Citizen Journalists
Reporting On News Media Bias

NPR’S A Martinez: “I’m In Public Radio Because I’m…The Son Of…An Illegal Immigrant”

NPR’s Morning Edition co-host A Martinez today aired his interview with recording artist Sen Morimoto. The two discussed Morimoto’s new album, Diagnosis.

In NPR’s description of the interview NPR states that Diagnosis “is a critique of the music industry’s habit of commodifying trauma and identity”. During the interview Sen complains about the burden Capitalism imposes on him as an artist in terms of having to focus on constantly progressing his art, and about the energy he has had to put into selling his art.

Morning Edition host A. Martinez echoes Morimoto’s concerns when he reveals his own conscious commoditization of his racial identity:

“Is it almost like in this day we have to almost constantly sell pieces of ourselves, all the time? And find something new about ourselves to sell. I’ll be honest here, I’m in public radio, I think, for a very specific reason. I’d be naive not to believe that it’s because I’m bi-lingual, I speak Spanish, and I’m the son of an immigrant, an illegal immigrant. So, I’ll be honest, that’s probably why I’m here, because I have that experience, and I’m making money off of that in some ways in the work I do.”

– A. Martinez

Martinez’ comments regarding why he believes he landed a top anchor job with the US government’s flagship radio property provide interesting insights about a public radio insider’s personal motivations and viewpoint. Yet his comments simultaneously raise questions about NPR’s hiring practices, and how they may be serving its editorial agenda. These questions include the following:

  1. What specifically leads Martinez to believe that NPR hired him because he is bilingual, and is the son of an illegal immigrant? Was he told this at the time of hiring? Has he learned this through his observations of others who have been hired since he joined NPR? Have these hiring criteria been applied to people who might report to, or work with, Martinez in a subordinate capacity? What specific experience has he had, or evidence has he seen, that he was hired based upon these criteria?
  2. If Martinez indeed was hired because he is the child of an illegal immigrant, is this a requirement that NPR applies to all employees? Or just on-air talent? Or hosts?
  3. Why would NPR prefer a host who is the child of illegal immigrants? What is NPR’s specific goal in hiring children of illegal immigrants? What benefit or advantage does NPR feel having the child of an illegal immigrant as an anchor/host provides?
  4. Has NPR been transparent and public about its policy of hiring children of illegal immigrants? Has it made any sort of public statement about that agenda?
  5. If NPR has not yet made any public statement about hiring people who are the children of illegal immigrants, is it willing to make such a public statement? Is it willing to be transparent about that hiring criteria, or, does it for some reason feel it has to keep this private?
  6. Does NPR believe having a host who is the child of an illegal immigrant will help it fulfill some editorial agenda? Is Martinez encouraged to infuse that perspective into his reporting? If so, why?

Given that NPR is funded by U.S. taxpayers it should be fully transparent about these questions.

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