By: Joel Davis

Knight Ridder Aggressively Promotes Spanish, Vietnamese Titles

from this week’s Editor & Publisher magazine. To subscribe, click here.

by Joel Davis

The San Francisco newspapers aren’t the only publications hearing
the footsteps of the San Jose Mercury News. In rollouts that have
been both applauded and condemned, the Mercury News is aggressively distributing and promoting two free ethnic papers in Silicon Valley,
which, in addition to welcoming computer millionaires, is also home
to significant Hispanic and Vietnamese populations.

The Mercury News launched Nuevo Mundo, a Spanish-language weekly, in
1996, and its Viet Mercury, a free Vietnamese-language paper, made
its debut in early 1999. The newspapers, produced in miniature
newsrooms at the Mercury News’ building in San Jose, are expected
to turn a profit this year. While the two publications are picking
up readers and advertisers attracted to package buys with the flagship
paper, they are hurting competing mom-and-pop ethnic publications
that lack the resources and staff of Mercury News parent Knight

‘They’re killing us,” says Tam Nguyen, managing editor of the
semiweekly Saigon USA. ‘They are probably going to put us out of

While the Spanish-language weekly El Observador, a family-owned
paper that has been publishing since 1981, is not in danger of
expiring, it is, in the words of Advertising Director Monica Amador,
‘fighting like crazy” to stay profitable. ‘We’re not happy about
it,” she says of Nuevo Mundo’s penetration of the market.
‘Competition is always welcome, but it’s a little unfair when you
come into the market with unlimited resources.”

Saigon USA’s Nguyen claims the Mercury News has been ruthless in
trying to dominate the ethnic market, unlike the Los Angeles Times,
which he says has worked to cooperate with Vietnamese and other
ethnic papers. But not all the reaction has been negative. Thuan
Nguyen, president of the San Jose Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce,
told The New York Times that Viet Mercury has ‘forced the
Vietnamese-owned newspapers to find ways to improve their product.”
Viet Mercury Editor De Tran tells E&P the paper is flourishing
because it reports objectively where the other media are fiercely

And Harris is decidedly unapologetic. In fact, he considers Viet
Mercury and Nuevo Mundo among the biggest triumphs at the paper
during his tenure as publisher. ‘Our commitment is to serve the
whole of this community,” Harris reasons. ‘It’s not simply to
serve that part of this community that speaks English as its
primary language. As demographics in this community have changed,
we have changed with it. There’s a business reason to it as well:
These new readers represent not only the future to our paper, but
[the future] for our advertisers as well.”


Joel Davis ( is West Coast editor for

(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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