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Honoring Advocate for U.S. Latino Community

Sep 14, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Among festivities scheduled for the silver anniversary of the prestigious Walter Kaitz Foundation Dinner is the presentation of awards. U.S. Rep. Joe Baca, D.-Calif., will receive the Diversity Advocate Award in recognition of the strides he’s made to promote diversity in media in his district as well as on the national scene.
“Rep. Baca has demonstrated throughout his career that he is an advocate for the Latino community in America, and we are honored to recognize him,” said David Porter, executive director of the Walter Kaitz Foundation.
Rep. Baca, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in Washington, has won the President’s Achievement Award from the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; been recognized by the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda for his legislative achievements; and received the Golden Eagle Award from Siempre Adelante and the Migrant Leadership Council for his accomplishments as a California legislator and leader in the Latino community.
Rep. Baca spoke with TelevisionWeek correspondent Allison Waldman about the Kaitz Dinner, his feelings about receiving this award and how far he believes diversity in the media needs to go.
TelevisionWeek: The Diversity Advocate Award is presented annually to an individual outside the cable industry who has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to diversity. What does receiving this honor mean to you?
Rep. Joe Baca: As chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Taskforce on Corporate America, Technology, Communications & the Arts, I have fought for greater diversity and equity everywhere, from America’s classrooms to her boardrooms. And while we still have a long road ahead of us until everyone in America has truly equal opportunities at success, we are making progress. For me, the Diversity Advocate Award serves as an important sign that our work is making a positive difference.
TVWeek: What was your reaction when you heard that you won?
Rep. Baca: I was both excited and humbled when I heard that I had won the Diversity Advocate Award. Walter Kaitz was a champion for fairness and inclusion in the cable industry, and it is truly an honor to be recognized with the annual award given in his memory.
TVWeek: Which initiatives and actions in particular do you think represent the diversity for which you’re being honored, especially in the Hispanic community?
Rep. Baca: In Congress, I serve as both chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Taskforce on Corporate America, Technology, Communications & the Arts. As chair of this taskforce, I have tried to put a constant focus on the need for greater minority representation in government, industry and entertainment, and the overall connection between diversity and corporate responsibility.
In this 110th Congress, I also serve as chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, one of the leading Hispanic nonprofit and nonpartisan organizations in the country. Through internship, fellowship and scholarship programs for outstanding young Latinos, CHCI is successfully developing effective Hispanic leaders, both in the public and private sectors.
TVWeek: How do you think the media can support and encourage diversity?
Rep. Baca: The media can play a critical role in encouraging greater diversity. Media touches every one of us every day in so many different ways. For many Latinos and other minorities, to see someone who is from their community in a position of influence and empowerment on TV in a show or as a newsperson can be a life-changing experience. It shows many of our young people that opportunities exist and there are unique career avenues out there, and that if you are willing to work hard and follow your dreams, there is no limit to what you can become in America.
TVWeek: It’s really the American dream realized, isn’t it?
Rep. Baca: Yes, it is.
TVWeek: Looking down the road, how do you think diversity in the media will evolve in the years ahead?
Rep. Baca: The role of media has changed greatly in the last few years. In this age of technology, media is accessible to us at any moment. Because of this, media can no longer be about just providing good entertainment. To remain truly viable, it must become part of our communities. I believe diversity in the media will continue to evolve along with the industry. Because of greater accessibility and exposure, we must work even harder to provide positive images and role models in the media. Choices must be made that inspire and empower the audiences we serve.
TVWeek: Tell me how you see diversity developing in new media, the Web and mobile communications.
Rep. Baca: One of the many positives in the development and evolution of new media is that we now have so many more ways to access information. This has already led to greater diversity in the presentation of news and ideas. From television to blogs and text message alerts, people receive news in a variety of formats. Now, for the first time, many people who represent the interests of underserved communities have a voice in the media. The diversity of ideas, information and cultures that this has brought to light should be seen as an encouraging step for all Americans.
TVWeek: Are you looking forward to attending the dinner in New York?
Rep. Baca: Yes, absolutely. As I said, for me, the Diversity Advocate Award serves as an important sign that our work is making a positive difference.

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