September 11, 1996
By Yolanda Reynolds
The Knight-Ridder Newspaper chain, one of the largest in the United States, recently introduced a small tabloid style Spanish language publication, titled “Nuevo Mundo,” in San Jose. When the publication was first announced, the impression was given that a long overdue Knight Ridder interest in news coverage of the Latino/Hispanic community of San Jose had arrived at the corporate headquarters.
The local Latino oriented and 98% Latino owned publications in San Jose were obviously wary when this new, deep pocket Miami based corporation, began a Spanish language weekly. The Knight-Ridder decision to publish an exclusively Spanish language publication did serve to emphasize the growing importance and influence of the Hispanic/Latino community – this, of course, had been long to those in the Latino print media.
Skeptics of the stated intentions of Knight-Ridder pointed out that Nuevo Mundo was simply a vehicle designed to capture the advertising dollar that has become increasingly directed to the very large, growing and increasingly affluent Hispanic/Latino consumer. Nationally, the purchasing power of the Hispanic Latino community is estimated to amount to over $180 billion. A recent issue of Hispanic Business pointed out that San Jose offered the best market for Hispanic businesses in the United States.
It was the lack of local news coverage and understanding of the Latino/Hispanic community that had inspired most of the publications directed to the Latino community. As recently as 1991, the Santa Clara County Human Relations Commission held a hearing described as “Portrayal of the Hispanic Community by the Mercury News,” at which the residents of the San Jose area could relate their experience with and perceptions of Mercury News’ portrayal of the Latino community in their newspaper.
This all-day hearing, that began in the morning of November 21, went on until late evening of that day. The testimony was revealing and shocking for the lack of quality of reporting and its history of the long-time denigration of the Latino people, their culture, traditions and concerns.
Seventy-one persons testified. Those who testified included such dignitaries as the late Cesar Chavez and Dr. Anthony Soto. There were lawyers, medical doctors, other health professionals, numerous teachers – from elementary grades to the University level, parents, students and many other respected and long-time residents of San Jose who testified.
For anyone who has been associated with the publishing business, it is overwhelmingly apparent that it is neither cheap nor easy to be successful. The only way to survive and proper is by attracting advertising income from both local and national sources and by a lot of long hours of hard work.
Knight-Ridder’s true interest in a Spanish language publication has become more apparent with the promulgation of the Nuevo Mundo Sponsorship Agreement which is demanded of those seeking Knight-Ridder sponsorship of a community event.
The intent of this agreement appears to be an attempt to expand their control of information to the Latino community as well as to seize all of the dollars available for advertising in the Hispanic/Latino community.
This agreement contains an onerous list of 17 requirements that must be met for sponsorship by Knight-Ridder-Nuevo Mundo. The agreement states, “Nuevo Mundo will act as sponsor of the Event and will provide the cash/or in-kind contribution described in the attached letter of agreement.” Of the 17 items in the agreement, several are quite disturbing for their publications.
Clause 4 states, “Nuevo Mundo will be given first right of refusal for print sponsorship of this event the next time it is held.”
Clause 4 reveals the intent to limit the forum by which information is distributed to the Latino/Hispanic community. Since it is primarily non proﬁt organizations that request sponsorships, the Knight Ridder requirement of exclusivity clearly demonstrates that they are not committed to the notion of freedom of information” – a cornerstone of a democratic society.
After first dividing the community with Clause 4, Nuevo Mundo – Knight Ridder expresses its intent to control the Hispanic/Latino community with the above Clause 13.
Fernando Zazueta, chairman of the Mexican Heritage Corporation (MHC). one of the largest local Hispanic/Latino non proﬁt organizations in San Jose stated “I am extremely reluctant for any media to have exclusive rights.” Zazueta goes on to explain, “any non proﬁt wants to reach the maximum number of people possible.” Zazueta adds, “They (Nuevo Mundo) may want to reevaluate this agreement.” He explained, “A for-profit activity is different from a nonprofit endeavor, we are trying to maximize the work we do within the community.”
