September 12, 1990
By Yolanda Reynolds
The San Jose Mercury News, the only daily newspaper in Santa Clara County and one of the largest in the Bay Area hires few Latino writers.
The news last week of Nora Villagran’s reassignment (to a position normally held by junior writers or on occasion clerical staff) has created many questions and has drawn increased attention to the personnel policies at that newspaper. Ms. Villagran is a six year veteran writer in the Arts and Entertainment section of the Mercury News.
Villagrans supervisor Robin Droussard, declined to answer questions regarding Villagran’s reassignment but did say that she “hoped that Villagran would continue to have articles and feature stories in the Mercury.” Droussard who just this month was hired at the Mercury declined to reveal any of her own personal information regarding her alma mater and her last place of employment or experience stating that all of that information was of public record recently having appeared in a Mercury News article.”
According to an article in another local weekly it was reported that Ann Hurst (who manages the arts and features and business sections for the Mercury News) has had conflicts with “Villagran over a complex of issues. Villagran’s low productivity level… and Villagran has often written about social and minority themes in the arts – which may not jibe with Hurt’s… vision of art.”
Villagran just recently returned to work after undergoing major surgery and recovering from medical complications that kept her away from work for six weeks.
Devoted readers of Viliagran articles have solicited support for her by requesting that letters or calls be directed to Ann Hurst. Features Editor or Mr. Jinks, Publisher of the Mercury.
Currently the Mercury News hires 294 professional staff. Of that number there are eight Hispanic males and seven females or 5.1 percent of the total Mercury News’ professional staff. Altogether minorities make up only 12.2percent of the 294 professional staff. In 1980 at the Mercury there were 10 Hispanics employed by the Mercury as professional writers.
According to John Eppheimer, Assistant Managing Editor: Staff Development, the Mercury News has in place several programs directed towards encouraging minority youth to consider careers in newswriting.
Each year Knight-Ridder awards scholarships to graduating High School minority youth. The newspaper sends recruiters to the Minority Journalism Convention. The newspaper also has a summer minority graduate internship program. This summer they hired two (both Asian) from this summer’s internship program.
At this time, there are no Hispanics in management nor in supervisory positions. On the Mercury News editorial staff of eight, there are three minorities: two are Asian-American and one is African American.
Several Latino reporters have left the newspaper recently- Delia Rios and Marcos Breton. Both of these writers grew up in San Jose and were educated in local schools. Breton was a graduate of San Jose High and San Jose State. Rios is now writing for a newspaper in Texas and Breton is in Sacramento writing for the Sacramento Bee.
The San Jose Mercury is part of one of the largest newspaper chains in the United States and is based in Miami, Florida.
If you wish more information on this matter contact Lany Jinks, Publisher or Jerry Ceppos. Managing Editor at the Mercury News, telephone number 920-5000.