AEJMC Trailblazers of Diversity – Federico Subveri

AEJMC Trailblazers of Diversity in Journalism Education

Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication

School of Journalism

University of Texas at Austin

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Interview Subject: Federico Subveri
Interviewer: Martin Do Nascimento
Interview date: 5/7/2014
Number of Recorded Segments: 3
Interview length: 01:16:37
Language: English
Reviewer: Carlos Morales
Date of review for index: 6/12/14

Table of Contents:
Early Experience in Journalism (3)
Federico’s studies (4-5)
Diversity in Academia (5-10)
AEJMC (11-13)

Early Experiences in Journalism:

2:33 Says the interesting part of his personal story was he intended – since high school and throughout some of college – to be an aeronautical engineer.

2:56 interest in math didn’t “match up” once he got to college.

3:05 He witnessed protests to Vietnam War at University of Puerto Rico and what he saw personally differed from the media accounts.

3:25 These differences caused him to say: “There’s something wrong here – why?”

3:37: He excelled in the area of social sciences and decided to explore media

3:52 During his last year of college, the university introduced the master’s degree in public communication.

4:05 He was one of the first 33 students to enroll in the program at the University of Puerto Rico

4:15 At this point he wanted to be a journalist, he wanted to write about journalism.

4:17 He worked at the San Juan Star as a copy boy. Because of this position he was able to do some freelance work for the SJ Star.

4: 29 Here he also witnessed the lifestyle of journalists in the newsroom and realized that wasn’t him.

4:43 At the end of his master’s degree he started weighing the options of a Ph.D in communication because he wanted to do research about media.

4:48 He was admitted to the University of Wisconsin at Madison

5:09 His work has been a “social science approach to the field”

5:54: As a Puerto Rican in Puerto Rico, he was the majority; only minority in political beliefs.

6:10 He wasn’t aware of being a “Latino or Hispanic” until he had to fill out forms and felt “that’s the closest category – I’m just a puertoriqueño.”

6:35 (more on Vietnam protests): The experience of the protests and then reading the newspapers the next day is one that told him there was something wrong with the system and how stories are covered, their political meaning.

7:33 Until that point he was apolitical, but those contradictions alerted him and urged him to study that.

His Studies

8:00 His studies at Wisconsin were directed with his desire “to understand the political economy of the media system of Puerto Rico.”

8:13 He wanted to understand the decision why the decision makers in Puerto Rico, in terms of news construction, did what they did.

8:42 Expanded his research to include the political economy of not only Puerto Rico but Latin America.

8:48 Another turning point in his decision to continue his communication studies was an international conference in San Jose, Costa Rica, where “the most progressive minds of media in Latin America” were meeting.

9:45 He was beginning to understand how media, politics and the economics work together.

10:01 At Wisconsin, his studies were a challenge because the university was very much a social science empirical oriented university and school of journalism

10:16 He did the coding for a study on Hispanics in Chicago and was allowed to do studies on this data, which would eventually become the basis for his dissertation.

11:44 The body of his research was new and pioneering – he was supported to continue his efforts.

12:12 His first job was at the University of California Santa Barbara where he learned what it meant to be a professor. By 1992 he began work at UT Austin.

12:20 At the time he had no intention to stay as a professor in the United States.

12:29 He wanted to go back to Puerto Rico because part of his studies had been funded by the University of Puerto Rico presidential system.

12:42 As he finished his studies and began working, the political power in Puerto Rico shifted form center to right wing. The president of the university system, Federico found out years later, didn’t want any more pro-independence professors in the school of communication.

13:11 As much as he applied and tried to get back to Puerto Rico, he never got a positive response from any university in any system in the country.

13:29 While at UT he did the first study on the political economy of the media system of Puerto Rico.

12:45 He continued his interest in Puerto Rico and developed the study of Latinos in media in the United States in all branches, children, politics, etc.

13:58: The third branch of his interests became race and media relations in Brazil. He performed these studies with support from the LLilas office (Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies).

15:52 While at Wisconsin, he realized that there were two emerging tracks on Latino Media studies were: The ownership and history of Spanish media in the United States and

16:33 Overall there were very few studies on Latinos and media.

16:56 There were hardly any studies, Federico recalls, that connected the use of media and political knowledge and opinions and behaviors among Latinos.

