voter fraud, said Bryan Monroe, editor of CNNpolitics.com, during the session Aug. 2 on “Decision 2012: What Media Need to Know About Voters of Color.”
If tighter rules discourage 5 million people from voting this year, it could make the difference in a presidential election that will be decided by motivating or discouraging “little slivers and slices” of the population, Monroe said.
That’s because the “sloshy center” of undecided votes is about 4 percent in polls this year, compared with 20 percent when Bill Clinton first ran for president in 1992, said Monroe, a former president of the National Association of Black Journalists.
Polls have shown that many voters describe themselves as “exhausted,” he said, and that may result in low voter turnout in the Nov. 6 election. While some conservative Republicans may stay home because they are uncomfortable with Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s Mormon religion, the African-American vote may be one-third less than in 2008, partly because African-Americans “feel let down” by President Barack Obama, Monroe said.
But Obama can benefit from “a lot of real connections to the Asian-American community,” including appointments he has made and his experience growing up in Hawaii and Indonesia, according to Jeff Yang, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal.
“In many ways, Obama feels like the first Asian-American president,” Yang said.
Romney can appeal to Asian-American voters by making a strong case to support small businesses that are a bedrock of the community, he said.
“It’s always a white small-business owner in the Midwest” who is portrayed in the media, Yang said, but such entrepreneurs are prized in communities of color, too.
Asian-Americans are also feeling “the blowback from hostility toward Asia” as politicians lash out against emergence of China and India as world economic powers, said Yang, author of books including “I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action” and “Once Upon a Time in China.” He was founder and CEO of A. Media, publisher of A. Magazine, a leading Asian-American periodical.
For Latino voters, “there may be a general sense of disappointment” that Obama didn’t achieve all they expected, including immigration reform, said Sandy Benavides, vice president of field operations and political affairs for Vote Latino. The group, co-founded by actor Rosario Dawson, seeks to increase Hispanic voter participation in the face of what Benavides called “voter purges.”
While Latinos have long been called “a sleeping giant” for their low voting rates, Benavides said her group is targeting the fast-growing population of 18- to 35-year-olds. She said that 52,000 Latinos turn 18 every month and that 90 percent are citizens who can vote.
Through social media such as Facebook, Vote Latino is targeting them to register and vote and is even “working with promoters to go into the clubs and register voters when they are dancing and having fun,” Benavides said.
Native Americans don’t appear in opinion polls but can have an impact in certain campaigns, said Trahant, who plans to write a campaign blog beginning in September. He said Alaska natives played a key role in helping Lisa Murkowski win re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2010 as a write-in candidate after she lost the Republican nomination to a tea party favorite.
The panel session, among events marking the Maynard Institute’s 35th anniversary, was moderated by Sonya Ross, named in 2010 as the first race, ethnicity and demographics editor of The Associated Press.
Monroe, who as Knight Ridder’s assistant vice president/news helped to lead the Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of Hurricane Katrina by the Sun Herald in Biloxi, Miss., said his utopia, for campaign coverage and beyond, is when the media will reflect people of color “doing their job in a story that absolutely, positively has nothing to do with the color of their skin” instead of stereotypes.
As a well-timed example, he cited Gabby Douglas, who that day won the gold medal in the all-around gymnastics event at the London Olympics.
Sign up for our Newsletter and get job tips
and the latest on diversity in the media
and the latest on diversity in the media
Find us on Facebook
Dori Maynard tweets on Diversity, Media & More
@JamilSmith The distorted #media depiction of African American men & boys has real life consequences, again. #mediadiversity #Tremaine