Latina Journalist Maria Hinojosa Explores America By the Numbers
Award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa is on a mission. A mission to change the landscape of mainstream media, and the culture of how news is reported. In the process, she hopes to build a path that other people of color can follow.
For her, this need to change started with the realization that there is a dearth of Latinos at the leadership level in mainstream journalism. Which is why, in 2010, she founded The Futuro Media Group (FMG), a place where she can decide what is newsworthy.
"Our world is changing and becoming more diverse," she says. "Yet, you'd never know this by looking at our mainstream media."
"[FMG] is a company run by me, a Latina journalist, and based in Harlem. It's truly diverse in the makeup of the people who work there. That a Latina would have final editorial say on what is primetime news? Well, that's been unheard of, but I'm making it happen."
According to FMG's website, its mission is to "produce multi-platform, community-based journalism that respects and celebrates the cultural richness of the American Experience." Hinojosa is doing just that, with her latest documentary, "America by the Numbers: Clarkston Georgia," airing as part of the PBS series, "Need to Know."
She then explains how the most challenging stories to tell are the ones about the changing demographics in the United States.
"It's a hard story to tell, because of the same lack of diversity you find in the mainstream newsroom," she observes.
Hinojosa recognizes that being head of her own media company enables her to tackle subject matter that hasn't received much attention elsewhere. Such as the rising multicultural population, and its impact on the upcoming election. This is captured in the half-hour program.
She adds, "So many times I've been told that I have an agenda. Well, 'America By the Numbers' is not agenda based. It is fact based. It is based on numbers. What are the changing demos in the U.S.? Well, that's what I'm looking at."
"This is the American story," notes Hinojosa. "We are a country of immigrants and everything depends on how the rest of the population responds to that."
"I believe new immigrants really want to get involved in the electoral process," adds Hinojosa. "If I was a politician, I would be studying that. It's what will put you over the top in an election. It used to be, you would be assured a win, if you had the largest majority of white votes. That's not the case anymore."
So, what surprised Hinojosa about Clarkston? "This is a town in the shadow of Atlanta. Some wouldn't care about this town. Yet, what surprised—and delighted—me was the level of engagement of citizens and non-citizens. The fact that people are going to town hall meetings, and getting involved. They're civically engaged!"
Hinojosa, who was born in Mexico, spent a year living in San Diego back in the 1980's, when she worked at KPBS. She says she was fascinated then by how San Diego could be so close to her home country and yet, still be a world apart. But, today, it's a different story, she says.
"I get enthused by the changing diversity and openness of San Diego. It is in fact an international city, not only because of the border, but because it is a refugee relocation spot. The desire of the people of San Diego to have a conversation about border reality, culture, and straddling multiple worlds, I think makes this piece work perfectly for San Diego."
On October 10th, KPBS, in partnership with Hinojosa, is hosting a San Diego screening of "America By the Numbers," followed by a Q&A with Hinojosa, who sees this as a great opportunity for San Diegans to see how what is happening in Clarkston is also unfolding here. But, what's in it for those who attend and what is Hinojosa hoping the takeaway will be?
"The screening is for San Diegans of every kind of background, who are interested in dialogue and talking about our future. It's also for those who have fears. I want people to be honest and say what they're thinking about their city. I want to encourage dialogue and debate, and am not here to fan the flames.
"When people see my work, I hope they take the time to write, tweet, call, share their thoughts on what they saw and heard. For us it's demonstrating that we've reached an audience that wants to be reached."
Hinojosa is anchor and producer of her long-running NPR show, "Latino USA," as well as anchor for her Emmy Award-winning show, "Maria Hinojosa: One-on-One." She says she has dedicated herself to uncovering the untold stories of diverse communities.