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La Prensa San Diego: A Different Take on Everyday Life

NCM Profile

NCM, Peter Micek Posted: Apr 27, 2004

His father, who was part of San Diegos strong Chicano movement in the mid-1970s, turned his political newsletter Tzezomoc Speaks into a newspaper. Looking back, editor Daniel H. Muoz says, We probably bit off more than we could chew.

Muoz's father, Daniel L. Muoz, started the countys first Latino media outlet, aiming to connect with every Spanish-speaker in the area as well as the English-speaking establishment. One of only a handful of Latino newspapers in the country, Muoz says, the paper put his family into financial straits.

We are still biting off more than we can chew, he says, even though the paper has a growing circulation of 40,000 and makes a little more money each year.

Before the mid-1980s, Muoz says, few American companies considered marketing to Hispanics. Occasionally Budweiser might buy an ad for Cinco de Mayo, he says, and utilities might throw you a bone or two. But when youre making waves, trying to make change and going after political power in a Republican town like San Diego -- theyre not going to try to destroy you but theyre not going to lift a hand to help you, either.

Meanwhile, there was not much advertising from Mexican businesses. Nobody advertised in newspapers in Mexico -- it wasnt in the culture, the mindset, Muoz says. Either that or they didnt have the money for it.

The paper affords him and his 6 full-time employees a better standard of living than it used to, but still is not an easy business, he says.

Computers were a boon, moving the paper away from the convoluted type-setting system it used after typewriters. The paper is usually 14 pages, full-size broadsheet, and has full four-coloring printing.

There are more Spanish-language papers in the county today, Muoz says, but they dont reach its entire Spanish-speaking population. And no one else claims the political coverage thats always been the core of the bilingual Prensa, he says.

The paper was 60 percent English and 40 percent Spanish from the start. Not only did we want to communicate with the Spanish community, but also the power structure at that time that was making decisions for us, Muoz says.

The founders, all journalists, Muoz says, werent in it for the money. We were looking for an outlet to express ourselves.

It has always been a free paper except for a period when a dime was charged. That brought in more cash from the newsstands -- the main delivery method the paper uses, though it has some subscribers -- but charging money kept the paper from reaching as many people as possible, Muoz says. The paper is now free.

One of the first newspapers on the Web, Muoz says, La Prensas site, www.laprensa-sandiego.org, went up in 1996. It has since been studied in doctoral theses and drawn visitors from all over the world. Many interested visitors have come by the office, he says, wanting to know how a minority newspaper survives and how it is different.

La Prensa looks at the same issues as everybody else, Muoz says, just from a different perspective. The recent film The Passion struck a chord with readers, he says, and reader feedback is what sustains the paper. Its essentially why were still around.

Not many Americans are interested in politics, Muoz laments. Only 35 percent of the U.S. population votes regularly, he says. La Prensa reaches out to all readers by including sections on sports and culture as well as political and social commentaries. He hopes readers interested in boxing, for example, also read the editorial page.

We include that type of information, Muoz says, referring to social quinceaneras or the latest soccer score, but readers also know theyre going to get some pertinent information that has an impact on their lives -- politics, kids, education, jobs. Thats where were different.

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