This post is part of the Social Media Editor Series, featuring interviews with social media editors from news organizations about what they do and where they see social media in journalism going.
Though countries vary in their approach to social media, its importance is not lost in translation.
Early next year, Univision and ABC will launch the first 24-hour English-language Latino news channel. Currently it exists as a Tumblr called Univision News, slated to become its own website at the end of the summer.
The channel will accommodate a continually growing population of Latinos who prefer English as well as non-Latinos, for whom the goings-on in Latin and South America are of increasing consequence.
Preti said that while many users may consider social media a time-waster, even poorly connected countries have their power tweeters who are making social media an integral part of the news cycle, regardless of language. That extends to those who have immigrated to the US.
“I’ve worked online for the past 10 years and I feel the gap is finally closing regarding social media for Latin America compared to the US,” said Preti, who previously worked as a social media manager in advertising. ”Here [in the US] it is very common to tweet at a brand with a complaint. It is even more common to break news on social platforms. The same attitude and behavior towards social media are happening in Spanish-speaking countries.”
At the last Census, over 50 million people of Hispanic or Latino origin lived in the US, up 43 percent from 2000. Among those 50 million, more watch English-language (45 percent) television than Spanish-language (28 percent), according to a 2011 Pew Hispanic Center survey.
“There’s a niche,” the 29-year-old said. ”The children of immigrants that came here years ago that grew up here — they speak English, they feel American, they are American, but have ties to Latino countries.”
Preti herself represents a niche. Born in Argentina and raised between Colombia and Brazil before coming to the US to attend Columbia Journalism School, she speaks fluent Spanish, English and Portuguese.
“I consume news in English, and I don’t feel I get enough of what I need,” Preti said, referring to paltry coverage of big issues such as Argentina’s riots and Brazil’s booming economy. “The only time I heard about Chile was when the miners were stuck there.”
Additionally, she said the channel will provide a Latino angle on non-Latino news.
Preti emphasized that the channel has news that affects everyone, regardless of their Latino connection. “We’re trying to inform people about all these other issues that are coming up on a world scale,” she said.
Univision News’ eye on the Latino-American social media sphere has led it to uncover stories that the mainstream media missed, such as when a Playboy bunny participated in the Mexican presidential debates or when a disabled Venezuelan man ran the New York Marathon with little coverage besides a loyal Twitter following.
Preti uses her advertising contacts as well as her personal, multilingual following to mine for tips, information as well as user-generated content.
“You can’t always run out to Mexico,” said Preti, who recently used her social media savvy to help with coverage of the Mexican presidential election, ”so it’s a great tool for that.”