NAHJ offers to help connect former Univision journalists in Puerto Rico with new jobs
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists is offering job placement assistance to more than 100 colleagues displaced by the abrupt closing of Univision’s Puerto Rico bureau this past weekend.
“I want to alert you that NAHJ is disappointed in the recent decision by Univision to gut it’s Puerto Rico news operation. We want to offer to those members affected our assistance in anyway possible,” president Mekahlo Medina wrote in a post on Facebook. Mekahlo asked that journalists contact him or NAHJ’s Puerto Rico’s regional director, Ada Alvarez, by email so they can connect laid off workers with other job opportunities.
In January (Univision) closed the weekend edition, impacting 50 employees. On Friday, 109 employees were unexpectedly laid off. In both cases, pink slips were given to reporters, editors, anchors, producers, and cameramen.
Mekahlo said that he hopes to talk with Univision representatives today to gather more information about why Univision shuttered the bureau. But Sandra Rodriguez Cotto linked the closure to poor economic conditions in Puerto Rico. Rodriguez Cotto, who is based in Puerto Rico, was also critical of the way Univision laid off newsroom staffers, calling it “cruel” and “ruthless.”
Univision told employees they were fired Friday after they finished the morning news show, Rodriguez Cotto wrote on her media blog over the weekend. But, she added, Univision’s decision to shut down the bureau is part of a pattern impacting several news media outlets on the Caribbean island.
Two weeks ago, Cotto reported, Casiano Communications filed for bankruptcy. The company publishes magazines and other periodicals that are distributed in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, the continental United States, and 20 other countries. Univision, also, had started cutting salaries and eliminating newscasts at TV station WKAQ before ultimately closing its Puerto Rico-based news operations. And three days after Univision laid off their employees, Radio WOSO, the only English-speaking station in the metropolitan area closed operations. Thirty employees at the 30-year-old radio station were affected. It shut down because of the economy and it’s failure to pay increases in electric bills, Rodriguez Cotto said via email.
“The economic depression that has mired Puerto Rico for years affects everyone equally, and we have a media poverty,” Rodriguez Cotto said. “Not only in terms of media closures and unemployment, but also intellectual and cultural poverty and lack of content.” In addition to Univision and Casiano Communications, Rodriguez Cotto said
At GFR Media, which is family owned, let go 150 journalists and veterans have gone (or been forced) into retirement, Rodriguez Cotto added. El Vocero, a free newspaper in Puerto Rico, reduced staff to a minimum after the company filed for bankruptcy; and The Daily Sun, which was the island’s only daily English language newspaper, closed down. The same thing happened to several radio stations, Rodriguez Cotto said.
The economy is so bad Rodriguez Cotto said she expects more journalists in Puerto Rico will be l”aid off. She listed several reasons for the crisis including the decline of advertising revenue, being slow to diversify revenue sources and a failure to innovate among other things. Univision, specifically, also failed to understand its market, Rodriguez Cotto said.
When it came to understanding the difference betwen Hispanic versus Puerto Rican, Univision “failed badly,” she said.
For years, Univision was the only link many Hispanics in the United States had with their country of origin. … Univision united all Hispanics with content that was mostly Mexican,” Rodriguez Cotto said. “They tried to do the same thing in Puerto Rico, but here we are not Latinos, we are not foreigners. The only connection that Univision had with the people was the news, but Univision did not recognize and did not give it the importance it deserved.”
“The market is contracting and not yet hit bottom,” she continued. “The future is in the hands of those in the media. They will survive with proper connectivity with media consumers. If they are not connected and do not offer a unique content to people, to motivate them, these news organizations will continue to disappear.”