A Preview Of CNN's Latino In America: Disappointing, And Where The Hell Is Houston?

CNN unveils its take on the Latino experience tonight with the widely publicized debut of Latino in America.

Hair Balls admittedly enjoyed the broiled shrimp and free wine at the 50-minute preview two weeks ago when CNN was using Houston Latinos as a test audience for the program and we're somewhat interested to see if the full version puts some spice into what turned out to be a pretty bland presentation of several immigrant stories, a majority from California.

There is a chance of real investigative journalism with the first segment's coverage of Arizona's Public Defender Isabel Garcia. CNN also trotted out ol' Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the poster boy for "when 287(g) goes wrong."

However, as pointed out in various media outlets this week, CNN didn't address the network's own form of Arpaio: Lou Dobbs. "The most trusted name in news" gives more than 250 hours a year on public airwaves to a man who has repeatedly come under fire for reporting his own version of the facts. One blatant fabrication was his estimation that "a third of America's prison population are illegal aliens." The actual number is less than 6%.

If CNN hopes to win over more Latinos, they will have to do better. Do they expect Latinos to tune in more now because they've allowed four hours of airtime to the immigrant experience after Lou Dobbs gets more than 250 hours to denigrate them? More likely, Latinos will watch the series just to see how poorly Latinos are portrayed.

We were also confused by the coverage of Pico Rivera, what many residents referred to as the "Latino Mayberry," a suburb of....you guessed it....Los Angeles. The "model" American town boasts a 92% Latino demographic complete with its own "wise Latina" with dyed-blond hair and accent-free vernacular. The former beauty queen shows how the Latinos in this town are just like any other American suburb -- hotdogs, baseball, American flags and all.

At least CNN has found a respectable model for the progression of intelligent blonds and women's rights, right?

Unfortunately, repeated references to "Latino Mayberry" won't go over well with viewers under 40 unless they watch Nick at Night.

The final test of potentially good investigative journalism will be the segment on murdered immigrant Luis Ramirez of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. In the preview, Soledad O'Brien refers to the murderers as "boys" although these "boys" beat an immigrant so badly it ended his life.

The segment was a depressing account of a fatal hate crime involving a young biracial couple, but had no commentary on some of the most shocking elements of the story which came after the murder.

Tune in to see if CNN reports the fact that it took two weeks for the "boys" to be arrested or if the report mentions that the mother of one of the "boys" postponed her wedding to one of the town cops until after the trial. Will it report that in the end these "boys" got off with a simple assault charge instead of a murder or a hate-crime conviction even though witnesses' testimony of the racial slurs before and after the fatal blow?

In the end, the 50-minute preview turned out to be "feel good" portrayal of the Latino experience in America. It was a series of vignettes lacking any direction or "moral to the story."

We didn't get the point of the program. It's not a documentary. It's not a news story. It simply "offers a window into the lives of families", just as CNN's website plainly states. Maybe the point is to diffuse Lou Dobbs fanatics, both pro and con? Maybe it's a promotion for O'Brien's new book. Maybe it's simply another feel-good series to air during Hispanic Heritage Month.

We were hoping to get more out of CNN. We're sure to see more stories from Latino celebrities, Olmos, Longoria, etc... but we're hoping to see more stories from Houston or even Texas since we are the second-biggest city in the nation close to the border and almost half of the city's population is Latino.

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