White House Shooter Story Plays Differently In Spanish-Language Media

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A federal judge has ordered psychological tests for the Idaho man accused of firing a semi-automatic rifle at the White House. The 21-year-old is charged with trying to assassinate the president. It's a case that's received a lot of attention, not only in English, but also in the Spanish-language press. As correspondent Jessica Robinson reports, the story plays differently there.

When Univision landed an interview with the mother of the shooting suspect, they headlined it as a conversation with the "Mother of the Latino that fired at the White House." Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez is from Idaho Falls, and the son of immigrants from Guadalajara, Mexico. Most English-language headlines call him an Idaho man. Most Spanish-language headlines give Ortega's Hispanic heritage top billing.

Part of that is just basic reporting, says Arizona State University journalism professor Rick Rodriguez.

Rick Rodriguez: "It's how do you bring that story home."

But Rodriguez thinks the Spanish-language press may also be tapping into a shared fear of being scapegoated.

"When something bad like this happens, there's almost a general feeling as, 'I hope it's not a Latino.'" Rodriguez says. "And so there's almost a gut instinct. In fact, I even had that instinct myself. I said 'Oh god, I hope this shooter wasn't Latino.'"

Identifying a criminal suspect as Latino was a drive-time topic this week on KWEI. That's a Spanish-language radio station in the Boise area. Station program director and host Belia Paz noted that Spanish-language news has been calling the New York bomb plot suspect "dominicano" or Dominican, though he's a naturalized U.S. citizen. Paz says her listeners generally don't like it when mainstream American media do that.

"Hispanic medias are doing the same thing – then not only we should be upset about our English-speaking media, we should be upset with our own Spanish-speaking media," Paz says.

Paz says when she took on the subject on her morning show, the phones lit up. In this unscientific survey at least, Paz says callers were split about whether the Hispanic origins of a high-profile suspect belongs in the lead of a Spanish-language story.