MEDIA BRANDS: Spanish-language newspaper's new look, approach shows its connection to readers

The last time El Diario/La Prensa made big news was last fall, when the Spanish-language daily newspaper's editor-in-chief resigned amid a furor caused by the spiking of a column penned by Fidel Castro. Some in New York City's Latino community, the audience served by the 287,000-circulation newspaper, interpreted this as a sell-out imposed by new corporate owners. Regardless of the accuracy of these claims, the incident showed in a refreshing way just how much its readers care about this 90-year-old publishing icon.

The last time El Diario/La Prensa made big news was last fall, when the Spanish-language daily newspaper's editor-in-chief resigned amid a furor caused by the spiking of a column penned by Fidel Castro. Some in New York City's Latino community, the audience served by the 287,000-circulation newspaper, interpreted this as a sell-out imposed by new corporate owners. Regardless of the accuracy of these claims, the incident showed in a refreshing way just how much its readers care about this 90-year-old publishing icon.

Last week, El Diario/La Prensa made news again with the launch of a new look and approach to business and entertainment coverage that has a lot to say about the newspaper and its readership. In addition to tightening up the layout so that the news is packaged for quicker consumption, the editorial team is ramping up its business coverage, going from a weekly section to a daily one. The page focuses on three areas: small businesses run by Latinos, news about Latinos in the broader corporate world, and financial news.

In many ways, these changes seem very similar to ones most papers have undergone in recent decades, as editorial sensibilities at even the most sober broadsheets have broadened to include so-called "soft" cultural news. At the same time, business journalism has taken on an increasingly important role, with more and more Americans having access to the stock markets.

What sets the changes at El Diario/La Prensa apart is the newspaper's backstory, a well documented history of its role in the wave of Hispanic immigration to New York and its penchant for doing tough, investigative journalism. The paper covers not just the barrios but also Puerto Rico, Colombia, and other places of origin for many of its readers.

In a recent conversation, the paper's publisher, Rossana Rosado, talked about how these commitments remain, even as the paper tries to keep up with the evolving interests of its existing readers while trying to attract younger ones - that Holy Grail for newspapers. She openly ties the changes to the new owners, CPK NYC, a private investment group, describing the changes as "a new look for a new era." But she adds that no coverage is being eliminated. Last year, the paper added writers in Mexico City and Colombia to those in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. It is attempting to balance tradition and future, and it's seeking to mirror the changing reality of its readers.

"We still have the essential community section, where people look to find out where to go for social services, but we're mixing in the business coverage," she says. "We're responding to demographics that have changed in terms of the mix, vis-a-vis Mexican, Puerto Rican, Dominican, but they've also changed in terms of the economic level of the readership. People are coming here with different levels of preparation, and we've responded to it."

-matthew.creamer@prweek.com

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