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Maribel Solache watches television news in Spanish in her apartment in San Marcos, Calif. in May 2016.
Analysis

What You Miss if You Miss the News in Spanish

Forget Korea and Ivanka. It’s all immigration, all the time.

On Saturday, April 29, President Trump celebrated his first 100 days at a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, itemizing self-proclaimed triumphs and mocking the fancy-dress crowd of Hollywood and media celebrities who were at that moment partying in Washington. Meanwhile, at the White House Correspondents Association’s annual gala in the Washington Hilton and a separate black-tie gathering organized by the comic Samantha Bee, speakers mocked the president back. The deliberate juxtaposition and dueling vitriol highlighted what many, left and right, regard as two Americas.

But anyone who follows the news of America on Spanish-language media knows there are more than two Americas. For broadcasters like Univision and Telemundo, the giants in this parallel version of America, the main story of that April Saturday was obvious. It was the president’s confident assertion that “We will build the wall, folks, don’t even worry about it.” After lingering over Trump’s remarks, the two broadcasters segued into reports on an impending protest march against the new administration’s immigration policies, to which Univision added a report headlined “The 44 times Trump has criminalized undocumented immigrants and refugees since taking office.”

In 2015, according to the census bureau, there were 56.6 million Hispanics in the U.S., a population expected to double by 2060. They get their news, by and large, not from the English-language outlets congratulating themselves that night in Washington while being flayed in Harrisburg. Spanish speakers tune in to Telemundo and Univision. Research shows they pay close attention to the news. But a week of watching the leading Spanish-language broadcasts — the week leading up to President Trump’s 100-day rally — is a view of the news through a very different lens.

Monday, April 24. NBC, CBS and ABC evening news broadcasts began their countdown to the first 100 days of the Trump administration. All three networks highlighted Mr. Trump’s pressure on Congress to add funding for the border wall in their budget negotiations. Univision and Telemundo also focused on the border wall, of course, but on the narrower issue of whether Mexico would pay for it. Then Univision reported on the confusion about the fate of “dreamers,” young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, while Telemundo featured a report about the declining numbers of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. The two Spanish language broadcasts highlighted another story that English-language networks did not cover — an ongoing criminal battle to replace the imprisoned drug lord known as El Chapo as the leader of the Mexican Cartel.

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Tuesday, April 25. The three English language network news broadcasts opened with the deepening investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and all three covered, at the top of the hour, Ivanka Trump getting booed in Berlin. The top stories on Univision and Telemundo were, again, the dispute over who would pay for the border wall and the threats by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to punish sanctuary cities. Flynn and Ivanka made the broadcasts, but not as headline stories.

Wednesday, April 26. ABC, CBS and NBC opened with Mr. Trump’s one-page tax reform proposal, and all three networks covered the ominous escalating tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. Both Univision and Telemundo also opened their broadcast with Mr. Trump’s tax reform proposal — emphasizing the likely impacts on the Latino community. That was followed by a story about the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blocking the Trump Administration proposal to defund sanctuary cities. Telemundo added a report on a proposal by Texas to outlaw sanctuary cities altogether. The prospect of Armageddon on the Korean peninsula merited only a passing mention.

Thursday, April 27. NBC Nightly News led with a report about a possible settlement with the United Airlines passenger who was dragged off a plane for refusing to give up his seat. CBS and ABC led with the widening investigation of Flynn. Telemundo led its broadcast with a story about Central American gangs infiltrating the U.S. and recruiting teenagers in America, while Univision opened with Mr. Trump’s contempt for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on sanctuary cities.

Friday, April 28. The major English language networks covered the failed missile launch by North Korea and the approach of Trump’s 100-day mark. Telemundo also reported on the 100-day milestone at the top of its broadcast, then switched to a report on Attorney General Sessions’ comments that “much of the drugs that are being distributed in America today are being distributed by illegal aliens.” This was followed by a report on protesters accosting Sessions with charges that he is obsessed by immigrants and anti-Latino. Univision led with Sessions’ comments, the anchor remarking that the attorney general seemed to be painting all immigrants with the same criminal brush.