Rumbo pushes smart, local, Spanish angles

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Tom Kirkendall points to a New York Times article on Rumbo, the new Spanish-language daily newspaper that has been launched in four regions of Texas, including Houston.

At a time when the Chronicle has been redesigned and in some ways simplified for readers, Rumbo is betting that a smart newspaper with local focus will sell:

Each of Rumbo’s editions makes a priority of local news. For instance, the Valley edition often has a photo on its front page of Gloria Trevi, the Mexican actress who has a home in McAllen near the Mexican border. On the same day, the Houston edition might make its top story an explanation of a new municipal measure called for towing any car stopped on the city’s freeways.

Rumbo de Houston

But the editors of each edition are encouraged in a daily conference call to carry articles from other cities for their sections on state news. Editors at the main newsroom in San Antonio use a real-time editing system developed in Spain that allows them to monitor the entire system as the four papers come together. Wireless technology gives them the option of closing each night’s edition for the four locations from a laptop computer.

Rumbo’s employees come from a dozen Spanish-speaking countries and its staff ranks among the best educated of any newspaper in Texas. Employees have been attracted by salaries considerably higher than those at existing family-owned Spanish-language newspapers and comparable to salaries at large Texas English-language dailies, starting at more than $30,000 a year for young reporters and easily climbing to more than double that amount for experienced reporters and editors.

“We do not pay ghetto rates,” said Mr. Schumacher Matos, who was born in Colombia and also worked as a foreign correspondent for The New York Times before going to The Journal.

This sounds like my ideal English-language newspaper.

Chronicle publisher Jack Sweeney, whose own newspaper’s answer to English competition was to buy it and shut it down, puts on his game face:

“We’re not sure the market is ready for a paid Spanish-language daily yet,” said Jack Sweeney, the publisher of The Houston Chronicle. “The problem I have with a daily is that the more acculturated the Hispanic community becomes, the more likely it is to read in English.”

That seems a little too self-serving, Mr. Sweeney, and perhaps a bit condescending.

Incidentally, Kirkendall reports that he will be appearing on a panel later this month with Carlos Puig, the managing editor of Rumbo‘s Houston edition.

RELATED: Ready for a Rumbo? (Josh Harkinson, Houston Press)

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