Zazueta indicated that others have also wanted exclusive agreements and have been refused by MHC. He explained that they will only agree to “official” sponsorships, which allow more than one “official” sponsor. He explained that there is not publication that can guarantee 100% coverage of any community. In reference to Latino oriented publications, he added, “each of the publications, El Andar, La Oferta Review, El Alianza, El Observador, La Voz Latina and others all have their readers – so in order to assure coverage of an event, it is desirable to reach out to all of the publications in order to obtain widest exposure to an event you are sponsoring.”
Zazueta concluded. “It is not appropriate for a nonproﬁt to give exclusive rights to a “for profit” organization.
Perhaps no many readers are unaware that the once revered role of the media, “to inform and to present varying points of view on issues,’ has now become that of serving only their stockholders and the major advertisers, whose interest may be misinforming – as has now been revealed by the well documented history of the U.S. tobacco industry. It took determined and courageous reporting by alternative publications to ﬁnally break the chokehold that that industry held over consumers, not only in the United States but abroad.
El Alianza News publisher, George Villalobos says that he understood Jay Harris to say that Nuevo Mundo would enable him to be the publisher for the entire community. Repeating what many others have expressed, Villalobos says, At no time have they ever shown an interest in the Latino community – why weren’t they doing this (publishing for the Latino/Hispanic community) in the Mercury News (MN).” He adds, “The only reason they now care is because of the dollars in the Hispanic/Latino community.”
Upon hearing of the Nuevo Mundo/Knight Ridder ‘Sponsor Agreement,’ native born San Josean and community advocate, Kathy Chavez Napoli says, “They are trying to create a monopoly – they want to destroy the community’s ability to express itself itself.” She explains, “they are using their power and money to control and dictate the only real avenues for information of interest to reach the Hispanic community.”
Napoli adds, “For example I have attended board meetings of the Alum Rock School District. The MN has a writer, Maya Surayama, who neither speaks or understand Spanish, reports on those meetings from her own point of view. I have attended some of the very meetings that she has written about and her reports are very biased and prejudiced.” Napoli explains, “She has not perception of the character of the Hispanic community and even less understanding of the California educational system.”
It was interesting that upon a chance mention of the name of the Mercury News at last Saturday night’s Symphony Hall concert in San Jose, a long-time San Josean and Symphony patron spontaneously remarked to me, “Have you noticed the MN – they are hitting the bottom line too hard.” He added, “I am very concerned.”
He was referring to the new format that includes numerous articles that in the past only appeared in the sleazy, expose journals or confessionals in grocery store tabloids.
The local daily is owned by the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain, a Miami based corporation. San Jose immigration attorney Dale Warner, states, “This (Agreement) will only backfire on them. The Mercury News is no longer the ‘Lord of the Valley,’ it is fear that inspires this action.”
Industry reports indicate that MN readership has declined and is not keeping pace with the population growth of San Jose. Even so, reports indicate that the MN is one of the most profitable in advertising revenues among its member publications. It will fight hard to increase its bottom line, by any means possible, even if it means facing a nasty strike as Knight Ridder did from its reporters in Detroit.
Interestingly, the MN began hiring Hispanic and other minority staff only after repeated complaints from its readers. It is not too surprising that Knight-Ridder management fell immediately no using these very reporters as a means to gain complete control of the local media and to blatantly single out the local Latino media for exclusion.
For example, Clause 5 states, “If other media companies (broadcast media or non-Spanish language print media) are sponsoring the same event, Nuevo Mundo will trade recognition. They explain, “This means that Nuevo Mundo will recognize other media sponsors by including their names/or logos in Nuevo Mundo ads for the event, as long the recognition is reciprocated; i.e., as long as the other media sponsors include Nuevo Mundo’s name and/or logo in their promotions for the event.”
La Oferta was unable to make contact with Angelo Figueroa, editor or J.T. Harris, Director of Nuevo Mundo before going to press regarding this issue.
La Oferta is interested in your reaction to the business tactics of the Knight Reader/Nuevo Mundo management.
If you wish to contact La Oferta Review the telephone number is (408) 436-7850, you may speak to publisher Mary or Frank Andrade or stop by their office at 1376 North Fourth Street in San Jose. © La Oferta Newspaper.