17:17 There had been studies about the use of media and politics, but the research wasn’t quite aligned with Federico’s overall research goals.

17:59 Still as of today, there are a lot of studies that look at history, ownership, use of media, and now there’s content analysis of films, TV shows and print

18:26 There’s still a sizeable gap in terms of survey research that connects use of media and knowledge.

18:44 An area he’s developed is emergency communication, how people who are not English-speakers understand there’s an emergency.

18:55 There’s a huge gap in terms of policy, knowledge and implementation for Latinos who are primarily Spanish-speakers.

19:09 Federico had to find the gaps that had not been developed and then explore them – at Wisconsin it was all beginning. Now there’s an explosion of literature.

Diversity at Wisconsin

20:11 At Wisconsin he had the blessing of open-minded professors who allowed him to engage in the field of work he was interested in, but there wasn’t a professor who could teach him what he learned about in Latinos and media.

20:41 Diversity at the time meant Blacks and Whites. 

20:44 There was a sense of awareness, but not as much as it is today, recognizing changing demographics and the growth of Latino populations and their media.

20:53 Some of his professors at Wisconsin weren’t aware of these populations and their media.

21:07 There were, however, professors that guided him to literature.

21:12 While at Wisconsin, he was supported to engage in this fledgling field

22:44 In the time he’s taught, there’s been a dramatic change in the field of communication. There’s recognition now of the demographic shift.

22:54 There’s a need to embrace research in these arenas.

22:57 One of the contributions to the change has been the recent graduates who became professors and studied in this field.

23:49 These graduates have populated this area, doing research and engage in teaching others.

23:57 What is still lacking is the institutional higher level decision makers who validate and support this work.

24:11 Even at UT Austin, the school of journalism has Latino professors but there isn’t a whole track dedicated to the research of getting a Ph.D in Latinos in Media.

24:31 The department of radio-television-film had an interdisciplinary concentration of diversity and media. But didn’t have the research to go with it.

24:42 The college of communication has not had, developed and promoted an integrated Masters and doctoral program to attract, train and prepare future researchers in the social science of communication.

25:08 That is missing still.

25: 10 In these 30 years, the studies, the content analysis, the history of these works is growing.

25:25 Kent Wilkinson – not a Latino – has branched off and done similar studies and is now a director at Texas Tech.

25:50 It’s not just a privy for Latinos or other minorities it’s still a lack of institutional recognition of the value of these programs.
26:08 At the undergraduate levels there are courses here and there but there isn’t an institution dedicated to this research.

26:56 A Senior professor at UC Santa Barbara told Federico’s student that here Latino studies was a dead end.

27:17 This, Federico says, implies that not only were this student’s efforts not worthwhile, but neither was Federico’s.

27:23 UC Santa Barbara has yet to hire another Latino professor who can engage in these studies, Federico says.

27:55 The decision makers there haven’t recognized the need for it.

28:03 The institutional, high-level effort to make change is not there.

28:11 At UT, the environment was more supportive.

28:21 Federico left to New York temporarily, returned to UT, and was told by the key decision maker of the radio-television-film chair department that “that Latino stuff you do is not a priority here anymore, so I’m not going to hire you.”

29:24 He then moved to Texas State University.

29:35 Within a few months he developed a program that became the Center for the Study of Latino Media and Markets. It flourished for 5 years.

30:01 Support dwindled and wasn’t as strong as it needed to be for the center to survive and to keep him there.

30:10 Now at Kent State University

30:26 In 1992, he proposed to school director at UT a program – for the college – to develop Latinos and media issues. The dean at the time told him, “that’s not relevant here.”

31:07 When he moved to Texas State, he updated the proposal and within a year he had the center.

31:20 It depends on the decision makers, he says, who are either open minded or not.

32:16 Some of these decision makers don’t have the capacity to value these programs because they were educated in a narrow field, in which Latinos weren’t a topic.

33:00 It’s not part of their radar, of their value system. It’s other.

33:15 Federico says, in 30 years the demographics have changed, the media have changed, the political power of Latinos has been demonstrated and there is a different mindset.

33:42 Given the changes, the need for a professor who can teach the social science of Latinos in communications isn’t a priority, he says.

34:15 The perspective may be that what they’re doing is good enough.

34:54 The one university that comes close to having these programs/institutions is the University of Urbana- Champaign.

