A Vigorous Defense: Latino Journalists Respond After New Owner of Boston Hispanic Paper Criticizes Hispanic Media

By Mary Thang, EthnicNEWz.org

Latino publishers in Massachusetts, including one that has served Spanish-reading communities for more than 30 years, are angry that the president of Phoenix Media/Communication Group called Hispanic newspapers in the area “not very good.”

Cover of El Mundo’s Jan. 7, 2009, edition (image: ElMundoBoston.com)

Brad Mindich, president of the media group that now owns Spanish-language El Planeta newspaper, told EthnicNEWz.org in an interview last month that “the other Hispanic newspapers published in the area, with due respect, they are not very good.”

In the same interview (by Edwardo A. de Oliveira, who is also a Feet in Two Worlds reporter) Mindich admitted he doesn’t speak Spanish. “I have no idea what they’re saying,” he said in partial response to a question on what caught his attention about El Planeta. El Planeta is the only non-English publication of its new owner, which also publishes the Boston Phoenix and Stuff@Night.
In response to Mindich’s remarks, Spanish-language El Mundo, which has covered Latinos in the Boston area since 1972, published a cover story on his suelta de lengua, or loose tongue, comments.

“For someone who cannot even speak or read Spanish to offer an opinion on editorial content on publications…serving the Latino community comes across as arrogant and condescending – which are the last qualities I want to see in someone controlling a media outlet in my community,” said El Mundo‘s vice president, Alberto Vasallo III, in an open letter that follows the cover story (see the full text of the letter below).

The story quotes Dalia Díaz of Lawrence-based Rumbo, whose articles and photos have been republished on EthnicNEWz.org; Victor Cuenca of Providence en Español in Rhode Island, who is a past interviewee of NEWz; Sergio Rivera of Worcester-based El Vocero Hispano; and Víctor Manuel González Lemus of Siglo 21 of New England.

The four publishers were all offended by Mindich’s remarks.

“We cover our communities in different ways and all with great sacrifice, with much love and not only for commercial purposes” (“Nosotros cubrimos a nuestras comunidades de diferentes formas y todos con mucho sacrificio, con mucho amor y no solamente por asuntos comerciales“), said Díaz, director of Rumbo.

Also defending the work of his and others’ newspapers, Rivera of El Vocero Hispano responded, “To say that the other newspapers lack quality…I don’t think that’s the correct avenue. No publication can serve the Latino community 100 percent” (“El mencionar que los otros periódicos no tienen calidad y de tratar de hacerse el único no creo que sea la avenida correcta, ya que ningún periódico puede servir a la comunidad latina cien por ciento“).

Vasallo, son of the founder of El Mundo, called Mindich’s remarks “insensitive.” They would have been inappropriate even if newspapers weren’t the target, he told NEWz. If, for example, someone opened up a community-based organization to serve Latinos, you wouldn’t criticize all the other Latino groups that have been serving the community for decades, he said.

The entire Spanish-language cover story and Alberto Vasallo III’s open letter are both available in the online PDF of El Mundo‘s Dec. 24, 2008, edition. The cover story, written by editor Maximo Torres, continues on page 10, followed by the letter on page 11.

ALBERTO VASALLO III’S OPEN LETTER, ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN SPANISH IN EL MUNDO DEC. 24, 2008:

Dear Friend:

I am enclosing the link to the recent piece written by Eduardo A. de Oliveira of EthnicNewz.org, which focuses on The Phoenix Media/Communications Group’s recent acquisition of the Spanish-language El Planeta Newspaper.

It has been our long standing policy, and my personal ethical decision, never to refer to any media outlet, competing or otherwise, in a negative way. If anything, as you very well know, particularly my peers in the Latino media, El Mundo and its management is known for its respectful and welcoming attitude toward all of our competitors and colleagues. I truly cherish our friendly and cordial relationships with all of these organizations.

However, as I read the remarks and responses by Mr. Brad Mindich, President of The Phoenix/Media Communications Group (PM/CG) with regards to El Mundo and the other Hispanic newspapers in the marketplace, I feel compelled to respond. Not only do I feel an obligation to the many talented and dedicated journalists, photographers, and professionals who work at El Mundo, but to the other local community Latino newspapers who were also described as “not very good.”

It was truly disheartening to read Mr. Mindich’s perspective on the Latino print marketplace. To emit such an inaccurate and unfair depiction about his competitors and to have such an insensitive approach to what all the “other” Latino newspapers have had to sacrifice, endure and struggle just to keep our community informed for over three decades is very disappointing.

It is precisely this profound lack of knowledge and apparent disconnect with our community that brings deep and serious concerns and raises legitimate questions about the future of El Planeta.

What is also apparent – from his very own words – is that for Mr. Mindich and PM/CG is that this acquisition of El Planeta is purely a business strategy. It is one that will be measured strictly in profits and losses. For the rest of us in this market – and I am confident that I can speak for the other publishers of Spanish language newspapers on this issue – it is much, much more than that.

For the record, the reason why El Mundo Newspaper has enjoyed a significant competitive advantage over El Planeta over the last 4 years is because of our consistent, accurate and diverse editorial coverage of the community that we proudly serve. It is something to which I am deeply committed, and from which I derive an enormous sense of pride. As those of you who know me personally can attest to, assuring that week in and week out El Mundo is a true and genuine reflection of what is going on in the Latino community has been and continues to be a labor of love.

For someone who cannot even speak or read Spanish to offer an opinion on editorial content on publications that have, through thick and thin, been chronically and serving the Latino community comes across as arrogant and condescending – which are the last qualities I want to see in someone controlling a media outlet in my community.

Yours truly,

Alberto Vasallo, III
Vice President – El Mundo Newspaper

 

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