Can publishers please Spanish and English speakers with one paper?

In their efforts to attract Hispanic readers, more and more general market publishers are inserting Spanish-language pages into their otherwise English-language papers. While these experiments may attract Latino readers, there is also the possibility of alienating a mostly white core audience.

Last January 23rd, Racine Wisconsin's The Journal Times suspended publication of Spanish pages printed four days a week in the paper. The pages were designed so that Spanish-language stories were mirrored by English translations or at least capsule English synopses.

The Spanish-language pages were suspended after The Journal Times, owned by Lee Enterprises, received “many complaints and some subscription cancellations from readers who objected to the new Spanish-language content in their daily paper,” The Journal Times editor Randolph D. Brandt wrote in an announcement to the readers. “The Spanish- language pages were confusing to some readers,” Bill Boyd, marketing manager at The Journal Times, told Portadatm>

Originally, the Spanish inserts – “El Mundo Latino” on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and “Su Comunidad,” on Saturday – were designed to better serve Hispanic readers and acknowledge a growing Hispanic market for news, information and advertising in Racine County, Brandt said. But complaints have led to a new way of reaching Racine County's approximately 18,000 Hispanics. According to Bill Boyd, marketing manager at The Journal Times, a stand-alone pull-out section will now be inserted into The Journal Times (circ. 30,000) and will also be distributed independently through newspaper racks and other outlets in the community.

How have larger metropolitan dailies fared with Spanish-language pages in mainstream English publications? The Houston Chronicle (Hearst) often puts Spanish-language content in the main newspaper (The Chronicle) as well as in three zoned editions of ThisWeek, the newspaper's weekly neighborhood news section (see “A four-pronged strategy to reach Latinos,” page 17, Portadatm No. 7, January/February 2004). Last month, The Chronicle put out a special Superbowl section including a page in Spanish for each of the nine days leading up to the Superbowl final.

A few complaints

Emily Cohen, spokesperson for The Houston Chronicle, acknowledges that there have been “a handful” of phone calls from subscribers complaining about the Spanish-language pages. “As The Chronicle began to introduce Spanish pages, we expected that there would be some readers who would feel it was inappropriate. However, we knew many in the community would appreciate it. Our position has been that Houston is growing and changing, and so is the Houston Chronicle,” said Cohen. She adds that “Houston has a large Hispanic population, and many of these individuals prefer to read in Spanish. The expanded coverage in Spanish in no way takes away from other news offered in English.”

What do advertisers think?

Do advertisers prefer Spanish-language pages included in a predominantly English newspaper or a clearly defined pull-out section geared towards Latinos?

Boyd from The Journal Times said that the Spanish pages within the Journal Times attracted a few ads, mostly from car dealers and real estate agents, but the new pull-out section is getting a lot more interest from advertisers.

The Houston Chronicle's Cohen says that there really haven't been any negative comments. “We've gotten positive feedback from advertisers interested in reaching out to the Hispanic community. A variety of advertisers have placed their ads in ThisWeek zones with Spanish coverage, as well as in La Voz, including the Houston Symphony for their Mariachi Vargas performance, Northwest Mall, and Trailer Wheel & Frame,” Cohen says, adding that while some advertisers prefer to run English ads in a predominantly English environment, others are more open to the bilingual or Spanish approach. La Voz is a free Spanish-language weekly, partly distributed as an insert in The Chronicle (circ. 87,000), partly a stand-alone publication. It is independently published, although The Chronicle helps with printing, distribution and ad sales.

A reflection of the community's diversity

To reflect and include all the communities in a newspaper's market can be seen as a public function of the newspaper industry which goes beyond calculations of profitability. An inclusive approach also means that newspapers employ a diverse workforce, including a newsroom with Hispanic journalists. The Journal Times' Hispanic supplement is run by Wally Rendon, while the Spanish section of ThisWeek, The Houston Chronicle's neighborhood paper, is overseen by Fernando Hernandez.


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