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El Mensajero - Local Latino Paper Retains Character

New America Media, NAM Profile, Morgan Simpson Posted: Aug 03, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO -- El Mensajero is more than just a newspaper to its readership. Often, the papers staff is called upon to provide advice, in addition to news and analysis. Most recently, Mexican citizens living in the Bay Area called El Mensajeros offices to get information about how they could cast their votes in the July 2 Mexican presidential elections.

The Spanish language El Mensajero (the Messenger), has come a long way since its founding in 1987. The papers recent acquisition by the national Spanish-language publishing group Impremedia also promises that it will grow even more in the future.

El Mensajero was founded by two brothers who wanted to provide news and information in Spanish to the San Francisco Latino community. Since they already owned part of El Diario in New York and Extra in Chicago, they aimed to begin a chain of Spanish language newspapers across the country. They were not very successful, however, and by the early 90s, El Mensajero was in bankruptcy. At that point, the newspaper was bought out, and it grew little by little over the course of a decade.

Publisher Brad Westerhold

In 2003, with a circulation of 60,000, El Mensajero was purchased by the Westerhold family. Brad Westerhold and his wife, Alides Arroyo, moved from Florida to San Francisco to run the paper. They renovated the paper and made it what it is today. Upon their arrival, they became very involved in the Bay Area Hispanic community. They met with non-profit organizations to collaborate with them. They offered their paper as a forum for the nonprofits to get their message out to the community.

As a result of Alides and Brads effort, El Mensajero experienced increased readership and revenues. Today, it has a total circulation of 112,139; almost 94,000 of those papers are delivered directly to peoples doorsteps. Furthermore, it is now considered the leading Spanish language newspaper in the Bay Area, which is the seventh largest Latino market in the United States.

El Mensajero prints three editions of its weekly paper, one each for the East Bay, the South Bay, and San Francisco and the Peninsula. The newspaper plays a huge role in its community. They profile organizations and provide ad space for nonprofits so that, Westerhold explains, people know what is out there to help them.

The talented staff of El Mensajero is committed to reporting on issues relevant to its readers, the majority of whom are Mexican. We were pleased to be able to send one of our reporters to Mexico City to report directly on the presidential elections, Westerhold said. And the staffs commitment has been recognized. They recently received the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation media award for Outstanding Spanish Language Newspaper Article. In addition, Voluntarios de la Comunidad gave El Mensajero an award for its coverage of the May 1st protests of the anti-immigration bills under consideration in Congress.

In December of 2005, Impremedia bought El Mensajero. With this acquisition, Impremedia now owns seven leading Spanish language newspapers from four different states. By joining Impremedia, Westerhold explains, We werent sacrificing our ideals. They have the same vision as we do. He explains that there really have not been many changes since Impremedia bought El Mensajero. It retains the same small but dedicated staff of 11 people and the same devotion to the community.

Impremedia, though, permits El Mensajero to collaborate with other leading Spanish language newspapers from across the country. Recently, an El Mensajero article on the May 1st protests was printed in La Opinin, the Los Angeles paper that is currently regarded as the leading daily Spanish language newspaper in the nation.

Westerhold says that the paper aims to be the best weekly Spanish language newspaper in the country. In his explanation, he demonstrates the commitment of El Mensajero to its readers, saying: Were number one in the eyes of our community right now, and were only as good as the community we serve. What we can give is what we get back.

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