By Contributor on December 21, 2005

On Jan. 2, ABC will make history.

Elizabeth Vargas will join Bob Woodruff as co-anchor of ABC's "World News Tonight," thereby marking the first time a Latina will co-host the nightly news program of a major network. It is long overdue.

Born to a Puerto Rican father and Irish-American mother, Vargas had been co-anchoring ABC's "20/20" with John Stossel for the last several years and developed a reputation for covering controversy. She raised the ire of religious groups with a report on the theory raised by the book "The Da Vinci Code" that Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute but Jesus' wife.

At the height of the media frenzy about the disappearance of California housewife Laci Peterson, she brought up the stories of two women, one black and one Hispanic, who were missing at the same time and got no media attention and no search parties. When one of the experts on the show was asked why this was true, Vargas got him to say that "Laci Peterson was a beautiful, attractive, white, well-off girl who disappeared."

Vargas also won an Emmy for her reporting on the story of Elián González, the young boy who was forced to return to Cuba from Miami in 1999.

Vargas will be a welcome face -- and a source of pride -- for millions of Hispanic viewers, who increasingly prefer their news in English.

But the fact that Vargas will also be a Latina commenting on stories that involve Hispanics will be something of a rarity. Of the 131 stories about Latinos that aired in 2003, Latino reporters presented only nine stories, according to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. What's more, not a single Latino anchored the evening newscasts during the broadcast of any Latino-related story.

Perhaps the most important aspect of Vargas's ascension to the co-anchor chair is the way it signals the end of an era in network news coverage.

With increasing rumors that CBS is trying to sign NBC's Katie Couric to anchor its nightly newscast, it's becoming clear that the networks are finally breaking with the tradition of exclusively choosing older white males to be the lead voice of their broadcasts.

Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather have all left the air within the past year, and it appears the networks are taking this opportunity to significantly change the face of the evening news gatekeeper.

By naming Elizabeth Vargas to a permanent position as co-anchor, ABC is finally letting a Latina tell America what's new every evening.

Not only is Vargas's new status empowering for Latino viewers, her unique insight into a community that has more than 40 million members will create a clearer, more informed picture of America's largest minority group.

Ed Morales is a contributor to The New York Times and Newsday in New York, and author of "Living in Spanglish" (St. Martin's Press, 2002). He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

Section: 

Topics: 

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

More

Subscribe to The Progressive and Get A Free 2015 Calendar

Malala Yousafzai meets with the Obamas. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

When Yousafzai left the White House, she was whisked away to speak at the exclusive private school that the...

Mauldin cartoon from the Chicago Sun-Times depicts Fidel Castro musing to a portrait of Karl Marx, "I'll bet you never had to deal with Cubans."

From our 1963 archive, this piece explores the tension between the United States and Cuba after the Bay of Pigs...

Chris Christie excoriates a teacher in front of a crowd.

It’s become difficult for Christie to continue to blame his failures on teachers and their unions; and yet, like a...

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project

Newsletter