April 21, 2000


Local Community Newspapers May Play Pivotal Role in 2000 Campaign

By Jerome De Herrera

As the two major presidential campaigns begin plotting their strategies to attract the Latino vote, there is a growing feeling among party professionals that community newspapers that serve the Hispanic community may be key to the campaigns.

Democratic Party Chairman Joe Andrew and Republican Chairman Jim Nicholson said as much at the national convention of the National Association of Hispanic Publications in Las Vegas last month.

Both men were ready to answer the question they knew to expect from the assembled Latino publishers: Will each of your parties buy advertisement in our publications as part of your campaign to reach the Hispanic vote?

That both men said yes is not a surprise, given what has happened in this niche industry since 1970.

In the last 30 years, the number of weekly newspapers serving the Latino community has risen from 74 to 269 today. The number of daily newspapers has climbed from 8 in 1970 to 27 today.

That is phenomenal growth, but it simply reflects the growth of the Latino community.

In a day and age when most campaigns are run by highly paid media professionals whose understanding of the markets begins and ends with television, it may be that the campaign that seriously presents its case through local newspapers may strike a mother lode of political support.

The reason is that most of these newspapers address the informational needs of those Latinos who have most recently become citizens or on the verge of doing so. These individuals are potential first-time voters, and first-time voters who are immigrants have one of the highest rates of voter participation.

In an election that is expected to be as close as the Kennedy-Nixon election of 1960, Latino voters who are regular readers of the community newspapers could prove critically important.

Both campaigns already have radio and television crews preparing messages for the campaign that is now upon us. If the election turns out to be as competitive as current polls show, then the campaign that most subtly reaches out to the Hispanic community will almost certainly win the Latino vote.

At this point in the campaign, there seems to be little question that the camp of Texas Gov. George Bush will field the better television strategy. But as we have seen, Vice President Al Gore resurrected what seemed to be a dead campaign and is now dead-even with Bush in the national polls.

It remains to be seen which of the two parties is sophisticated enough and most adept at approaching the Latino weeklies.

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