CNN/U.S. and CNN en Español are perfect examples of how information media are integrating in the Americas. More than 90 million households receive CNN/U.S., while CNN en Español reaches 19.4 million households in Latin America and an additional four million U.S. homes. Americas Quarterly sat down with Soledad O’Brien, CNN anchor and special correspondent, and Claudia Palacios, CNN en Español news anchor, to discuss the similarities and differences between their audiences and responsibilities in providing in-depth coverage of the Americas.
AQ: Many CNN viewers are native Spanish-speakers—either in the U.S. or by satellite in Latin America; yet native English-speakers also turn to CNN en Español. What role do you play in reaching out to this mixed viewership?
Claudia Palacios: CNN en Español serves as a bridge between two neighboring cultures. While different, both regions need each other because of commercial ties and cultural ties. At this time, when immigration is the focus of attention and there’s such a lack of knowledge about it, I think that we, as CNN en Español, are filling a knowledge gap between Americans’ conceptions of Latin Americans and Latin Americans’ conceptions of Americans.
A lot of pre-conceived notions obscure the understanding between one culture and another. I, myself, apply my experience as an immigrant to my job. My individual work is a way to promote mutual understanding between both cultures.
Soledad O’Brien: As a journalist, you always have a responsibility to understand and be aware of who’s watching you. And when you work for a global network like CNN, it’s potentially everybody. So you have to have a real world view. I remember when we were doing our coverage in Mexico, we thought: “wouldn’t it be really interesting to tell the immigration story from the other side of the border?” We hadn’t really seen that done a lot. A lot of news organizations look at immigration as a U.S. issue, and our perspective was: what are the roots of immigration? This meant going to the other side of the border to really interview people.
AQ: Soledad, your parents are immigrants from Cuba and Australia, and Claudia, you came to the U.S. as a journalist from Colombia. How does each of you see your role in the current immigration debate in the U.S.?
SO: There’s a lot of shouting when discussing immigration, and it doesn’t help anybody. I’m not a yeller, and I don’t like that kind of debate or discussion. My job has always been to get in and figure out, especially in our immigration stories, why people were leaving. [In Mexico] seeing Mexicans so distressed about the number of migrants going to the United States was an eye-opener for me. They look at it as a brain drain and a body drain. Fifteen months later, when I returned to that town, we saw people coming back to a home that had been bereft of men. The oldest boy was 15 years old, and he was planning to leave as soon as he could.
CP: I can put myself in the shoes of an immigrant because I am one. Living in the U.S., I’ve been able to understand the lifestyle, including the fears and doubts, and where a lack of information exists between one culture and the other. But my biggest challenge is to maintain a balance. It is very easy for me to identify with immigrants in general. But I recognize that I have a privileged status. Very few immigrants arrive with everything necessary to be almost worry-free. Even though I often find myself in a position where it’s painful to see what’s happening, I can find a point where, in spite of that pain, I understand the arguments of people who react against immigration…