[Begin Tape 1, Side A]
Biagi: Mónica, I want to start today from about 1985, which is when we left off last time. That's when you first came to La Opinión. Your decision to come here, we talked about it a little bit, but I want to know more about that, why you decided to take this job after resisting it for so long.
Lozano: I had mentioned, the last time we talked, that it was a combination of factors, and everything seemed to come together just at that moment. The management of the company had been in the hands of my father, my brother, and my sister. Towards the end of '84, my sister left for good and moved to Italy, so it was my brother who was helping my father. My father had a medical condition that was quite serious. He was hospitalized, and my mother was very concerned. My brother was under pressure because he was running the paper by himself, no longer had my sister to help him, and my dad was quite serious at the time. So my family literally called me on the telephone, [and] asked me to come to Los Angeles so that we could talk, and asked me then to consider coming back.
I, at the time, had been in San Francisco for nine years. I had been doing a lot of different things on my own. As well as trying to learn a skill and get ahead professionally, I had also become involved in some of the community organizations in San Francisco, and saw a lot of different issues that I thought needed to be addressed and that weren't being dealt with properly. During the course of the years, I had conversed with a lot of friends who literally said to me, "If you really want to do something, why don't you consider going back to La Opinión where you have the ability to really make some changes. If you're concerned about issues, you have a vehicle in La Opinión that speaks to the population and that really has [the] ability to make some change."
So it was for those two reasons really, combined with some personal issues in my own life. My parents asking me to come back, my realizing that La Opinión was important in terms of the kinds of things that I wanted to do, and that I needed to consider that as an important professional opportunity, I decided that it might be the right time to come back.
I said yes. I came back, but I came back with reservations. I made it very clear to them that I wasn't sure if I wanted to, one, live in Los Angeles, and, two, whether or not it would appropriate for me to be at La Opinión, whether I would enjoy it and want to stay here, and also whether or not I would feel capable and qualified to come back into a newspaper, when I hadn't done daily newspaper work up until then.
Biagi: When you talk about issues that you felt were really important, what were some of the issues on your mind that you felt had been overlooked?
Lozano: I moved to San Francisco in 1977, and there was a new immigrant Latino population in San Francisco that was mostly a refugee population, people who had moved from both El Salvador and Nicaragua, as a result of civil wars in both countries. Since I was there at the time that there was this large influx of refugees, it was apparent that the city wasn't set up to accommodate them. Social services weren't being provided, the issue of language, the schools were substandard.
There were no organizations really that were functioning with any sort of capacity to really offer help to people that really needed help.
I got involved in a couple of different community-based organizations. One of them was called the Mission Cultural Center, but the Mission Cultural Center really became more of a resource center that offered all types of activities, both cultural as well as educational, things like health services and diabetes screenings and help during tax time on how to fill out tax forms, and all those kind of things. It was obvious that San Francisco had a huge population that was just not being served, so I got involved in some nonprofit work at that time. That was really what I was referring to.
Biagi: Then there was another organization you said you were involved in, a couple of organizations?
Lozano: Yes, there was another one called the Mission Neighborhood Center, which during the daytime was the Head Start Center, and at night a place where they offered parenting courses and helped adults learn survival skills, job training, etc. So I would volunteer. I volunteered at both of those, volunteered to do translating and different types of things at night after work.
Biagi: Was it just that issue of the immigrant population that you felt wasn't being served, or were there some other things that you can remember that you felt weren't being addressed?
Lozano: I suppose in general it was more Latino issues. In San Francisco it was different than L.A. because it really doesn't have a large Mexican population. There are not a lot of people who have been there for generations and generations. I'm sure there are, but you don't have the same proportion there that you do here. So a lot of the issues really related more to newly arrived immigrants.
