Pizarro said the change was evident in January when he began meeting incoming freshman lawmakers. Several of them eagerly offered business cards and said they wanted to speak with him often.
That’s a welcome change for Pizarro and the other Spanish-speaking TV reporters who traverse Capitol Hill daily for new angles on stories, especially regarding immigration. English-language newscasts might go days without discussing the topic, but Latino audiences are eager to absorb every morsel of the months-long debate.
“Every time we have an editorial meeting for our Sunday show or daily newscast, we always discuss a possible immigration story. Always, always, always,” said Jorge Ramos, co-anchor of Univision’s nightly newscast, “Noticiero Univision,” and the host of the network’s Sunday political show “Al Punto” (“To the Point”).
The increased attention is especially notable on Sunday mornings. Ramos hosts “Al Punto” from Miami, while Jose Diaz-Balart hosts the Telemundo program “Enfoque” (“Focus”). Diaz-Balart is the brother of the Florida congressman and also co-anchors Telemundo’s nightly newscast “Noticiero Telemundo.”
Both shows trail English-
language leaders “Face the Nation” on CBS and “Meet the Press” on NBC, but the English-language shows have dipped in recent weeks, and “Al Punto” occasionally tops “Fox News Sunday” among 25-to-54-year-olds, the demographic most coveted by news advertisers.
Those ratings gains are leading to better guest bookings. On one recent weekend, Ramos conducted interviews with Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rubio — a lineup that any English-language show would covet. Ramos and Diaz-Balart also quizzed House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who is considered a critical voice among Latinos tracking the immigration debate.
Radel recently appeared on Diaz-Balart’s Sunday show, saying he was concerned with the Senate immigration bill and favored the step-by-step approach adopted by House leaders. As the interview concluded, Diaz-Balart told Radel that he appreciated his flawless Spanish, especially since the congressman is “mas gringo que apple pie.”
The congressman is a former TV news reporter, so television comes naturally no matter the language. But he knew that the Spanish-language exposure was paying off during a recent visit to a supermarket in his southwest Florida district, where a woman approached him and told him in Spanish how happy she was to see him discussing immigration on Univision.
“If we don’t go out there and talk — I don’t care if it’s in English or Spanish — we’ll lose,” Radel said. “We as Republicans need to expand our portfolio; we cannot simply talk to conservative news outlets or AM radio. We need to expand beyond that and when we do, I think it resonates.”