As words like "synergy" and "convergence" become news-media buzzwords, more and more connections are being made between mainstream and Spanish-speaking news media in the United States. Publishing stories simultaneously in both languages — and in print and online — is a strategy used by the Tribune Company, which publishes Hoy newspapers in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Sometimes this "strategy" is put into motion with little more than a casual conversation between a reporter and editor, and that is exactly what happened with the "Crossing Borders" project published last December in the Chicago Tribune and in Hoy.
When I heard Chicago Tribune reporter Steve Franklin talking about this project on the feminization of immigration, I sensed instantly that these stories about women risking everything to come to this country would resonate with Hoy's Spanish-language readers. When the Tribune's project was published, we were able to put some of its stories into Hoy on two consecutive days, [see author's note] and as cover stories in the three editions. Then our national editor, Javier Aldape, decided to design a link in Hoy's Web site so that our readers would be able to see the entire 10-page package of words and images that had appeared in the Chicago Tribune.
The online experience turned out to be a remarkable one for our readers. We invited them to share stories about how they came to the United States, and their responses offered all who came to the site new windows through which to see more about what these journeys are like. At one point, the readers' reactions were transformed into something like a Weblog in which readers debated among themselves the reasons why these immigrant women risked their lives to try to come to this country. Reading their reactions and insights shed a lot of light on Hispanics' views about immigration. In retrospect, much of what they wrote anticipated the national debate about immigration now taking place.
Our joint publication of "Crossing Borders" signals the way in which media companies can bring news and information to people in diverse ways and different languages. With this project, the content of the articles provided a natural fit. Seeing how well the synergy worked with this project has given us reason to think and act more broadly and creatively about the ways we can create these print and online connections. To make sure such connections continue to happen, Hoy and the Chicago Tribune metro staff are in contact on a daily basis, as reporters in both newsrooms share information and Hoy's editors have access to the Tribune's story budgets. Recently Hoy pitched a story to the Tribune about a local alderwoman, Emma Mitts, who was blaming garbage and rats in her district on the increasing number of Hispanic residents in the area. Hoy and the Chicago Tribune published the same story — reported by an Hoy reporter — about her remarks. Reaction was large and immediate, as was the response of elected officials. Representative Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. asked the alderwoman to retract and publicly apologize to the Hispanic community. Mitts did. And both papers then published a follow-up story on her apology.
While "Crossing Borders" offered us the opportunity to glimpse important moments of these women's lives, it also gave us a chance to look into our own future. We like what we see.
Alejandro Escalona is editor of Hoy Chicago, a daily Spanish newspaper published by the Tribune Company.