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California’s Struggling Spanish-Language Weeklies

Huffington Post’s Eduardo Stanley just published a lengthy piece on the near extinction of California’s once numerous Spanish-language weeklies.

Here’s his set-up:

In the mid-1990s, Spanish-language weeklies created by English-language dailies began to emerge in nearly every city in California’s Central Valley.

Commercial interest was the driving force behind the decision. To sell advertising revenue, why not charge a bit extra for a “combo” newspaper package in both English and Spanish? Considering the burgeoning Latino population, at first glance, the idea was not far fetched. Thus emerged El Californiano, published by the Californian, of Bakersfield; Noticiero Semanal, published by the Porterville Recorder, of Porterville; Las Noticias del Valle, published by the Hanford Sentinel, of Hanford; El Tiempo, published by the Merced County Times, of Merced, although the newspaper later became an independent; Vida en el Valle, published by the Fresno Bee of Fresno; El Sol 2000, published by the Modesto Bee, of Modesto; and El Sol of Visalia, among others.

Of these Spanish-language, or bilingual newspapers that depended on English-language dailies, the only survivors are the Noticiero Semanal, which went from a 26,000-circulation paper to 8,000 and is limited to eastern Tulare County, and Vida en el Valle, which began printing 170,000 copies weekly after integrating with El Sol 2000 of Modesto….

But not considered here are the independent family newspapers, a species also on the brink of extinction, as demonstrated by the 2008 demise of San Joaquin Valley’s oldest weekly, El Mexicalo — published out of Bakersfield — after almost a quarter-century in existence.

How is it possible, poor economy or no, that all these newspapers could close shop with such a large audience? Stanley’s argument goes far beyond simple economics and is well worth the read in full.

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