There were also some things that I got involved in, and again it was mostly through these other organizations, youth intervention programs. There used to be a lot of car clubs. They were called car clubs up in Northern California, the low riders, and kids that spend the weekends fixing up their car, and then Saturday nights cruising the main boulevard. None of it was gang activity, it really wasn't. It wasn't menacing in any way, it certainly wasn't criminal activity or criminal behavior, it really was just kids who actually were quite industrious taking care of their cars, working all week raising money, and being able to do this. For some reason, mostly because I think it's intimidating to people who don't understand the phenomenon, the police came down quite heavy on the kids and actually closed down the street and did massive raids and massive arrests. Those kinds of issues that I think really came out of just not understanding certain cultural behavior, if you want to call it that. So those were the kinds of things that I would get involved in.
Biagi: When you talk about "Latino issues," that was one of them?
Lozano: That was one of them—youth, education, parenting. Being involved, for example, in the refugee community. Then there were certainly the issues of foreign policy and the U.S. role in Central America. The Mission District in San Francisco at the time was unbelievably organized. It was just teeming with activity, and was culturally and politically booming at the time. It was actually quite exciting. There was a lot of cultural activity, a lot of writers, a lot of painters coming out of the area. It was quite exciting to be up there at the time.
Biagi: Have you always felt a strong Latino cultural pull in your life?
Lozano: We had talked about this the last time also. I personally always have, and I think everybody reacts to their environment differently. I think I probably did more than my brother and sister. Psychologically, I don't know what it is the makes certain people behave different ways under different circumstances. We grew up in a neighborhood that wasn't a Latino neighborhood. We grew up in Newport Beach. I think we were probably the only Mexican family in the neighborhood. And yet for some reason we were able to maintain a strong sense of identity internally within my family. We had close ties to our immediate family in Mexico, and for some reason it was always very important to me, something I felt very strongly about.
Biagi: Did you visit family in Mexico any more than the rest of your family members, brother and sister?
Lozano: Yes, I did. We used to go down there as a family. My siblings and I would go to Mexico every summer until I was twelve or so. By then, my brother and sister decided they really would prefer not to go to Mexico, and I would continue to go down there by myself.
Biagi: So when you came here in 1985, what did you see yourself doing? How did you see yourself incorporating that change into what you were going to do? Was it a realistic picture of what happened, do you think, eventually?
Lozano: I came to Los Angeles with the title of managing editor, and I wasn't asked to get involved in the editorial product. I was asked to come to manage the editorial department. Essentially it was a management position. In that sense, I didn't doubt that I would be able to do it. I had worked on my own, and really worked myself up the ranks to management positions, had been a manager and supervisor for years prior to that, so I didn't doubt my capacity as a manager.
I was totally unfamiliar with the workings of a newsroom, so that was difficult for me. I went through a period where I wondered whether or not I was the right person to be here and doing this, how people would respond to me, and what the reaction would be. I realized, once I was here, that it was a fascinating job and that the editorial side of the newspaper was really what attracted me the most. So then it became more a question of, how do I get in? How do I develop a space for myself within the newsroom on the editorial side, not just on the management side?
Biagi: Was there resistance to you at first, do you think, in any way?
Lozano: I think people were torn. There were some people that saw it as natural that the daughter of the owner would get involved in the newspaper, and didn't resist at all, in fact, thought it was a good thing, and opened themselves up to me and welcomed me and saw me as part of the family. Because I was part of the family, it was important for me to be here, and so of course you would be working at La Opinión. Other people who I think had been at the paper less time and felt less of that family connection to the paper were much more skeptical and somewhat resistant to both my capacity and also my motivation. Was I here to take over, and what did that mean to them and their position and their ability to move up, and those issues.
Biagi: Do you remember any specific incidents of either people that told you how glad they were that you were here, or people who resisted your coming into the newsroom?
Lozano: I don't know if I can think of any specific incidents, but I did go through a period, probably six months after I'd come back, where I felt isolated, that I had been isolated. I literally thought then that I should leave, that I wasn't ever going to be able to do anything.
Biagi: People weren't talking to you, or what do you mean?
