One of the oldest Spanish-language daily newspaper in the country, El Diario La Prensa is seen as one of the largest Hispanic-focused papers in both the country and New York City. For 101 years, El Diario has reported the news to their readers, but now the publication is currently making news due to the recent firing of 20 staff members back on Friday.
There are speculations that the firing of the 20 staffers comes after issues that involve the paper’s parent company and its unfair labor practices.
ImpreMedia—the parent company of El Diario—faced charges from the Newspaper Guild of New York after the company allegedly threatened to fire employees due to their loyalty to the union back in February. Last month, the National Labor Relations Board ordered the management at ImpreMedia to publicly post and email union members a notice which stated that the company would work with the Guild and the union.
But as if remaining true their promise, former employees of El Diario were called in one-by-one into a conference room and told by their individual manager that their jobs were being terminated.
“ImpreMedia has followed through on its illegal threat to fire veteran journalists and try to replace them with nonunion staff,” said Guild president Bill O’Meara in a statement.
In addition to the meeting, the 20 former employees were also given a letter explaining their termination.
“During that meeting, they were told how the company had to make cuts,” said Oscar Hernandez, an union chairperson and an employee who worked at El Diario since 1989.
According to the Alliance for Audited Media, the newspaper’s circulation has been declining over the years. Back in March, El Diario’s average weekday circulation fell to 12%.
“To continue to transition to a media property of the future, we must unfortunately, make very difficult but necessary decisions to respond to new financial realities and become more efficient,” said Francisco Seghezzo, the C.E.O. of ImpreMedia C.E.O in a statement. “It is always painful to part with valued colleagues. We thank them for their unwavering hard work, dedication and contributions to El Diario.”
Whether the firing was due to declining sales, Hernandez believes the firing is the company’s ignoring of the contractual bargaining they agreed upon with the Guild since the company failed to give both the labor organization and the terminated employees two weeks’ notice.
In response to such claims, the spokesperson of ImpreMedia stated in a statement that not only did the company abide to the terms of the agreement but the layoffs are on June 27th and “On Friday they communicated to the people affected, precisely with the 2 weeks in advance as required by the contract.”
According to the newspaper’s former metro reporter, Rosa Margarita Murphy the company has been “looking for ways to get rid of us, unionized employees, harassing and belittling our work in front of our peers.” Murphy worked for El Diario for 13 years.
Describing what the recent firings means, Murphy added that the firing also “affects the community because it loses experienced journalists who really have strong ties to the community and who for decades have been the voice of the voiceless.”
However, according to a director of ImpreMedia the community El Diario attracts isn’t exactly what they want because they may be a bit…“ghetto”.
At a staff meeting held in November regarding the newspaper’s redesign, the term “ghetto” was first made to describe the paper’s style and content including its readers. According to the union chairperson Hernandez, ImpreMedia’s content director Juan Varela called El Diario a “ghetto” paper that needed to hold standards in pursuit of more “educated” readers.
Disgusted by the disrespect to its readers and staff members, Senator and Reverend Rubén Díaz of the Bronx and New York Hispanic Clergy Organization has come out condemning the firing at El Diario and the comments made by ImpreMedia.
Senator-Reverend Díaz released the following statement:
“After hearing about the layoffs of Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Columbians, and journalists from Central America, and after hearing that its new owners have called El Diario la Prensa a “ghetto” newspaper, and after hearing that they are looking to appeal to “more educated” readers, we will not sit back and ignore these insults to our community.
El Diario la Prensa, “El Campeón de los Hispanics” the “Champion of the Hispanics” is the largest and oldest Spanish-language newspaper in New York City.
We are rightfully outraged about any strategy at El Diario la Prensa to turn their backs on their traditional Puerto Rican and Dominican readership who rely upon this newspaper as a major news source and we are extremely concerned about the wholesale firings.
In an era where were are fighting to protect our immigrant population, it is outrageous and inconceivable to think that journalists from Santo Domingo, Columbia, and Central America would be replaced by journalists from Europe and other parts of the world.”
Also, Senator-Reverend Díaz has disclosed that he will be meeting with his fellow clergy members from the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization where they will begin to discuss plans to hold demonstration in front of the executive offices of ImpreMedia. So far demonstration is expected to occur on the 26th of June.
Despite the handling of the paper, and agreeing with Senator-Reverend Díaz, former employee Hernandez says it best when it comes to what is truly at stake for a paper that has long called itself the “champion of the Hispanics”.
“It’s never, never sacrificed anything in covering the news, even after bomb threats and the murder of our chief editor, Manuel de Dios Unanue [who died in 1992 when he was murdered due to a contract hit being taken out on him by a drug cartel leader because Unanue wrote articles and published photographs of top narcotics traffickers and their operators located in Queens], El Diario never lost its integrity. And now the question here today is, ‘Campion de?’… Usually we put down ‘of the Hispanics,’ but today that’s a question mark.”
Only time will tell if El Diario can attain to keeping its core identity as it hangs in the balance of a company that seems to be putting it at risk.