Common Ground: Media should be a mirror to the real New Hampshire

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The Common Ground Initiative
The Common Ground Initiative
Common Ground: Media should be a mirror to the real New Hampshire

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Take a stroll around Manchester, and you’ll likely pass by some beautiful Hispanic restaurants and shops. Once those smells and flavors pass my nose, my mouth waters instantaneously. I see hard-working people, and whether American-born or newly arrived, they’re strong in their cultures, music, foods and dance. This adds to the diversity of New Hampshire, and I think it should be a welcomed addition. Sometimes, American citizens forget that somewhere in their history, their ancestors had a similar story of coming to America and carving out a path for themselves.

While New Hampshire is still a predominantly white state, we are becoming more diverse like the rest of the country. As these communities grow, they need to have a representation and stories in both media and popular culture pertinent to them, their narrative and their voice. This representation needs to run the entire spectrum of news and entertainment, from newsrooms to beat reporters. There should be a pathway for them to have a seat at the decision-making table. Their representation would likely show us stories about those local residents contributing to their communities, as opposed to the countless stories of illegal immigration.

Of course, good-hearted and talented journalists and storytellers from different ethnic and racial groups are looking to chronicle those neighborhoods. Still, it should be done with the influences and voices of those communities. It should be a combined effort with the community and journalists. Having that story reported on by community members will help ensure that their story is told in the best, most accurate way. Leaving those portrayals and narratives solely to those who aren’t in those communities can create offensive stereotypes. They need to have a say in their narrative and be able to define who they are to the rest of the world.

Ernesto Burden is the vice president at Yankee Publishing, Inc., publisher of 603 Diversity, N.H Business Review, N.H Magazine and N.H Home. He said that diversity of all kinds in media on the storyteller side is critical to providing comprehensive, insightful and empathetic coverage of communities. And at the same time, diversity represented in those stories is also crucial to feelings of inclusion, the understanding of shared identity, and to a sense of belonging in a place.

As a Black American, I recognize this need and relate to it all too well. I remember, as a child, the news portrayed Black people in the most negative light. I watched riots where Black people were all lumped into a group and painted as “looters” by the media coverage. In similar situations, the media would take pictures and footage of white people and label them “protestors.”

Those labels had a long-lasting impact. It gave the impression that every Black person was at those events to capitalize on the moment. It didn’t tell the story of the groups of people who were fed up and felt hopeless. It made people forget that protesting and emotions don’t come with a handbook. That brush of inequality was constantly dipped in the paint of fear and the inability to relate. The power of stereotypes and slanted coverage can be massive. And as the saying goes, perception is bigger than reality. These portrayals pave the road for misunderstanding, hate and intolerance. What better way to desensitize the public from draconian laws and policies that stifle the progress of communities because they are usually portrayed in a negative light?

In my experience, stereotypes of Black Americans have had a long-lasting impact. When a person from another race and culture constantly sees the images of young Black men and women who are loud, violent and lawless, they tend to project that image onto the entire race. If they happen to run into one of those stereotypes live and in person, it confirms what they’ve been fed by the media. Meanwhile, there are droves of young Black Americans graduating college, starting businesses, tending to their families and defending this country. These are images that you don’t see.

Ten years later, the young child who watched these images on television becomes a police officer, attorney or judge. It would be hard to say that they don’t carry these biases with them once they gain power. It can thwart their decision-making. Like, was he reaching for a gun, or was he reaching for his wallet?

Things have improved, but there’s still a long way to go.

Jasmine Torres, community and education engagement coordinator at NH PBS, feels that small steps lead to bigger changes. It would be incredibly useful for media organizations to team up with Latinos who express interests and who are looking to make the integral changes of equity in the media, she says.

Whenever I watch the news on immigration, I see images of people illegally sneaking into the country. But is that the only way that they get in? It’s not often that I see images of groups of new immigrants being sworn in as American citizens with ear-to-ear smiles and tears of joy. I don’t see enough of the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the grand opening of the new Mexican restaurant in town. Nor do I hear those stories about the immigrant on a scaffold on the 50th floor of some ritzy building cleaning the windows with three children and a wife at home.
What we see and hear matters. Who’s telling the stories makes the difference.

Diversity at high levels in newsrooms and entertainment can help ensure the representation of an invested voice. Hitting the mark is much easier when you narrate your own story.

With the help of local newsrooms, media outlets, community stakeholders and politicians, I believe we can begin to turn the tides. I would love to see internships and outreach to underserved and underrepresented communities.

Oscar Villacis, CEO at First Gen Multimedia, believes the Latino community needs to be conscious of the power they collectively have. And their reach should eventually touch newsrooms, production staff, and writers.

Ultimately, I hope this issue opens eyes and brings unity amongst all of our residents. Having diversity doesn’t mean wiping out others, and diversity should never be an intimidating topic, especially when what’s being sought is simply fair and equitable representation.

He who tells the narrative gets to set the narrative – so it’s time that our media reflected our state.

GSNC 2 ColorThis column is part of The Common Ground Initiative which aims to highlight the diversity of our communities with stories of people the average Granite Stater might not get to see or meet, clarify misconceptions and find the threads that bind us all together as one New Hampshire community. These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit



About this Author

Anthony Payton

This column is part of The Common Ground Initiative which aims to highlight the diversity of our communities with stories of people the average Granite Stater might not get to see or meet, clarify misconceptions and find the threads that bind us all together as one New Hampshire community.