Opinion spaces in Spanish in major U.S. newspapers provide diversity and a local perspective, says Luz Mely Reyes, Post Opinión columnist

The Washington Post recently announced the addition of two regular contributors to the ranks of its opinion section in Spanish, Post Opinión. They join other prominent Latin American voices finding a far-reaching platform to shine light on important issues in the region as the section grows in audience and content.

Luz Mely Reyes (Cortesía)

Venezuelan journalist Luz Mely Reyes, columnist of The Washington Post. (Courtesy)

“That The Post continues to focus on incorporating the voices and viewpoints of women columnists is also a great contribution to gender equality and in my particular case, as a Black woman in Latin America, I feel honored and aware of the responsibility that implies having a platform of so much scope," Venezuelan journalist and new regular contributor for Post Opinion, Luz Mely Reyes, told LatAm Journalism Review (LJR).

Since it was launched in August 2019, the readership of the section has been growing in more than 50 countries, with the largest audiences in Mexico, Peru, Colombia and the Spanish-speaking community in the United States, Elías López Gross, the Post's Global Opinions editor, told LJR.

"We have a very strong foundation in those four countries and today we also have a [weekly] newsletter which is a great way to present what we are doing, such as the latest headlines and columns that are most important to the reader," López said. “In this year alone, the newsletter has grown 23 percent in subscribers. We are very happy.”

This space is an opportunity to "put our grain of sand" to improve the debate in Latin America, Mael David Vallejo, senior editor of Post Opinion, told LJR. For this reason, he added, they seek to integrate into their ranks more authors from different countries in the region, those with recognized careers or who are just emerging, so that through their columns they help to better understand what is happening in their countries.

In addition to Luz Mely Reyes, Peruvian journalist Diego Salazar also recently joined as a regular contributor of Post Opinión.

“The Washington Post, which is one of the most important newspapers in the Western world, is making a very strong commitment to include more and more diverse voices, particularly in our region, in Latin America. Being a columnist for The Post gives you a broader platform than I had as a mere contributor," Salazar told LJR.

Diego Salazar (Cortesía)

Peruvian journalist Diego Salazar, columnist of The Washington Post. (Courtesy)

One of the characteristics that Salazar underlined with respect to writing opinion columns for an U.S. newspaper like The Post, is that unlike what happens in most of the Latin American media with opinion columns, where the texts deal with what the journalist thinks of a certain event, The Post asks its columnists for an argument, an analysis and a proposal for the reader about the facts.

In that sense, Salazar commented, he could hardly have the necessary structure and spaces in Peru that The Post gives him to deal with the issues of his country with the editorial rigor required by the U.S. newspaper.

Another regular columnist for the Post, Cuban journalist Abraham Jiménez Enoa told LJR that the newspaper gives him the opportunity to put topics about Cuba that generally go unnoticed in the global conversation, and that only people who know a lot about Cuba or read independent media on the island would find out about.

Writing for The Post about Cuba is like "having a speaker that resonates much more in the world," Jiménez said, especially because in his country, the independent press suffers harassment and persecution from the government.

Although The Post does not have an established political editorial line, it does have a very clear agenda on issues that it considers to be a priority, in addition to the temporary ones, Vallejo said. His coverage includes issues of inequality, gender violence, racism, rights of the LGBT+ community and human rights in general.

Weekly, Post Opiníon publishes between 10 and 14 original production texts in Spanish.

While Post Opinión is experiencing growth, another prominent U.S. newspaper received attention from readers urging it to not stop publishing opinion in Spanish within its pages.

More than 100 journalists, authors, former presidents and other figures penned the letter to New York Times’ publisher A.G. Sulzberger.

“Word began circulating amongst my journalistic community that The New York Times was planning to get rid of 'NYT en Español' altogether,” journalist Jon Lee Anderson, one of the signatories, told Axios at the time.

The letter said that recent issues, such as leaders with authoritarian tendencies and social unrest in the region, “require constant scrutiny from the press.” The signatories said that they were saddened by the closure of the Spanish newsroom, which happened in 2019, but heartened by the existence of opinion in Spanish.

“We believe that the daily publication of perspectives and reports written and edited in Spanish by those who know Latin America contributes greatly to the Times’ mission to ‘help people understand the world’, since it is the best model of the type of journalism that can help strengthen democracy in the places that need it most,” the letter read. “Nor should we forget that there is a historic connection between Latin America and the United States, one that has consequences that echo on both sides of the border —more nowadays than ever.”

In 2016, The Times opened a newsroom to produce content in Spanish about the Americas, with an office in Mexico, which then closed in 2019, for "financial reasons." In the three years that it operated, the edition had a great continental and global reach, with a prolific production of more than 900 opinion articles and hundreds of original articles by journalists and researchers in the region, according to one of its then-editors, Paulina Chavira.

The Spanish section of The Times brought together the texts of journalists, academics, researchers and specialists, having a great reach in the media and governments of other countries on the continent. When the newspaper decided to suspend its Spanish-language edition, its editors showed their surprise and dissatisfaction with the decision and said goodbye to their readers by giving them a selection of their best stories.

Times spokesperson Melissa Torres explained to LJR that despite having closed its Spanish edition two years ago, the NYT continues to publish content in Spanish on a daily basis, in addition to the El Times newsletter, which is published twice a week. Torres said that while they no longer have staff focused on producing journalistic content originally in Spanish, there is a team dedicated to curating, translating and broadcasting much of the newspaper's English coverage for Spanish speakers in the U.S. and other countries.

“Our strategy now is focused on our subscription-driven core news report for a global audience. It's important for me to mention that the discontinuation of NYT en Español in 2019 did not affect our Latin America news desks, which continue to produce original content from the region,” she said.

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