Salt Lake City’s El Observador is rebranding itself as OKEspañol and changing its delivery schedule. The 11,000-circulation, twice-weekly paper will still be printed and distributed only in Utah, and editor Patricia Quijano-Dark says “We’re not heading for national yet.” Note that last word.
In a press release announcing the shift, OKEspañol’s publisher, Greg Peterson, said “El Observador de Utah connected us to a Utah audience, OKEspañol includes Utah but it transcends geography and culture with a universal appeal that extends from the United States throughout Latin America and beyond.” He also says the company will “look at expansion.”
In a phone interview, Quijano-Dark taps the brakes slightly on that ambition, saying the paper, which is owned by Deseret Media Companies, is going to going to double down on issues important to Latinos, no matter where they live: Families, health, education, values, communities. “Family is a big focus” for Latino families, she says. OKEspañol will cover “information on how to find scholarships, on how to get kids into college, how the tax system works.”
The next step is retooling the website, whose front currently offers a short list of stories in the paper, to offer plenty of that sort of location-agnostic content to visitors who might not be interested in, say, a local blanket drive.
Deseret Media Companies is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Quijano-Dark says editorial independence won’t be a problem for the paper, and anyway it has no immediate plans to cover religion, LDS or otherwise. (And interestingly, both El Pregonero in the Washington, D.C., area, and El Heraldo Catolico in San Francisco are owned by Catholic dioceses) “We do discuss politics, but we don’t really discuss religion,” she says. Some of those political issues? “The splitting up of families due to immigration reform, the incredibly high number of Latinos without health insurance.”
Quijano-Dark says she could have used a resource like OKEspañol when she landed in Utah after a tour in Argentina. She grew up in New York and went to school in Washington, D.C., before going abroad, and when she got back to Utah, she says, she wasn’t sure how to find a doctor.
The six-person OKEspañol newsroom will help with lots of how-to’s, as well as investigative stories from Deseret News. “We’ll take those, translate them, add the Latino angle,” she says, offering the example of a recent story about a Brigham Young University study that suggests teenagers don’t need as much sleep as previously thought. Latino families eat late, says Quijano-Dark, and “our kids don’t get enough sleep” as it is. OKEspañol she said, will “talk to a few pediatricians…about why it’s different for Latino families.” Someday, she says, OKEspañol may have English-language content, too.
And about language: Most Latinos in Utah are of Mexican heritage, Quijano-Dark says, but OKEspañol already tries to write in as neutral a Spanish style as possible: “I don’t plan on making any changes as we expand our audience.”
OKEspañol’s local competition is Ahora Utah, published by the Salt Lake Tribune. It’s a weekly, she says, and not home-delivered. Nationally the competition includes Univision, which has a darn good general-audience news site. And it and other established news sites have a huge head-start, brand-wise. “Our focus is helping to strengthen the Latino family, not hot news,” says Quijano-Dark.