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date: 12 August 2020

Summary and Keywords

The media have long been criticized for the manner in which racial and ethnic groups have been (and continue to be) represented in its content. Characterizations of Latinos are no exception. Issues regarding portrayals of Latinos in the media have garnered considerable attention over the decades, prompting the establishment of the National Latino Media Council in 1999. The self-stated mission of this conglomeration of 12 Latino civil rights and advocacy groups has been to increase Latino employment in media industries and reduce the stereotypical depictions that harm Latino communities. If current social scientific evidence is any indication, the objectives of this organization remain as timely and socially important today as they were when the organization was formed. Existing quantitative research concerning the prevalence and quality of portrayals of Latinos in the media, as well as studies examining the effects of exposure to this content, reveal predominately harmful patterns of results (which, of course, depend on the quality and nature of the content). Content analyses that have documented representations of Latinos in media across various platforms conclude that Latinos are underrepresented in the media and frequently presented in stereotypical ways, though blatant stereotypes appear to be declining in the most recent examinations of these portrayals. Empirical investigations into the effects of exposure to these characterizations (on both Latino and non-Latino audiences) demonstrate that media images can influence audience members in terms of numerous cognitive, attitudinal, and behavioral outcomes. Importantly (and unsurprisingly), there appear to be substantive differences in how Latino and non-Latino audiences react to such messages. Although many studies of media effects in this context are focused on the harmful implications of exposure (e.g., stereotyping, discrimination, the exacerbation of interethnic tensions), a small body of work also demonstrates that pro-social outcomes can emerge based on media exposure, especially (but not exclusively) in the contexts of health, education, and political decision-making.

Keywords: Latino/as in the media, media race/ethnicity, stereotypes, media effects, content analysis, social identity, intergroup communication, Latino, Latina

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