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Denver Television Station Spotlighted for Firing of Three Latina Reporters Within One Year

Sonia Gutierrez, Kristen Aguirre, and Lori Lizarraga worked as reporters at Denver TV station KUSA 9News. They are all Latina. They contend they challenged station leadership on reporting around the Latinx community, resulting in the end of their respective employment. KUSA is the most prominent news station in Denver.

Gutierrez claims the station management told her she had to share her immigration status on-air any time she reported on immigration. Gutierrez’s parents brought her to the United States as a baby without documentation; she was a Dreamer. When she declined because she did not believe it was relevant, management instructed her to pass the immigration stories onto other reporters. The other two women challenged the station’s editors to include more Black and Latinx colleagues and to change their coverage of issues involving Latinos. Lizarrage refused to refer to individuals as “illegal immigrants” or assert someone was in the country “illegally.” The station let all of the women’s contracts lapse without renewal. Aguirre lost her position just months after returning from a stroke. Tegna Inc., which owns KUSA, asserted through its diversity officer that “the nature of the coverage” was not a factor in letting the women’s contracts lapse. Tegna and KUSA would not comment to news sources on why the station let the women go. One employee told reporters that the station has hired five Latinx journalists since the start of 2021.

When news of the women’s separation became more widespread, a group of local Latinx elected officials met with the station to demand the dismissal of the top news executive. The National Association of Hispanic Journalists joined in that demand. NPR reported that the company did not promise to fire the director, but it did direct its stations not to use the word “illegal” in discussing immigration. One local official told NPR that the station initially hired the three women after a discussion between the station and local Latinx officials about issues of representation at KUSA. In April 2021, hedge fund Standard General LP accused Tegna of racist practices going back decades.