As the United States is becoming increasingly bilingual, Hispanic media risk losing their audience to mainstream English-language media. El Nuevo Herald and Univision recognize the importance of unique stories that relate directly to the lives of Latino populations.
The United States is home to the largest population of Latino people outside of Latin America. Beginning in the 1990s, the growth of the Latino population is the main contributing factor for demographic growth in the United States, which now has a diverse set of Spanish-language media outlets. The World Press Institute fellows visited two of them in Miami.
El Nuevo Herald is the second-largest Spanish-language daily in the United States. It focuses on South Florida, but its readership stretches to the Caribbean and Latin America. Founded as a four-page supplement to The Miami Herald in 1977, El Nuevo Herald soon gained popularity and has been a full-scale daily since the mid-1980s.
“El Nuevo Herald has its own reporters, but much fewer than The Miami Herald,” says Jay Ducassi, International Affairs Editor at both papers. “That’s why we are dependent on collaboration. Many of our reporters first write their story in English and then translate it into Spanish for El Nuevo Herald. That simply saves resources and also helps translate the nuances correctly.”
But having similar stories in English and Spanish is not enough to stay relevant to Spanish-speakers who are exposed to a lot of English media. Increasingly, El Nuevo Herald aims at being a space of self-representation that provides news that better represents the needs and concerns of Latinos and Hispanics in the United States.
“We are shifting our focus to immigration issues,” says Nora Gámez Torres, Cuba reporter for both papers. ”For example, how to get your documents, what newly arrived people need to think about, how to navigate the legal system and how to buy a home. We need to have that unique and tailor-made content in Spanish.”.
The television network Univision is one of the key providers of Spanish-language news in the United States. Spanish is becoming less commonly used among second- and third-generation Latinos and Hispanics born in the United States. So, Univision also tries to provide an alternative to the mainstream media narrative.
“We want to give Latinos a voice and tell stories that they wouldn’t get via English-language news,” says Jorge Ramos, news host at Univision. “For example, we recently ran a popular story about a person who works as a driver on the train that runs between the House of Representatives and the Senate. The driver happens to be Latino, which was the reason we wanted to do the story. It provided fascinating insights behind the scenes on Capitol Hill and was at the same time highly relevant for our audience.”
The diversity of Latinos presents a challenge for media organizations, as their cultures and vocabulary can differ significantly from region to region. Univision has a policy of being as neutral as possible when it comes to Spanish dialects and slang.
“Our editors put an extra effort into checking that our stories are understandable for most of our viewers,” says Romina Leon, assignment editor at Univision. “To give a mundane example: instead of ‘plátano’ in Peruvian Spanish or ‘guineo’ in Ecuadorian Spanish we simply call it ‘banana,’ which is a word that all Spanish-speakers in the United States can understand. Changing a single word can help us reach our audience better.”
Image on top of article: Romina Leon, assignment editor, and Jorge Ramos, news host, talking to the World Press Institute fellows in Univision’s newsroom. (Photo: Alexander Uggla)