Lozano: No. Because I came in to "manage" the newsroom, I went about doing that. I developed new systems for people to interact with each other, systemized evaluations and meetings with employees, and making sure that concerns of theirs were being dealt with. The implication is that it hadn't been before. There really was, I think, a sense that in terms of personnel and interpersonal issues in the newsroom, progress, that things were being taken care of and problems were being resolved. That was important, because there was a morale problem when I got here. But those kinds of things, either you can take care of them immediately or you can't, and I seemed to have been able to have taken care of them relatively quickly, and people were feeling better.
Then I wanted to do more. It was like I would sit at my desk and think, "Okay, now what?" I really wanted to get involved in producing the newspaper, and that was when I felt like, "This is just not your terrain."
Biagi: What made you feel that way?
Lozano: It's hard to say if there was anything specific. Nobody put up a sign saying, "Don't come in," but I wasn't included in the planning meetings, I wasn't included in page-one meetings, I essentially was kept out of the daily operation. The way that I got around it was because I was in charge of personnel, I was in charge of hiring. Hiring became a process of planning. Where is it that we're going? What is it that we want to do? What do we need to reinforce? What kinds of projects do we need to work on? Do we have good investigative reporters? What kinds of skills do people need? As we went through that process, and I actually was the one interviewing and bringing people in and checking résumés, that relationship was a direct relationship that would develop between myself and the employees, and myself and the planning process. So people eventually would come to me when they had ideas and wanted us to [do] certain things. I would, in turn, take it to the editor or to the associate editor. Little by little, I just got involved in the actual daily operations.
I also went to my brother, to the publisher, and said that I was not satisfied, that I really had no intention of staying here under those conditions, that I wasn't fulfilled and I had no reason to be here, that I wasn't going to be doing something that I wanted to do. We decided that I would be able to take over all of our special projects. I wouldn't be working on the daily, but that I could take over special projects. So that actually gave me the opportunity to produce things, to create and to write and to edit and to plan.
Biagi: Was there any resistance on your brother's part?
Lozano: I don't think there was resistance. I'm assuming that all newsrooms are the same, and all newspapers are somewhat the same, but you have some very intense egos in this business. He did the best he could to placate and make sure that things worked smoothly. I don't think he had any personal resistance; on the contrary. But I think that people would go to him and say, "What is she doing? She's taking over what I'm supposed to be doing. This is my job description. Where does she fit in?" That kind of thing.
Biagi: Is it awkward at all for you, or are there awkward moments because he's your brother and essentially your co-manager? Are there awkward moments when the discussion gets personal as opposed to professional? Does that work well for you, that relationship?
Lozano: We've learned to work well. It's 1994, and I started nine years ago, so we've learned how to work together. It has been difficult, there's been times when it has been very difficult, and partly because we at times fall into the brother/sister relationship, as opposed to publisher/editor relationship. I'm quite willing to be publisher/editor when we're on the job. I would assume that that's the type of relationship that we should have. Certainly we're friends, we interact, and our kids do Easter egg hunts together and all of that, but when we're here I expect the same type of relationship with him that any editor would want with their publisher. We haven't found the way to sustain that. Every once in a while, we'll fall back into sibling behavior. [Laughter.]
I suppose from my perspective, at that time way back in '85, I wanted him to support me more. I felt like I was only here because they had asked me to come back. They had asked me to do certain things, and I was getting them done, and that I deserved his support. I didn't feel at the time that I was getting it.
Biagi: So you were in charge of hiring, you said. When you arrived here, I remember you telling me that the newsroom didn't have quite the look that it has today in terms of personnel. What effect did your being here have on the change in the newsroom, who's out there and the mix of people?
Lozano: It seems that up through the 1970s, the mid-1970s, La Opinión was still operating as a small family operation. The number of employees was still relatively low, and the interaction was different. Everybody was family, everybody knew each other. Company-wide, I don't know if there were more than seventy employees, and some of them had been here with my grandfather. Some of them literally started the newspaper and had watched it grow and knew everybody, knew their children and were godparents to each other. In the mid-eighties, when I came in, it had expanded, but not a lot. As it was growing, as more and more were being hired, there was a sentiment that La Opinión was getting too big. We were losing our closeness, we were no longer family. You would go into the lunchroom and you might not have met somebody that was at the table before.
