Laura Rodríguez was stunned on the morning in early November when she heard the news that Hoy Chicago was shutting down its operations on Dec. 13.
She was not only an avid reader but also worked for the 26-year-old Spanish-language newspaper. She was given the exact same notice as any reader of the newspaper when Tribune Publishing announced Nov. 12 that it would close the paper
Hoy started as the weekly, ¡Éxito!, in 1993. Ten years later it became the daily Hoy. It was one of six daily Spanish-language newspapers in the United States, where an estimated 41 million US residents, or 13.4% of the population, speak Spanish at home. An estimated 22.5 million also are bilingual, according to the US Census.
Tilden Katz, a spokesperson for Tribune, said in a statement that, “Tribune Publishing will be expanding Spanish-language content through the syndicated Tribune Content Agency and aggressively exploring other options to meet the changing readership needs of our important Hispanic communities.” When asked if the company could answer any questions beyond the original statement, Katz declined to comment.
The six Hoy employees will be offered employment somewhere else within the company, according to the Tribune statement. Rodríguez, who worked as a multimedia journalist for Hoy for nearly five years, said the exact positions and pay grade have not yet been determined.
She said it’s also unclear exactly how the Tribune will engage with its Spanish-speaker readers. “All we know is what they said in their press releases, that they are going to find a way to reach the Spanish-speaking community. But no, we are not aware of any plan. Or at least not that I know of,” Rodriguez said..
Fernando Díaz, who was Hoy’s managing editor for almost five years, was surprised by the announcement but knew that the day would come. “I—and many of us who work in Latinx media—knew they would one day close Hoy,” said Díaz, now editor and publisher of the Chicago Reporter. “That’s part of the reason I left in 2014.” He also expressed his pride in Hoy’s run, saying, “The ending of Hoy is bittersweet. I know there is a lot of disappointment aimed at Tribune for closing it, but we have to recognize that they maintained that paper for 10 years. Its presence in many ways showed that the Hispanic community was large and regional.”
Clemente Nicado, publisher of NegociosNow, a Chicago-based business publication, recalled his first impressions when he started working as a business reporter at Hoy a month before it launched in 2003. “After 10 years as an international correspondent for publications in Latin America, I felt that I had a unique opportunity to cover the Hispanic community under the umbrella of a mainstream outlet. I believe that everyone who started that trip was permeated with the idea that we were making history in Chicago’s Latino press and working to honor that idea.”
With the closing of Hoy, an entire community lost its news source, said Hugo Balta, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. He called it “detrimental.”
“The United States is the second most populous country when it comes to Spanish-speaking people, second only to Mexico, Balta said. “This is a bilingual country. So in a market like Chicago, where we are seeing a continued growth in the Hispanic Latino community including foreign-born Spanish dominant Hispanics to have an outlet like Hoy shut down, one of very few, is detrimental in assisting a community that, like so many immigrant communities, not just Latinos, gravitate to media in order to learn how to navigate in their adoptive country as well as stay in touch with their family and their friends back home.”
Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Washington, D.C. still have daily Spanish-language newspapers. La Opinión in Los Angeles, founded in 1926, is the largest. The Chicago region has several non-daily Spanish-language publications, including La Raza. Telemundo and Univision also broadcast in Spanish. Red Latina, a bilingual digital publication, provides Spanish-language news in the St. Louis area.
Carolina Cruz, a news producer for Telemundo Chicago, said the loss of the Spanish-language daily particularly affects the older generation.
“If you’re somebody that’s in their sixties or fifties, and you were just raised in a Hispanic household, speaking Spanish, and you move to a new place, and you’re trying to find out what’s going on and how it’s affecting your grandchild or your daughter… you’re going to look for that information in Spanish because that’s the language you feel more comfortable with. The loss of a publication like Hoy targeted mostly that audience, [and it] still exists,” she said.
Nicado said that the Hispanic community is bigger than it was in 2003. “They love to speak Spanish or speak both languages. You have to reach this community one way or another, whether through print, digital or television, or through a combination of them.” He says that Hoy’s spot will be occupied by another publication in Spanish or bilingual, but with a different business model. “Reaching them in the most effective and profitable way is the great challenge that publishers face.”