Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Song of the South Sung in Spanish

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Song of the South Sung in Spanish

Article excerpt

Latino papers grow like kudzu

Secrets to their success? Migration and pix of J-Lo, J-Lo, and more J- Lo

Dalton, Ga., likes to brag a bit. The town of 27,912 calls itself "The Carpet Capital of the World," and, indeed, its mills annually spin 40% of the carpet made on earth. Alongside that, its other boasts are somewhat small-bore: There's the railroad tunnel that's the "oldest south of the Mason-Dixon Line," and in the town square, the visitor's bureau notes, there's the "only outdoor statue of Confederate General Joseph Johnston."

But little Dalton, nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians 85 miles north of Atlanta, is home to one more superlative: Three competing Spanish- language weeklies now slug it out where the Blue and the Gray fought the Battle of Tunnel Hill in 1864.

"Fifteen years ago, you'd be hard-pressed to find three Hispanic people in Dalton, and now there's three competing Hispanic weeklies. I tell you, I've been back for a year and a half and I'm still amazed," said Jimmy Espy, who grew up about 30 miles away and now is the executive editor of The Daily Citizen, a 12,801-circulation paper owned by Birmingham, Ala.-based Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.

Dalton's three weeklies -- El Informador, El Tiempo, and La Voz -- have sprung up in the last five years to serve a Spanish-speaking population that has exploded since the first Mexicans began filling jobs in the carpet mills and poultry-processing plants in the 1990s. A construction boom attracted even more. Just 151 Hispanics attended the town's public schools in 1989. By the end of the last school year, the 2,750 Hispanics accounted for 51% of all students.

And it isn't just Dalton. Throughout the South, quickly growing pockets of Spanish-speaking immigrants are transforming newspaper markets. In five years, La Noticia in Charlotte, N.C., has grown to be a 26,000- free-distribution paper, and attracted the competition of a semimonthly called El Progresso Hispano and a Greenville-based paper called Ecos. A bilingual paper, Latino, distributes 35,000 copies from offices in Mauldin, S.C. (population 15,224).

The Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal has found an indirect way to profit from the new demographics. It had the contract to print a struggling Spanish-language semimonthly called Que Pasa. …

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