Submission: Open Letter to the Leadership of The San Diego Union-Tribune

Screenshot of San Diego Union Tribune article this submission responds to.

This letter comes from a place of compassion and desire to see this great city’s newspaper thrive in these trying times. There are proactive steps we can all take to make San Diego a better place for all of us and it starts by having an honest conversation. Please take this as the start of that conversation.

To the editorial leadership of The San Diego Union-Tribune:

Please don’t abandon or ignore the Hispanic community of San Diego County and its binational region. Not now, not in the weeks to come, not in the future. I ask you this as an immigrant from Mexico and a long-time naturalized citizen of the United States.

On Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, a gunman made a ten-hour drive to El Paso, Texas, to commit an act of white supremacist-motivated terrorism. And he succeeded — 22 dead and 24 more injured.

His target: Latinxs.

His motive: to terrorize America’s Latinx communities.

And he has succeeded to terrorize our community. In the last 96 hours, Mexican-Americans and others of Latin American descent across the country have privately and publicly expressed terror and fear of being in public spaces or simply going about their day. Those of us outside El Paso may continue our lives — with caution. But the effects of psychological terror are there, they’re real, and we’re living through it.

Leaders of The San Diego Union-Tribune, I ask you this: Have you come to grasp the magnitude of the terror we feel? Have you asked us how we are feeling right now? Have you used your platform to unify San Diego and its region to become a safer place for everyone? Have you used your platform to have an honest discussion about what this act of terrorism signifies for people of color?

I ask you this as a longtime journalist and as someone who actively works with groups like the National Association of Hispanic Journalists to advocate for better Latinx representation in the news and in newsrooms. I ask you this as someone who is intimately familiar with how your newsroom operates, and believe me when I say that your newsroom is severely lacking representation of a population that makes up more than 30 percent of people in San Diego County — people who have families, who have careers, and who have the same hopes, dreams, and fears as you.

Do you even see us?

I applaud the tireless work of the journalists at The San Diego Union-Tribune. They have provided this region with fair, thorough, and comprehensive news coverage of great importance — and they have done so under increasingly trying times for the news industry. But this is not about their work. This is about your work as the leaders of this powerful institution.

Your editorial board is a select set of individuals who decide the topics and tone of its opinion pages. It is composed of five individuals — four white men and one Latina woman. But as someone who has intimate knowledge of this section of the newspaper, I know exactly who writes those editorials.

On Tuesday — three days after the shootings of El Paso and Dayton, Ohio — you proudly published an editorial that took up an entire page, precious real estate in the newspaper business. You titled it “Hate here? Hell, no” and you plainly placed blame squarely at the feet of President Donald Trump for his rhetoric and you offered solutions to gun violence that plagues the nation.

But not once did you offer a word of sympathy for the Latinx community. Not once did you acknowledge that this terror attack in El Paso was the single biggest slaughtering of Hispanics in recent U.S. history. You make passing reference to the Muslims who were slaughtered in New Zealand, but no mention of Latinx people?

Do you even see us?

In your editorial there were 1,684 words and only one mention of the word Latino and one mention of the word Hispanic, the latter which you attributed to the shooter’s manifesto. Your editorial quoted more of Trump and the shooter than anyone directly affected by their messaging. Your editorial also quoted some Democratic candidates, Apple’s Tim Cook, George P. Bush, former U.S. attorney general Rod Rosenstein, and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

It wasn’t until 12:46 p.m. on Wednesday — one day after your editorial and four days after the mass slaughtering of Hispanics at the El Paso Walmart — that through your Twitter account you offered “to share the perspectives and experiences of San Diego County’s Latino community members.” This, of course, also came after you faced criticism for failing to acknowledge Latinx and their plight in Tuesday’s editorial.

Words have consequences, but so does their omission. The omission of any acknowledgment of what happened in El Paso and how it affects the Latinx community is worrying. That omission in San Diego’s paper of record will continue to make us invisible to the eyes of history.

I believe deep in my heart that this was not intentional. Rather, it is one driven by lack of knowledge, experience, and intellectual curiosity. This is why diversity in news and newsrooms matters. This is why saying we have one Latina in our editorial board is not enough. This is why it is imperative that The San Diego Union-Tribune’s editorial leadership heed the advice and feedback of its readers, including its Hispanic and Latinx readers.

I applaud you and commend you for denouncing racism and bigotry in past editorials. But this letter is not about the omission of such denouncement or such acknowledgment in the past. This is about the events that happened this past weekend and the terror unfolding in Latinx communities across the country and your failure to acknowledge it in your full-page editorial.

Your editorial reacting to the events of El Paso and Dayton was not incorrect. But a more sensible one could have offered more comfort to Hispanics and Latinx not just in San Diego’s region but also in America. A better one could have been more forceful to denounce racist rhetoric against Hispanics, Latinx and immigrants from Latin American countries. A better editorial could have asked our community to be brave and strong in this moment.

Your platform and your work is essential to bringing people together at this time. Your platform is our region’s town hall of ideas, discussion, and knowledge. Your platform is more than just a newspaper; it is this region’s and its people’s living memory. Your platform has the power to influence leaders and decision-makers as well as other media. It has the power to affect what we talk about and how we talk about it.

It is my hope that you understand that these words reflect not just my opinion, but that of many in the region who look like me and feel this terror. You have the resources to listen, to ask questions, and to bring people together just like you did when an anti-Semitic terrorist attacked a synagogue in Poway.

This is a call to action: I, and others, call on the leadership of The San Diego Union-Tribune to make more concrete efforts to increase the diversity of its staff, especially its editorial board. I call on the leadership of its editorial board to offer more comfort to the Hispanic and Latinx communities under terror at this moment.

I ask you this: Please, don’t forget us. Please see us. Please hear us.

Sincerely,

Luis Gomez

If you would like to co-sign this open letter to the editorial leadership of The San Diego Union-Tribune, call on them to work towards a more diverse newsroom and call on them to offer more comfort to the communities affected by terror, please submit your name using this Google Form.

This article originally appeared on Medium.com and was republished with the permission of the author. Read the original article here.

Luis Gomez is a digital journalist based in San Diego, California. You can follow him @RunGomez.

The positions stated here do not necessarily represent the opinions of The Triton, any of its members, or any of its affiliates. We welcome responses to opinion pieces. If you’d like to submit a response, or comment on a different issue, please submit here.