Open letter: Audit shows TV news must improve anchor diversity

May 24, 2021

An open letter to San Antonio TV news managers: 

The San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists conducted an audit of the anchors at local television news stations. What we found was profoundly troubling: Anchor teams at all four of the stations in the city’s general market fail to represent the majority-Latino demographics of San Antonio that date back to its founding. White people are disproportionately occupying these coveted, powerful positions in our television stations while Latinos make up a fraction, resulting in a widespread and harmful lack of representation.

After surveying KSAT-TV, KENS-TV, WOAI-TV and KABB-TV, SAAHJ found that Latinos represent only 25% of all anchors. In San Antonio, Latinos make up nearly 65% of the population, according to the U.S. Census. 

At KSAT, the highest-rated and most-viewed station in the city, only 21% of its anchors are Latino. At KENS, there are only three Latinos out of its 16 anchors, and there is no Latino news anchor in its most prominent weekday newscasts, which SAAHJ defines as newscasts between the hours of 5 to 7 am or 5 to 10:30 pm. KABB has the highest percent of Latino anchors, the audit found — at 37.5 percent, or three out of eight people. Meanwhile, Latinos at WOAI make up only one-third of anchor staff.  

The audit also expanded its scope to include all anchors of color and found they make up just over one-third of anchors at the four stations. In San Antonio, people of color make up 75% of the population.

Overall, though only 25% of San Antonians are white, they occupy anchor roles at more than two and a half times that rate.

Anchors are the “faces” of the station. They are heavily promoted on commercials, billboards and ad campaigns. They are held in high esteem in the television news industry, generally make higher pay and are granted additional perks and privileges because of their elevated status.

Anchors also have the agency — and responsibility — to frame news narratives fairly and fact check powerful people in real time during political interviews or unfolding breaking news. Without Latino anchors, inaccuracies about the Latino community are more likely to be given play on air, which would convey to viewers that those misleading perspectives and falsehoods are valid.

SAAHJ and a Texas A&M University – San Antonio Latino media expert conducted this audit over several months and narrowed its parameters to include only TV journalists who are anchors by title — not on-air reporters or others who occasionally sub-in for anchors. We identified 55 anchors whose coverage spans news, weather, traffic, sports and live desk coverage. The audit is current as of May 1, 2021, and is a continuation of SAAHJ’s ongoing examination of local media outlets’ diversity or lack thereof.

The audit only includes the city’s four privately-run English language television stations. SAAHJ did not include Spanish-language networks, the nonprofit KLRN or the Austin-based Spectrum because the focus was on general market stations, which have the highest viewership in the San Antonio area. Notably, KLRN has never had a woman or Latino as a permanent guest host for its local news show. See below for more information on our methodology.

The importance of role modeling and representation has been well documented. And in the news business, representation — or lack thereof — shapes narratives that infiltrate the public consciousness and have lasting impacts on our communities. Right now, thousands of young San Antonians wake up in the morning on their way to school and often do not see people on television who look like them. 

As a result, how many San Antonians who could have forged prestigious paths in journalism — who could have held the powerful accountable, told the untold stories and helped promote truth in a world of disinformation — chose a different career instead, perhaps one that would better welcome their heritage and identity? This sad reality is a tremendous loss for journalism, an industry long-dominated by the white elite that longs for a more diverse perspective.

We understand that many news managers of today inherited a flawed system with entrenched biases that are difficult to correct. And we especially appreciate newsmakers’ work informing the public day and night in an industry that has been a political target and rocked by the evolution of digital technology in recent years.

But we cannot allow this pattern of white-dominated anchor teams to continue in San Antonio. If we are truly a compassionate city, then who we see on TV should reflect who we see in our neighborhoods.

We look forward to an open dialogue with stations’ leadership to improve diversity among the anchor ranks.

San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists

P.O. Box 120334, San Antonio, TX 78212 

Email: diversityinnews@sahispanicjournalists.com 

Twitter & Instagram: @SAAHJ

Methodological Appendix

The data cited in this letter comes from a systematic audit of racial/ethnic diversity of San Antonio DMA television anchors as of May 1, 2021. The study provides a picture of racial and ethnic representation among anchors in the four general market English language San Antonio stations that feature newscasts in their daily programming.

Data

As of May 1, 2021, there were a total of 55 news, sports, weather, live desk and traffic anchors who appear regularly on the four general market stations that feature newscasts in their daily programming.1 Of these, a subset of 30 anchors who appear on weekday newscasts were identified as the “main” or “core” team — considered to be the representatives of the station and the most visible in promotional content.

Coding

To evaluate the racial/ethnic composition of the selected stations, each anchor in the dataset was coded into one of five racial/ethnic categories: Hispanic or Latina/o/x, African American/Black, Asian American, Middle Eastern/North African and non-Hispanic White. At the time of the analysis, none of the active anchors was identified as having Native American, Alaskan Native, Hawaiian or Pacific Islander as their primary racial/ethnic identity.

The relatively small sample size and the local focus of the study allowed for a multi-step review process to ensure the validity of the data. Anchors were assigned to each racial/ethnic group based on three types of evidence: (1) direct inquiries with the anchors, when possible, (2) publicly available online information featuring first-hand references to racial/ethnic identity (e.g. social media posts, biographical sketches, Q&As) and (3) third-party information, including interviews with newsroom staff members. 

A Texas A&M University – San Antonio Latino media expert/researcher aided SAAHJ in the analysis of this data.