La Voz Best of the Bunch

Rocky Mountain News/Denver Post, Feb. 21, 2009

Since you read the editorial pages, you probably think it's important that newspapers help the public be well-informed. But what about our fellow Coloradans who are Spanish-speaking? The Denver area has many weekly newspapers in Spanish, with large readerships. Are these papers doing a good job informing the public?

One paper that doesn't try too hard is Viva Colorado!, published by The Denver Post.

Although Viva bears the Post name on the front page, the fine print on Page 2 shows that it comes from Fronteras, a company in Guadalajara, Mexico. Fronteras produces a weekly newspaper which its American affiliates can rebrand.

The U.S., international and Mexican news are one page each, with pictures taking up more space than the very short articles. But in the Feb. 12 issue, readers got three pages on Valentine's Day, one page on a Mexican actress and another full page on a Mexican sports car. Much more fluff than real news.

Fronteras translates four pages of local affiliate content into Spanish. So the Viva local section, composed of articles from Post writers, was better than the rest of the paper. The Feb. 12 local section included articles about the screening of a new film criticizing detention centers for illegal aliens, RTD donating advertising space to poems by young local Hispanics, and the Colorado Department of Transportation's new Spanish ad campaign to encourage seat-belt use.

In an apparent printing error, at least some copies of the Feb. 19 Viva reprinted the Feb. 12 local content verbatim.

For national and international news, the better choices are El Comercio de Colorado and El Hispano. El Hispano has about the same mix of national and international news, sports and entertainment that would be found in the Rocky Mountain News or Post. It has more hard news, and fewer huge pictures, than Viva.

Unfortunately, El Hispano has only one page for local news. The latest issue did include an interesting story from Weld County, about a 2000 federal law which promised visas for illegal aliens who provide evidence to convict the criminals who attacked them. But only one-half of 1 percent of the crime victims who have come forward have received the promised visas.

Toward the back of the paper, a pair of local women write on topics such as dieting and raising children.

At 28 pages, El Comercio was almost twice a long as the 16-page El Hispano. It too had a good mix of national and international news, entertainment and sports. Unlike El Hispano, it identified the sources for its articles, most which came from EFE Agencia, a major Spanish news agency, similar to Reuters.

El Comercio, too, had one full page of local news - although spread over two pages, because of advertising. There was also a page of commentary, with two opinion pieces by the news director, a column by the publisher, and an inspirational piece by a local pastor.

Meanwhile, Millennium Press, at 24 pages, had a respectable selection of national and international news, but no Colorado stories.

El Reportero Nacional describes its region as Colorado, New Mexico and Ciudad Juarez (a large city across the border from El Paso, Texas). It had a good selection of articles on Mexico, but only one Colorado news story, and none on New Mexico.

Founded in 1974, La Voz is the senior Spanish paper in the Denver area. It's bilingual, most stories in parallel English and Spanish versions.

Last week, it was the only Hispanic paper to cover local sports, detailing Denver Broncos personnel changes.

For news of the local Hispanic community, La Voz dwarfs the others.

This week's issue covered a protest from some parents about the removal of a school principal in Commerce City, a local hip-hop artist, an upcoming performance by a percussionist, Obama signing the "stimulus" bill, a student of the week, and the director of the Clinica Tepeyac health center in Denver.

The parallel articles are a great tool for readers to improve their language skills, since a person can read the story in the language he is learning, but glance at the text in his native language when he encounters a word or phrase he doesn't recognize.

El Semanario publishes several bilingual articles, but also has a large amount of English-only content in print. Its political tone is angry left. Some recent articles were Sen. Chris Romer's bill to give in-state college tuition to illegal aliens, tax-filing advice, and a cover story on the particular problems of immigration by Indians from Latin America.

For local hard news, the Spanish papers range from not strong to very weak. El Comercio has the best supply of national and international news, while La Voz is rich with community affairs. Viva appears to be targeted for a less-literate demographic, whose main interests are lifestyles, entertainment and personality profiles.


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