So I think people were feeling a little reluctant to let it change as much as it was changing. It was also getting younger. The new hires, for the most part, were much younger, very multi-ethnic, people from different countries, from all over Latin America. Up until then, I don't know if it was literally 100 percent Mexican, but it was almost all Mexicans who worked here, and we started hiring people from South America and Central America. All of those changes were difficult at the time for people. There were more women, younger people, and people from other countries. Like any place where you deal with differences and diversity, whatever you want to call it, we went through our own growing pains trying to expand.
Biagi: When you talk about diversity within Latino population, were you conscious, as you were hiring, that you wanted to do that?
Lozano: No. I wasn't really paying much attention at the time to diversity issues. I don't think many people were. What I was looking for was competence in certain areas. We were very weak in political reporting; we did almost zero of it. We had one individual who was on staff who is from northern Mexico but had come to L.A. relatively young, got his journalism degree at Cal State-L.A., and so he really learned his journalism here, having gone through a program here. He was the only one on staff who had really any inkling about how things worked here. So as we decided to reorganize the department and looked at our weaknesses and where we needed to strengthen our coverage, we needed to strengthen just about everything.
We formed the metro desk, the state news desk, and the national desk. Really what I was looking for there was competence, people who understood how national politics worked and who the players are. The person that came in in that position is our national news editor now, and he's Argentinean, and my state news editor is Chilean. It wasn't really anything that we set about doing, hiring people from other countries, but they were the ones that really knew the material.
Biagi: Did you open a California bureau in Sacramento?
Biagi: You didn't do that, but you did open a bureau in Washington, D.C?
Lozano: Yes, but just recently, two years ago.
Biagi: And was that your idea?
Lozano: Yes, the D.C. bureau was my idea. We wanted to open a bureau up in Sacramento, but weren't able to for economic reasons. So we have people that string for us literally all throughout the state. We have people who work for us on a regular basis and string for us. It works out well, because our news hold is very small, it's very tight.
Biagi: What percentage of the paper is it?
Lozano: It's 60 percent advertising, 40 percent news hole. The size of the paper fluctuates day to day, but it currently averages approximately fifty-six pages. Your general news section may only be twelve or sixteen pages, so 60 percent out of twelve or sixteen pages is seven or eight pages of advertising, and it only leaves you, four pages, five pages, for everything. So we've decided that given the fact that the newspaper is still so tight, that we don't see any need to open a bureau in Sacramento. We wouldn't be able to publish enough to make it worth our while. But we do have good relationships with the legislature.
Biagi: You thought about it, though?
Lozano: Oh, yes.
Biagi: In what year did your title change, or did they change your responsibility?
Lozano: No. I actually went from being managing editor to, in 1990, being named associate publisher and publisher of a weekly that we owned up in the San Fernando Valley, El Eco del Valle. So at that time, I really literally left the newsroom. When we moved into this building where we're currently located, my office was located up on the twelfth floor (the editorial department is on the third floor).
Biagi: This building, for the record, the address is?
Lozano: 411 West 5th Street. We used to be on Main and 15th street, which is where the paper had been since the fifties. We outgrew that space, and really wanted to come downtown, wanted to not leave Los Angeles as we looked for a new site. We thought it was appropriate to be right downtown. If we wanted to be a metropolitan daily, we couldn't be publishing out of Long Beach, so we came over here in 1990, and I went up to the twelfth floor, and the editorial
department came to the third floor, and I literally and physically left. Most of my activity was directly related to the running of the weekly that we had in the San Fernando Valley.
Biagi: Which was, you said, quite successful in terms of editorial product, but not as financially successful as you would have liked.
Biagi: So then at what point did you come back down to the third floor? And did your title change, or did they keep calling you associate publisher?
Lozano: I came back down to the third floor because the editor left, and took another job.
Biagi: What year was that?