35:21 There’s still the need to enhance – at the college level, at the university level – an integrated effort to study these populations, their media and their effects.

37:01 Federico has seen that 1/3 or more of the applicants – people who have earned or are about to earn their Ph.Ds – are people with Asian backgrounds in their names.

37:26 Federico hardly finds a Latino name.

37:40 He says we haven’t done a good enough job to develop, at the high school and undergraduate level, degree programs and interest in Latino media studies. The same goes, he says for other ethnicities.

38:10 Even though there are Latinos engaged in graduate-level education, they are not in the social science and statistical analysis.

38:43 Statistical skills are a necessity for this field, which may not available to many Latinos.

39:15 Federico says he believes that those – namely Latinos and African-Americas – who lack these skills are encouraged to become teaching assistants.

40:03 What’s missing, Federico says, is the need to purposely recruit and train the minorities that don’t have those skills but have to be trained to get that knowledge and go into the research field.

40:49 It’s a cycle that can only be broken by training these specific students who are underprivileged or understudied.

41:00 They then can become future publishers and do training and recruiting for future generations.

41:31 He wants to emphasis that there are individual efforts; there are people who recognize the need to understand Latino/African-American populations.

41:53 Rarely will you find an institution that will incorporate this as part of its flagship.

42:35 We need doctoral-level classes that teach the research on the political economy, history, on the uses, on the content analysis, on the effects of media on diverse populations.

42:48 We need more than just a “catch-all course.”

43:00 (Siren in the background, interview stopped for several seconds) (ask maggie about this part)

44:58 The interesting thing about studying race in Brazil is that the leading scholar is a white Italian (heritage) Brazilian woman.

45:34 This professor’s students, who have graduates, are now the ones teaching these issues in Brazil and teaching the next generation.

45:45 They are, however, behind in the national recognition for the need to enhance and teach these issues. It’s an incremental process as it is here.

46:20 Most of the studies he’s familiar with in Brazil are content analysis on how the media has treated race issues.

46:56 The reason for Brazil being behind in is there’s an ideology that there is no racial differences. The reality, however, is that there are major differences, Federico says.

47:33 Still we have a gap in people who are trained and can train others to engage in research in this arena.

47:51 For too many years, Federico says, it was assumed that racial issues were minority issues in passing.

48:02 Some of the first academics writing about this assumed that minorities emigrated with very little knowledge of the U.S., learned about it and left their old cultural values behind – which Federico says is old hat.

48:30 Latinos – and other groups – hardly ever assimilate, they adapt. It’s a sum game. These groups learn about U.S. culture and learn about their heritage.

48:54 The term Federico uses to describe this is situational ethnicity

49:21 It’s not a linear process of leaving behind old culture, taking on new culture.

51:06 Some recognize that there’s a problem.

51:56 Study after study makes it evident that there is a problem in the underrepresentation and the misrepresentation of Afro-brasileros in their media.

52:16 Federico wants to aim bring this research to the decision makers to press the need for change.

52:44 He doesn’t think there’s a need for that much individual research in Brazil to figure out that need.

52:58 Negative images cause harm to the stereotyped individual and to the general population that assumes incorrectly who and what those “others” are.

53:13 If we can get that research to decision makers in advertisement, in television – there will be a great leap forward, Federico says.

53:51 It’s not just enough to say there’s a need bring minorities into the school of journalism, there needs to be a systematic effort.

54:03 This is related to the quotas in Brazil, Federico says.

54:08 Federico explains that kids aren’t given the same advantages as others. He uses analogy of kids running a race, some have shoes, some have been coached and others have had neither.

55:00 He says the same applies to journalism schools and mass communication.

55:06 Years of undertraining – not lack of skill – is what hinders some students. It’s important to recognize that.

56:19 People will act when they’re pressured to do so. But part of that process to be convinced requires more background, understanding of the situation, Federico says.

56:39 Too many decision makers don’t have that background

56:58 Major decisions require money, Federico says, and money then is directed to those who they see in their experiences that are pressuring them.

57:17 One of the most recent programs that was developed form the Dean’s level is at Cal-State Fullerton. The dean recruited and developed their center, specifically to teach about Latinos and media.

57:54 There were some reluctant members of the faculty.

