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Telemundo Takes Fresh Approach to Immigration Coverage

3/27/2017 8:00 AM Eastern

After three-plus decades in TV news, anchor Jose Diaz-Balart of Noticiero Telemundo and NBC Nightly News Saturday has unearthed a pursuit that has reinvigorated his faith in journalism. Diaz-Balart is hosting a series of immigration-themed town hall meetings around the nation, hoping to better inform and educate the concerned Hispanic community on what President Trump’s policy means for them.

The town hall sessions are televised. They’ve elicited some serious moments, such as when an 11-year-old girl stood to speak alongside her two younger siblings. If her father is sent outside the United States, the tearful girl said, it is imperative that she finds work to support her family.

In another compelling moment, a woman wonders aloud the best way to tell her son she’s undocumented.

The most recent town hall was March 19 in Chicago, the third in the series, with the title Latinos Venciendo El Miedo (Latinos Overcoming Fear). Diaz-Balart said he plans to continue hosting them as long as they are educating their targeted audience. “We think it’s never been more important to have vital information in these times,” he said. “We are trying to inform people on how things really are.”

Town hall meetings are certainly not new to Diaz-Balart or Telemundo, or most any news organization. Diaz-Balart himself previously hosted an immigration- themed town hall in the President Obama era.

But the topic is way more top of mind in the Hispanic community these days, with Trump vowing to deport millions of undocumented immigrants. Diaz-Balart referred to the town halls as “listening sessions.” Each so far has been different in its approach, whether that means more of a panel presence from lawyers and immigration experts, or more participation from those in the audience. Despite all the attention on immigration, the anchor believes there’s a lack of solid answers out there for people.

“There’s not a lot of places to find important, serious, sensitive responses,” said Diaz-Balart, who stresses the importance of fighting fear and anxiety with reliable information.

Leticia Herrera, an executive producer of Telemundo Sunday-morning public-affairs show Enfoque con Jose Diaz-Balart and the town halls, said it’s vital to help inform people when they are surrounded by so much uncertainty. “We’re listening to our viewers and giving them reliable information that helps them cut through the clutter,” she said. “That empowers them to make a difference.”

The sessions appear to have energized Diaz-Balart considerably. “It’s the privilege of a lifetime. After 32 years in television, we’re now able to fulfill one of the pillars of what journalism is,” he said, namely, giving the public the facts to determine how new policies and laws affect their lives.

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