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Feb. 14, 2023, 2:55 p.m.
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The Dallas Morning News guts its Spanish-language newspaper, Al Día, after 19 years

“It’s like [management] is cutting up a car and using the pieces for parts.”

A previous version of this story, which went out in our Wednesday newsletter, showed the wrong logo for Al Día. We apologize for the error.

Al Día, the Dallas Morning News’ Spanish-language sister newspaper, will be disbanded on March 1, according to an announcement by the Dallas News Guild last week.

Al Día’s five full-time staffers have been reassigned to roles within the DMN newsroom, where they’ll be required to produce content in English. The Dallas Morning News will continue to publish Al Día’s weekly print edition and update its website, but there will be no staff producing original journalism for Dallas’s Spanish-speaking community. Instead, the product will include translations of DMN stories that were written in English and pieces from Spanish-language wire services, according to Leah Waters, the unit chair of the Dallas News Guild and an equity reporter.

On February 6, DMN executive editor Katrice Hardy told Al Día staff about the change. When those staffers got their reassignments and reached out to their new editors, Waters told me, it turned out that they were breaking the news to the rest of the newsroom.

“Those editors had no idea. They had no plan for them,” Waters said. “It all just feels very haphazard. It’s like [management] is cutting up a car and using the pieces for parts.”

Dallas County’s population is 40% Hispanic/Latino (1.05 million people) and 34% of residents speak Spanish at home, according to 2020 census data (though Latinos were also heavily undercounted in that census).

The Dallas Morning News did not respond to interview requests, but CEO and publisher Grant Moise sent the following statement via email:

The Dallas Morning News and Al Dia remain committed to reaching the growing Hispanic audience in North Texas.  We will continue to publish Al Dia every Wednesday in print and aldiadallas.com will continue to publish daily stories in Spanish. The Al Dia team is now reporting into the same content areas as reporters from The Dallas Morning News in an effort to better serve the growing Latino community in North Texas. This community is not only our future, but it is the present, and it deserves enhanced coverage from our newsroom.

The Society of Professional Journalists released a statement on February 10, including a quote from Hardy:

Katrice Hardy, Dallas Morning News managing editor, told SPJ via email that stories will “continue to be written and published in Spanish as they always have.” She said the move is to have Al Día staff integrate into other teams around the newsroom for two reasons: “So that all the DMN teams begin to learn how to write for this audience and so that Al Día has the chance to write more enterprising content. Al Día staff will still write content in Spanish. But in this new structure, other staff on their teams will also write stories with this lens and we will have other stories to augment the traditional Al Día content, which will remain mostly local and not wire.”

Hardy said the move will allow more English content to be translated into Spanish and the Al Día team will continue to write and produce in Spanish as they always have. “This integration will allow us to have stories for ALL in our Hispanic audience, those that are not bilingual and those who are, which we had not focused on the latter much at all before.”

Sources in the newsroom said they were concerned about the loss of a publication providing service journalism in Spanish — from how to renew your passport at the Mexican consulate to where to get vaccinated to changes in immigration and homelessness policies. Spanish-speaking communities have some specific information needs, these sources said, that are not the same as those of English-language readers.

Al Día staffers have been reassigned to desks where they will cover all of Dallas. Some have been moved onto beats that don’t align with their reporting expertise (one reporter built their career covering hard news on topics like drug trafficking and immigration but was reassigned to arts and entertainment). Community organizers have told staffers that they plan to protest the decision, and on Tuesday, Dallas News Guild protested the decision outside of the newsroom.

Al Día launched in 2003 as the first Spanish-language newspaper in Dallas, publishing five days a week with a circulation of 40,000. Managing editor Alfredo Carbajal has led the paper since it started. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s La Estrella was once Al Día’s stiffest competition, but ceased printing its weekly newspaper in 2021.

While an estimated 2.16 million Hispanic people live in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, neither of the region’s major newspapers now provide original news in Spanish for Spanish-dominant audiences. There are eight Spanish-language news outlets in the region, according to the Latino Media Map by the Center for Community Media. Al Día and La Estrella are two of them, Telemundo and Univision each have a local television station, KMPX is a Tegna-owned channel affiliated with Estrella TV, and the remaining three websites — El Líder USA, Novedades News, and El Heraldo News — focus more on sports, entertainment, national immigration news, and advertising for local events.

“For our Spanish-speaking community here, this is a true loss,” Waters said.

The change follows a years-long trend of cuts to Spanish-language journalism by American media companies. In 2007, ImpreMedia — which owns Spanish-language newspapers El Diario in New York, La Opinión in Los Angeles, and La Raza in Chicago — bought Hoy New York from Tribune Company, only to shut it down in 2009. In 2019, Tribune Publishing shut down Hoy, the Spanish-language sister newspaper to the Chicago Tribune. In 2022, the Orlando Sentinel did the same with El Sentinel while ImpreMedia sold itself to an advertising startup.

National news outlets have also experimented with providing news in Spanish for a few years a time before ultimately deeming the projects not worth continuing. Examples include The New York Times en Español (2016–2019), The Washington Post’s El Post podcast and Opinion section (2019-2022), and Huffpost Mexico (2016-2019), which originally launched to cover the country in Spanish after former president Donald Trump’s racist comments about Mexicans on the campaign trail.

One of the ongoing issues the guild is negotiating with management is pay parity, particularly for Al Día staff. The median annual salary in Dallas is about $42,000. According to a pay disparity study the guild conducted and shared with Nieman Lab, an Al Día reporter with 15 years of experience makes $49,000 a year, while a Dallas Morning News reporter with the same amount of experience makes more than $70,000. An Al Día editor with 23 years of experience makes $53,000 a year while a Dallas Morning News editor with the same experience makes $75,000 or more. Management did not mention pay increases to Al Día staffers when they were told about their new assignments, Waters said.

The Dallas News Guild and the company are close to finalizing their first contract, Waters said. She called the changes a status quo violation, meaning the company changed employees’ conditions of employment without bargaining with the union while the parties were still negotiating a contract.

“Moves like this, right before we finish our contract, [are] completely destructive to a workforce,” Waters said. “It’s disruptive to the operation and it is destructive to the spirit of our newsroom.”

Hanaa' Tameez is a staff writer at Nieman Lab. You can reach her via email (hanaa@niemanlab.org) or Twitter DM (@HanaaTameez).
POSTED     Feb. 14, 2023, 2:55 p.m.
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