In a Mostly White Press Corps, Adrian Carrasquillo Will Bring a Latino Voice to the White House

Though stories on the Latino vote abounded this election season, the number of Latino reporters covering the campaigns paled in comparison. Among these journalists, there was no one writing on politics through a Latino lens more assiduously than Buzzfeed News reporter Adrian Carrasquillo. From explorations of the Latino Donald Trump voter to a chronicle on the rise of Republican pundit Ana Navarro to campaign staffing scoops and more, the New York-born reporter often covered topics other outlets overlooked – making him an important and necessary voice in the election cycle. And now that the campaign season’s over, Carrasquillo’s gearing up for what may become his most important role yet: covering the Trump administration.

As of January, Carrasquillo – who’s worked as a political reporter and editor of Latino coverage at BuzzFeed News – will serve as the online publication’s White House Correspondent. Now, more than ever, we need journalists like Carrasquillo. In his first 100 days in office, president-elect Trump has vowed to remove more than two million “criminal” undocumented immigrants – an area in which Carrasquillo has developed expertise after years reporting deeply in the Latino community.

“I’m always going to bring my knowledge to my work and obviously, if immigration is taking a front seat in the first 100 days, then that’s something that I’m very knowledgable about,” he told me in a phone conversation. At the same time, the half Puerto Rican, half Ecuadorian journalist knows that we’re about to embark into some unchartered territory.

Adrian Carrasquillo
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“Trump has said a lot about immigration,” he added. “He has a lot of policies that he wants to put into play that involve deportation, that involve a wall. Obviously, governing is much harder than campaigning, so it’ll be interesting to see what campaign promises he looks to keep and what he does differently, and if he’s constrained at all as president.”

During his presidential run, Trump maligned Latinos, women, blacks, and Muslims. In that time, some have accused the media – which gave Trump at least $3 billion in free air time and didn’t take him seriously as a candidate until it was too late – of bolstering his political career. Whether or not that’s ultimately true, it’s no exaggeration that there weren’t enough Latino journalists covering this year’s election. After all, the media is still mostly white. A survey from American Society of News Editors and the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Florida International University found that in 2014, people of color only filled 12.76 percent of the 32,900 positions in newspaper newsrooms. This doesn’t accurately represent the United States – where minority groups account for about 40 percent of the population. This lack of Latino journalists will likely translate into very few people of color serving as correspondents in 2017. In 2013, just 7 of the 53 were black or Asian American, according to the Washington Post, and figures on other minorities weren’t even available.

And while all correspondents will likely cover issues that directly affect the Latino population, the ethnic and racial makeup of the White House press corps can have the power to subtly shape the president’s agenda. As Journal-isms’ Richard Prince notes, “having more people of color in the room means more opportunities for the president to be asked about topics of particular concern to those constituents.” And, as Adrian’s Carrasquillo told me, topics important to the Latino community resonate with him. Before working at BuzzFeed, he helped launch Fox News Latino in 2010 and NBC Latino in 2011. In 2013, he moved on to BuzzFeed, further cementing his spot as one of the most prominent young Latino journalists. When Wikileaks released emails tied to the Hillary Clinton campaign, Carrasquillo’s name ended up among the documents.

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“There were two times that I was mentioned in the Wikileaks, and the first one was a DNC operative, a Democratic operative complaining that I don’t cover enough of what they want me to cover,” he said. “And I also, in a subsequent Wikileaks, it was an immigration activist, a white progressive immigration activist, was saying that he’s not necessarily a fan of mine but that I had written a good story about how white progressives weren’t funding Latino groups and Latino groups were frustrated.”

Carrasquillo credits BuzzFeed and its commitment to hiring Latino journalists for the praise that’s come his way, and his co-workers – Adolfo Flores and Leticia Miranda, in particular – for producing such strong content. “Adolfo was there when Sheriff Joe Arpaio lost, and that was a historic race,” he added. “The Latino community really came out to vote against him and to take him out. We had Adolfo on the ground who was there talking to activists. I think that when people talk about diversity some of the pushback is why does it matter or how does it help. Well, it certainly helped our coverage to have him down there being able to talk to young activists that looked like him, [and] being able to speak Spanish. So I think that just shows you the importance of diversity across the board.”

Thus far, Trump has had an adversarial relationship with the media –even hinting that he’d like to curb its First Amendment rights – and it remains to be seen how this may evolve over the next four years.

Since his election, Trump has traveled without the journalists assigned to cover him. He continues to sidestep traditions, like the post-election press conference he should have already held. Waiting nine days – as Bill Clinton did in 1992 – is already on the long side, but Trump has already put it off three times as long. CNN reports that he’ll finally address the media on December 15. Though Trump has spoken to 60 Minutes and the New York Times, he has kept the press and general public largely out of the loop. This has raised questions about his administration’s transparency.

Though Carrasquillo doesn’t know how this will play out, he acknowledges that journalists have felt frustrated with the lack of access granted by Trump’s administration. But he’s hoping this is a rough patch that’ll eventually work itself out.

“I think our job is to be there and to follow the president, to cover the president,” he said. Whatever challenges he may face, Carrasquillo has a strong foundation and vision. “When you report, you speak to enough people and learn stuff, and you’re able to kind of authoritatively speak on stuff,” he added. “Particularly now with Trump coming in, I think it’s useful for people to challenge what they’re hearing, not just from the administration, but from outside and from Democrats. And to challenge maybe beliefs that you have, or that is sort of the conventional wisdom.”