Feeding Diversity

It’s a conundrum that many have noticed. Though Latinos consume news in large numbers, they frustratingly possess few of the top tier roles in journalism. For those who bemoan this lack of a representation, BuzzFeed has emerged as a media windfall. Though for many readers, it’s synonymous with “listicles” and cat photos, the site has undergone a tremendous transformation, publishing first-person essays, withering exposés, and doubling down on its promise to deliver news for its Millennial audience. That has included thoughtful articles for and by Latinos.

Among the reasons for this are the pioneering efforts of Adrian Carrasquillo, 30, who joined the company in 2013 as a Breaking News Reporter. A native of New York, Carrasquillo graduated with a degree in online journalism from Stony Brook University. He was a founding member of NBC Latino, and prior to that he was at Fox News Latino. At Buzzfeed, he was recently named Editor of Latino Coverage, for both news and entertainment platforms.

For Carrasquillo, the opportunity to work with so many other talented Latinos is a major boon. “Imagine a brainstorm with a dozen Latino writers and journalists, it’s as fun as it sounds.” In true BuzzFeed form, what his team has produced has been quite diverse. It ranges from the funny, like Alex Alvarez’s “Emojis Every Latino Needs” to more serious investigative pieces like David Noriega’s “Construction Work is Getting More Deadly, but Only for Latinos.”

“Latino stories are American stories and they should be treated that way,” says Carrasquillo. That attitude is reflected even at the highest level of BuzzFeed. In October, the company began a new era of transparency by releasing the statistics about its employees. BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith published an e-mail for the staff about how diversity is “an urgent and unending project for anyone who’s ambitious about journalism and entertainment on the internet.”

Carrasquillo recognizes that drive for diversity even in his own field. According to him, Hispanic writers have been incorporated into every facet of editorial at the company. “This crucial understanding, that Latinos should be part of the mainstream, that they don’t always have to write about Hispanic things but can if they like, is the single most important thing about what we’re doing.”

Many companies would be smart to follow suit. According to Pew Hispanic, more than 56% of Latino adults consume news media on a typical weekday from the internet. AdWeek has gone so far as to proclaim Hispanics as the most digitally savvy group and a “marketer’s dream.”

BuzzFeed was founded in 2006 by Jonah Peretti, and was initially conceived as a site for viral content. Since then, the company has burgeoned into a major digital force and covers an array of issues including politics, technology and entertainment. The hiring of Smith, previously of Politico, ushered in a new era of serious journalism in 2012. After a series of high-profile funding rounds, BuzzFeed was valued at $850 million last August.

Under Carrasquillo’s watch, it’s poised to grow even more, and to recruit even more Latino journalistic talent. When asked if BuzzFeed is changing the way Latinos are portrayed in the news, Carrasquillo remains humble, and points out that the site is merely giving Hispanic Americans a “reflection” of what they would like to see. “Just by bringing authenticity to our stories, our shared cultural experiences, I think that is so important in a newsroom.”

As for his advice to any budding journalists looking to join that newsroom, it’s quite straightforward. He recommends engaging on social media, speaking from experience. After requesting a meeting with Ben Smith through Twitter, Carrasquillo received his own BuzzFeed job offer. And the rest, is of course, history.

Jessica Montoya Coggins