Lozano: It must have been the very end of 1991. I was asked to take on the responsibility of redesigning La Opinión in 1991. In the middle of the year, we decided that we needed to raise the cover price of the newspaper from 25¢ to 35¢ daily, and from 50¢ to 75¢ on Sundays. We felt that our market could withstand the raise in rates for the daily, but that for Sunday, 75¢ was probably more than the perceived value of the paper. So we decided that we needed to redo our Sunday product altogether, as well as redesign the entire publication.
We had been working on redesigning for quite some time, but it had gotten shoved onto the back burner because of the physical move of our installation, and different things that complicated everything, but we gave ourselves a specific day where we wanted to launch our redesign as well as our new Sunday product, and hopefully convince people that it was worth spending more money now to buy us. So I took over that project.
We looked at the Sunday product. We came up with some fabulous ideas. [Laughter.] I laugh, because little by little, we've slowly but surely ended up discontinuing almost all of them just because we couldn't sustain the costs of producing them.
Biagi: Such as? What were some of your ideas?
Lozano: Well, I'll tell you, because the phenomenon is very unique to La Opinión. We had the redesigned main jacket. Our sports section stayed intact, but we added to it our Sunday sports special. Our Sunday sports special was full color, with in-depth interviews, analysis of games, looking at coaches. It was more of an in-depth magazine style approach to our sports coverage, with full color. That was called "Tiempo Extra." We also launched, for the first time, a standalone travel section—again full color, with all of the travel content that you would expect to find in a travel section, but geared to our market, local getaways, inexpensive trips, going back home, this is what you need to know about customs, etc. Both travel and some service information in there.
We redesigned our entertainment section to have included a full page "Super Reportaje," a super interview with big-name stars. The front page would be full color, and it would be this huge picture of your favorite singer. It would have little biographical facts and an interview with some great catchy facts of, you know, favorite food, favorite this, how you got started, and what's your relationship to your mother. It was very fluff, kind of light, gossipy stuff, but we thought that it would work very well, especially if we could combine it with people who are coming to town. If next week or in two weeks there's going to be a concert, this would run two weeks in advance. The reader would hold on dearly to that copy, take it with him to the concert and get it
autographed, and put it up on the wall, and La Opinión would be on your wall. This was our idea with it. It was very gossipy and very light and fun, and people like that in entertainment.
So we launched that, we launched travel, we launched [the] sports special. Our TV guide got redesigned. It had been a tabloid size, and it got redesigned and reduced to a TV book size, which was, for us, very expensive because we had to print off site, but much more manageable as a size. We launched a standalone opinion section, commentary, it was called "Commentarios," four pages of expanded commentary, letters to the editor, etc. And we had a lifestyle section, which we had already been publishing, but jazzed it up, more colors, better graphics, more service oriented.
Biagi: Before 1991, had you been full color?
Lozano: We had capacity, we had full-color capacity, but we weren't doing it regularly. We had gone through this tremendous growth cycle through the late eighties. In fact, it had got to the point where we had outpaced our press capacity, and so we purchased a new press towards the end of 1989, early 1990. So that had just recently been installed, and that gave us color capacity. Up until then, we were absolutely maxed out and weren't able to do even just a black and white newspaper, with the press runs and the page count that we were then currently printing on a daily basis.
Biagi: So your redesign had to take in the idea of color?
Biagi: Did you use it a lot?
Lozano: We used [it] on all our special sections that we could pre-print. We were still having then, and we continued to have now, but much more infrequently, the problem of page count growing to such a point where you need to use all of the units just to get the newspaper out, and you're not able to put color on, just literally cannot get color onto the paper because of the press configuration and the number of units and all of that. So we were able to do color on all of our special pre-prints, obviously, and we do very good color. The quality of our color is very good, and actually has been award-winning color for a long time. But we had a hard time getting good color on the front page, on the daily. Now, obviously, this is three or four years later, and we have new equipment and have moved into full electronic photo desk which allows us to do good color and to get it out, stripped, separated, and all of that in time to meet our deadline.
