By Julio Rumbaut.
The “cameo” appearance by Telemundo's main news anchor, Jose Diaz Balart during Wednesday evening's Republican Presidential candidates debate, while likely well intentioned by all involved, shows the need to do more homework as to US Hispanic market sensitivities by executives of both MSNBC and Telemundo, which are co-owned by NBCUniversal.
For those not familiar with the specifics, the MSNBC / Politico organized debate, transmitted on Wednesday evening from the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California was hosted by NBC's main news anchor, Brian Williams and by Politico's John Harris, who were both sitting at anchor chairs throughout the debate.
About three quarters of the way into the debate, Brian Williams announced the appearance of Jose Diaz Balart. The Telemundo anchor then walked on stage and asked the candidate's a question regarding immigration, remaining standing at all times and after which answers, clearly had directions to leave the debate stage.
Moreover, the post debate analysis included anchors and commentators, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz, Steve Schmidt and two highly respected African-Americans, Michael Steele and Al Sharpton.
While the ethnic origin of anchors and commentators is of lesser consequence than their talent, those selected for a Presidential candidate's debate can and should reflect a cross-section of America's demographics. This is especially the case when the debate organizers are television and cable news networks and influential political publications.
It is after all the privileged and nearly sacred job of the US news media, to both lead and reflect its audience in all possible ways.
Of great importance, is that the Hispanic voting block will be crucial in deciding both the Republican Presidential nominee through the Primaries and ultimately who will be the President of the United States. If history is prologue, we need to remember the defeat of Vice President Al Gore by President George W. Bush and where the Hispanic vote in Florida and specifically in Miami-Dade County, became decisive on a national scale.
The “cameo” appearance by the Telemundo anchor understandably became the fodder of late night comedy shows, such as “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”.
The reaction of many US Hispanics and at varying socio-economic levels is that, MSNBC and Politico committed a media “faux-pas” by not having a seat at anyone of the evening's tables for the highly respected Telemundo anchor, Jose Diaz Balart or for any other qualified Hispanic journalist.
Another few pages could be written using unnecessary and unproductive analogies regarding this situation and the outlook of and by US Hispanics. However, it is better to look forward with the hope that maybe this particular component of a valuable public service will be better handled, “la proxima vez”.
“Julio Rumbaut is President of Rumbaut & Company, a Miami based media advisory firm and has substantive experience in multiple facets of the media industry.”