By: Mark Fitzgerald
In the winter of 2002, El Diario La Prensa at age 90 looked like a has-been. Tribune Co.’s Hoy had zoomed past it as New York City’s Spanish-language circulation leader. Founding Publisher Louis Sito was lionized as the new Hispanic-media wiz kid.
Probably the lowest moment, Publisher and CEO Rossana Rosado recalls now, was a stinging New York Times article putting its imprimatur on the notion that El Diario was yesterday’s news. When Gerson Borrero, then editor in chief, declared that Hoy is “lying about their circulation, and they know it,” it just sounded like sour grapes.
But El Diario was right. The many industry players bedazzled by Hoy ? E&P among them ? were stunned in 2004 by revelations that Hoy had fraudulently doubled its New York circ numbers. (In an ironic twist, the Times story that buried El Diario was written by another infamous newspaper fraud, Jayson Blair.) Last year, Sito pled guilty to federal fraud charges.
Now Tribune has given up and sold the New York edition of Hoy to ImpreMedia ? El Diario’s acquisitive parent.
In hindsight, it’s easy to see why El Diario triumphed. Its deep roots in New York’s richly diverse Hispanic community show in aggressive local coverage that goes well beyond the editorial formula of immigration and sob stories favored by many new Spanish-language papers. El Diario exposes landlord abuse in Westchester and sends a reporter south to show how a neighborhood in Queens is emptying out a village in Mexico of its adult men. It devotes pages to parade organizing and amateur soccer leagues.
El Diario also reflects loudmouth New York City with a an opinion page so outspoken ? and often left-wing ? that Rosado confesses, “Some days I read it, and say, ‘Whoa!’ But we’re in an environment in this country where somebody has to say something.”
In a city with at least 17 parades devoted to a Latin-American land, El Diario a few years ago decided not just to send floats to them, but to hold beauty contests to crown a “Miss El Diario” representing communities from Puerto Rico to Ecuador. Those contests have since been replaced by other cultural promotions, but under ImpreMedia ownership since 2004, El Diario at last is something of a beauty queen itself, with a lively redesign, bold color, and a robust Web site.
“You have to be strong to hang on,” Rosado says, “and there’s nothing like buying the competition to show that.”