Biagi: Why is that important to you? There are those who say a newspaper should be black and white. Look at the Wall Street Journal. It survives fine, and it's all black and white.
Lozano: Well, our market is not only different than that of the Wall Street Journal, but we're street sales. We're 100 percent street sales. It's interesting, because the redesign, I think, was quite useful on some levels, but on what is probably the most critical point, we lost the boat. The boat just went right past us. We had always had six banner headlines. La Opinión, historically, since the day it was founded, ran six-column banner headlines, and we thought that that was sometimes inappropriate, that the news of the day did not warrant six-column banner headlines.
Biagi: For somebody who doesn't understand what that means, what would that mean?
Lozano: It means your main headline runs the full width of the newspaper.
Biagi: And it's large.
Lozano: And it's very large. You might have a story that is mediocre in terms of its value, its news value, and we were still running it as if it was the bombing of Pearl Harbor. [Laughter.]
Biagi: Every day!
Lozano: Every day. And that's a good point, because it becomes so redundant that it doesn't have the same impact as when you use it occasionally. So we decided that when we redesigned the newspaper, our headline needed to be the type size and the width that corresponded to the weight and the substance of that article. We would have, some days, a newspaper that appeared with four-column headlines or three-column headlines or some days just a one-column story on the right-hand side, and that doesn't work for street sales. If you're walking down the street or you're driving by in your car and you pass a rack, and what you see in there is nothing but grey type on grey paper, newsprint, and something doesn't jump out at you, there's no reason to pull over and drop your quarter in. There's absolutely nothing that entices you to stop and take a look.
In 1991, even though we had redesigned the paper and thought we were offering a much better product, we had raised the cover price and were asking people to plunk down more money, we weren't convincing them to do it. We weren't helping them to see the value in purchasing La Opinión. And in July of 1991, two weeks after we'd raised our cover price, the state of California passed a law that imposed a sales tax on newspapers. So in two weeks, we went from 25¢ to 38¢, which is very close to 40¢. It felt like, for most of our readers, too much money, and our circulation just plummeted. We dropped circulation. We had been averaging, prior to then—this again, after the Persian Gulf War and a number of big news events that had really pushed our circulation up. After the Persian Gulf War, we were at 120, 130 average. Our highest we had ever gotten was to 140, 140,000, right during the war, and we were able to keep it up when were averaging about 120,000. After the sales tax and the price increase, we dropped to below 100,000, and we weren't able to recoup our lost circulation.
Biagi: Does that mean at the newsstand, somebody had to put in 40¢, because it can't take 38¢?
Lozano: Well, our racks take 35¢. Racks don't get taxed. But at a store, either you played with pennies trying to find change, or you put down 40¢. And so to you, you were paying 40¢. Even though you got two pennies back, it essentially felt like 40¢ at a store.
Biagi: So you lost at least twenty thousand?
[End Tape 1, Side A; Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Biagi: You say that you lost so much circulation, how long did that take?
Lozano: It was a matter of months.
Biagi: Less than six months, would you say?
Lozano: Yes, less than six months. Like all newspapers, when you raise your cover price, you plan on a loss of revenues. Most newspapers are able to recover within a year. It takes no longer
than a year to get your sales back up to where they were, because revenues grow. You're charging more for the paper, so your revenues grow, but your sales would drop.
Biagi: Does your advertising revenue also go up?
Lozano: Well, that was the intention, except for that when you drop in circulation, you can't raise your rates. We literally had to go two years without raising rates. We couldn't ask people to pay more for less circulation. And if you recall, the 1990s, especially right around then, 1991, California really got hit. This was when the recession became absolutely apparent. Everything accumulated, and La Opinión went through a very difficult time between 1991 and now. We've just started to come out of it. Our circulation is way back up, thanks in part to a much more concerted and well-designed marketing and promotions campaign. It was in mid-1991, '92, that we realized that people weren't just automatically coming back to the paper; we now had to convince our readers to buy us. We designed a promotions campaign and a marketing campaign that included advertising, rack cards, billboards, all of that.
