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The State Of Spanish-Language Media In U.S.


This week, Tribune Publishing announced it would be closing its Chicago-based Spanish-language weekly newspaper, Hoy. The paper was launched in 2003 to serve the city's Spanish-speaking and bilingual communities.

In Chicago, Latinos make up about a third of the population. But it's also part of a larger trend. Hoy is at least the fourth Spanish-language publication to close this year. Joining us now to talk about this is Graciela Mochkofsky. She's a professor and the director of the Spanish-language journalism program at the Newmark School at City University of New York.

Graciela Mochkofsky, thank you so much for joining us.

GRACIELA MOCHKOFSKY: Thank you for inviting me.

MARTIN: So, Professor Mochkofsky you study Spanish-language news outlets or journalism aimed at the Latino community. Is this form of journalism declining in the U.S.?

MOCHKOFSKY: It is because most of the outlets that serve Spanish-language communities are legacy publications and operations. And they are struggling with sustainability and new formats and with the digital transformation in general.

MARTIN: So, you know, as you just pointed out - that newspapers on the whole in the U.S. are under a lot of pressure. But, you know, in the United States, you know, the U.S. population is almost 20% Latino now. And it's growing, so you might say that this particular market is on the rise. So what are the factors here that are relevant? I mean, is - are these publications just subject to the same kind of market pressures on the whole? Or are there particular factors here that put these particular entities under pressure?

MOCHKOFSKY: Yes, so it's both. So they have the same struggles as the rest of the industry in terms of finding new business models and new platform models and new ways of catering to younger generations that are, you know, technologically more savvy and connected. And at the same time, you have a big demographic change within the Latino population that is also disrupting the media industry. So you have an increasing number of English-dominant and bilingual Latinxes (ph). And you have - most of the outlets serving Latinos are still Spanish-dominant and are very traditional in terms of platform and distribution models.

MARTIN: What function have these publications played in Latino communities that make them so important? I mean, I'll note that when the news of Hoy closing became public, there was a - sort of a big outpouring from a number of journalists saying that this is a real tragedy. So why would people say that?

MOCHKOFSKY: Yes. Well, because it's true. So you still have around 19% of Latinos in this country who are Spanish-dominant. And you still have a large number of immigrant population. And for those communities particularly, the Spanish-language outlets are still absolutely relevant and important.

And while we were doing the research, we kept hearing from newsrooms, editors and reporters in Spanish-language publications, that they are the first people immigrant Latinos call when something bad happens. They - there's a lack of trust in authority, so a lot of Latinos would call the local newspaper when they hear there's a rumor that there's an ICE raid or when there's some announcement from the government that can harm - that there's harm on the way.

So media is still serving the same vital role that has always served for these communities. But they have increasingly less and less resources from the companies that own them.

MARTIN: That's Graciela Mochkofsky. She's the director of the Spanish-language journalism program at the City University of New York.

Professor Mochkofsky, thank you so much for talking with us.

MOCHKOFSKY: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHICO BUARQUE SONG, "SAMBA DE ORLY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.