By: Michael Reynolds - Broadcasting & Cable / Multichannel News
At the center of the discussion about social responsibility on TV, storytelling and reaching young Hispanic audiences was Los Jets, the NUVOtv docuseries based on Paul Cuadros’ book, A Home on the Field. The author and NUVOtv executive producer Lynda Lopez were led in conversation here Thursday by Multichannel News editor in chief Mark Robichaux.
The audience learned how Cuadros, a journalist investigating safety issues among immigrants who were working in food processing plants in North Carolina, came to establish and coach a high school soccer team of young Latinos. Those young men and their families had to overcome the resentment and resistance of the high school administration and the City Council in Siler City, N.C., as well as prejudice that manifested in an appearance by former Ku Klux Klansman leader David Duke at anti-immigration rally. Three years later, the 2004 team won the state championship.
Cuadros and Lopez said Los Jets is an accurate representation of the life many Latinos face as Hispanic population continues to grow and moves beyond traditional strongholds as New York, Los Angeles and the southwest into rural and other parts of America.
“This is about the transforming nature of these communities and our country—the early stages of what we will see over the next twenty to fifty years,” said Cuadros.
“There are always the growth stats—that there will be this many [Latinos] by then. This is what these communities are truly becoming,” said Lopez. “You see the protest stories on TV [news] about immigration changes coming to towns. But we feel those are broad, surface-level conversations. [Los Jets] puts young, real faces to the story.”
Rather than chronicling that championship team and season, though, the docuseries focused on the 2013 squad. “The boys from the book in 2004 are now all fathers. If we did that, it would have been more documentarian. This is generation 1.5, it’s what’s happening now, a look at the [more] current team."
Lopez said that NUVOtv had initially considered the project as a telefilm or a scripted series, but those forms wouldn’t have done the story justice.
“Young Latinos care about the issues and they want authenticity. Los Jets shows what their raw, real-life experiences are like. This is what the young audience wants,” she said, adding that TV needs to make an industry-wide commitment to social responsibility. “TV is better at bringing these issues to the forefront; it’s more impactful on TV than anywhere.”
Cuadros said it’s important that issues touched on in Los Jets surface on NUVOtv and elsewhere: “It’s a way to see Latino youth as they really are. The dramatic situations at home, and how they react with their significant others. All of the major characters are first-time college-goers. The stories [in Los Jets] are want they want to see reflected back. ‘Latinnials will set the culture standing of the next thirty to forty years."
To that end, Lopez said she and NUVOtv are working on more stories of these kinds: Los Jets was the first title under the network’s Nu America franchise.
“We want to tell deeper, richer stories around socially responsible issues, including immigration,” she explained. “We want to tell stories about how boys on a high school team and how they became champs, and then have sons who become champions. That’s an American story.”