Biagi: And I see you on PR Newswire.
Lozano: PR Newswire, yes. That has finally paid off. These last two years, we actually hired an outside advertising firm, a PR firm, to develop the campaign for us. It's very professional, it's worked wonderfully well. And we have a marketing department for the first time. Up until the mid-eighties, we didn't need one. We were doing so well without having to convince anybody, we didn't have to put a dime into selling the paper. The paper was selling itself. So that was one of the things that changed.
We've gone back to a much more powerful front page. The redesign that I had mentioned to you, that sometimes had just a one-column story as your lead story, is now never less than four. We have much more color on the front page. We regularly have full color photographs on the front page. We've redesigned the front page. We changed the type face for our masthead. The logo La Opinión, used to be sans serif, very traditional font, a very traditional typeface, and now it's upper case/lower case, we've included an accent, which is part of our advertising campaign, that La Opinión "accents" what you want to know. That was part of the idea behind it. But also the typeface itself is rounder, thicker, and calls your attention. It's much more dramatic than what we used to have.
Biagi: Contemporary, would you say?
Lozano: Yes, definitely. The last year, 1993, was when we really started making those changes, major changes, trying to bring more people back to the front page, using that top half, which is what you see in a rack, or what you see in a store, as a billboard. Convince people to buy it, pick it up and look inside it. It seems to be working, in the sense that everything combined has our circulation back up now, and we're close to 120,000 daily.
Biagi: But it's costing you more to put out the paper, would you say, than it did, say, in 1990?
Lozano: The thing that costs more is newsprint and materials. It doesn't cost us any more in terms of color. We've now purchased the equipment to do everything in-house. That was part of our problem before, is that we were doing color for the special sections, and since we didn't have equipment, we would send that out. And that can be quite expensive when you're doing a lot of it on a regular basis. So now we have the ability to do everything in-house, we've actually reduced costs in terms of the production of the daily product. But newsprint goes up, and, as you may
know, now newsprint is the most expensive item other than personnel expenses, payroll, in any newspaper.
Biagi: In the '91 period, was there ever a point at which you felt you would have to lay off people at the paper?
Lozano: Yes, we certainly talked about laying people off, and whether or not that was going to be necessary. We froze hiring. In the heyday, the scale for salary increases could be on the low end, at 8 percent, and on the high end, 12 to 15 percent. Now it's cost of living, so it could be 2 or 3 percent, if anything, and only if the paper feels that it can continue to pay salary increases. All we can say to employees is that even though we understand how hard it is, at least we're not laying people off.
Biagi: I bring it up only because of the family idea.
Lozano: Oh, no, it's been terrible, everything combined, you're absolutely right. People felt like there were so many things that we used to do for our employees, and now not only have we gotten bigger and more impersonal, but we stopped doing things for them. We've cut out the company picnic. We used to have big parties two or three times a year for all of the employees, Christmas bonuses, turkey giveaways. I mean, we would do things that were very generous for the employees. But as we watched revenues shrinking and expenses continuing to go up, we had to stop doing a lot of that, and people resented it. [Tape interruption.]
Biagi: So let's begin again our discussion of what happened in the early nineties at the newspaper because of finances, because of the family feeling that everybody had, and then you said it was pretty bad, people coming to you and talking about things the way it used to be.
Lozano: Right. La Opinión, up until then, had been able to provide a lot of bonuses for their employees, whether it was the company picnic or the big parties that we would have for the employees, days off that other companies wouldn't offer, Christmas bonuses, etc. And we were unable to continue it. As our revenues started to shrink and expenses increased, we found out we weren't able to do what we had been able to do up through the eighties. So we discontinued the picnic, we only had one big party a year instead of the two, and we currently don't even have that. We finally reinstated it and cut elsewhere, because employees were upset that they weren't at least having one occasion when everybody could get together and socialize, as opposed to just being in a working environment.