58:07 At this institution, dean was proponent. At others, there’s usually more support from faculty but not from decision makers.

59:00 He hopes that there’s more higher-level decision making processes, given the change in demographics.

59:25 It’s imperative for major efforts to be directed at Latino populations and media, the uses and the effects on this population and general population and other ethnic minorities.


1:00:29 Federico says that it was through support from AEJMC that he gained validation for the work he was doing

1:00:36 His first AEJMC conference was in 1976.

1:00:39 That year it took place at Wisconsin.

1:01:01He attended the conventions, became a member, and started to receive the journals.

1:02:05 Federico says the support he received from AEJMC members was widespread – but he wasn’t receiving this kind of support from his faculty, professors at Santa Barbara.

1:02:35 Federico was either a graduate student or a young professor when he was recruited to be apart of the minorities in communication division.

1:02:47 He was then nominated a position within that division, became a chair, and was recruited to the commission.

1:03:03 During those years of participation, Federico says two things happened: He received validation for his work and he was able to talk to (and be listened to) about the value of diversity.

1:03:27 Whether it was panel opportunities, involvement, research, it helped him on the way to get a foothold with the organization.

1:04:24 The value of AEJMC for diversity issues is twofold.

1:04:28 With its minorities in communication division, anyone that does diversity issues has an opportunity to get their work evaluated even if it’s not accepted for a convention.

1:04:49 The work is evaluated and given feedback that can contribute to the enhancement of that research.

1:05:00 For those whose paper is accepted, the conference is a place where they have full support – they don’t have to justify, Federico says, it’s a given that it is valued.

1:05:16 This networking contributes to the enhancement of the scholarship of minority issues in communication.

1:05:44 As students and scholars present their work in these other divisions (not just the minorities in communication division), then diversity is acknowledged and valued and expanded into those other divisions as well, Federico says.

1:06:29 One of the projects that AEJMC had was the journalism leadership institute for diversity (JLID). This brought together a number of minority faculty, women and minority. Federico says it often went to white women who learn leadership skills for being department chairs and deans.

1:07:22 Some applied, Federico says, and were not ready for those positions.

1:07:26 That program wasn’t funded after a time. Federico is unsure why.

1:07:49 The effort, Federico says, was directed towards anybody, but not purposefully towards those who didn’t have the preparation (“running shoes” as Federico says, referring to his earlier analogy.)

1:08:29 AEJMC should return to the JLID program and make it more sophisticated.

1:08:40 They could also then express the importance to other faculties across different universities of diversifying their faculty.

1:08:56 From there, Federico says, it’s important to also teach the maintenance, the training needed to retain diverse faculty.

1:09:55 AEJMC has changed dramatically its gender diversity.

1:10:45 In terms of recruitment of more outreach to diversity it lags behind, Federico says.

1:10:57 AEJMC has done a great job in the gender disparity that used to exist, from when it started to today.

1:11:06 In a study, Federico says, we noticed that more than half of the leadership of AEJMC has been female in the divisions and at the presidency.

01:11:34 The leadership on the gender side, primarily white women and some African Americans, has improved, Federico says. But at the “rank and file” AEJMC is “decades” behind.

01:11:59 AEJMC is way behind in terms of recruitment and retention of Latinos.

01:12:17 Federico says he would recommend a JLID program specifically for Latinos for AEJMC.

01:12:40 There needs to be a similar effort, Federico says, for other underrepresented groups as there are really way behind.

01:13:50 It’s well document that the portrayals of Latinos in the media are not what they should be. Federico points to some of his research for support.

1:14:07 Federico points to a controversy with MSNBC that’s currently going on.

1:14:18 Federico mentions member of MSNBC who dressed up with a sombrero and maracas and some liquor for a “cinco de mayo” segment.

1:14:44 The decision makers in these institutions should do better. The problem has been documented, Federico says, but they haven’t changed their mindset.

01:14:54 It should fall upon the schools of journalism, the decision makers at the schools of journalism, the scholars at the schools of journalism to bring to the decision makers in the news media the imperative for better, more diverse images.

01:15:18 Federico hopes that the decisions of these schools create substantial change and influence.

1:15:46 Now it’s time for change in the content and representation of these groups.

1:15:53 There should not be the continued stereotyping of these groups, or the ignoring of them as it has been the case.

AEJMC Trailblazers of Diversity

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