But, for example, when we discontinued the food coupons that we offer people for Christmas—we would offer them a coupon for redemption at a big supermarket—I literally had a group of women come into my office and say, "We depend on that every year for our Christmas meal, and where's our food coupon?" And having to say, "You're just not going to get it this year." I think that the only saving grace in all of this is that we literally did not lay anybody off, and we still have not had to lay anybody off. We seem to be coming out of the recession, revenues are catching up with projections, and circulation has certainly recuperated. So we're doing better, but we've passed a couple of very critical years in the last two years, very difficult.
Biagi: It was interesting that it happened at a time you redesigned the paper and everything.
Lozano: Yes. The other thing that had happened is that as both an institution and a news product, we have, I think, advanced tremendously. The newspaper is much more complete, it's much more ours. The stories are bylined. Our reliance on wire services is limited to international
news, which is just about the only thing we can't cover in-house. We've become much more relevant both to our community and to the larger Los Angeles community. So people come to us, they look for ways to access us, to interact with us. They request editorial boards, as opposed to us having to go after them.
Biagi: Well, at the same time the paper got better.
Lozano: Right. Exactly. At the same time the paper got better as a product, and we were viewed as an important newspaper, we were having to downsize and to constrain ourselves internally. It felt like we were giving conflicting messages. To some of our employees it seemed like, "You should be doing so great. All these people are coming through here. Look at the newspaper, it's so much better than it used to be." So the impression was that economically we were much stronger than what we were at the time.
Biagi: Plus, you were becoming more institutional, in the sense of—I guess that could send a message to employees, that the family newspaper is changing to a institutional newspaper. You're not going to have the parties anymore, you're not going to get the turkey at Christmas.
Lozano: Yes. And let's not forget the sale of 50 percent of La Opinión to Times-Mirror [Co.], at the time.
Biagi: In the same year, which is 1991?
Lozano: Right. It was also meant to be a strategic move. We had, as you recall, outgrown our capacity. We couldn't keep up with the growing needs of our population and of our readership. Even just our capital expenditures, we needed a new press. Well, how are we going to finance a new press? As a small, family, independent newspaper, you only have two sources of revenue: your 35¢ that people put down daily to buy the newspaper, your street sales, the circulation revenues, and your advertising revenues. And advertising revenues were certainly much better than they had been, but it just isn't enough. We couldn't generate the revenues that we needed to be able to modernize and to do what we needed to do to put out a good daily product.
So it became apparent that we were going to need investors, that we were going to need to go outside of the family to look for capital, essentially for financial resources, because the newspaper had grown so much, and really was being perceived not only as an important newspaper, but probably the best newspaper serving the Hispanic community. And given that at the time so many other newspapers were still floundering, not quite sure how to interact with this community, a lot of people were coming to us for our expertise and offering partnerships and associations, etc. So we decided that it would be in our best interests to pursue a relationship that would offer us both capital and strategic know-how, as opposed to just going into a purely financial relationship.
There were a number of newspapers and news organizations that approached us, and we decided to associate ourselves with Times-Mirror because we know them. We have a longstanding relationship with the newspaper the Los Angeles Times, and because we're in the same city and the same market, are familiar with most the managers of Times-Mirror and the Los Angeles Times, personally. There is a personal relationship there. So we felt that that would be in our best interests, and they also. They communicated to us that for them it was important to reach the Hispanic market. They didn't know how to, and this would be a way of fortifying what was obviously the best vehicle to reach that market, as opposed to them doing something on their own and not quite knowing how to do it.
When the announcement was made, we, as a family, the Lozano family and as La Opinión, had already talked with a number of close friends and community leaders within the Hispanic community, to let them know of the impending sale and to explain to them, from our perspective, what it meant and what it didn't mean. We explained to them that the Lozano family still retained control of the newspaper, we still retained control of the board of directors, that the sale wasn't to the Los Angeles Times, but to the parent company, Times-Mirror, and that it really was a relationship at the corporate level and not at the operational level. Because of course, in this market, there's a lot of skepticism as to the L.A. Times' ability to service the Hispanic market. They've been trying to, I think, for a number of years and have gone about it different ways, and I think are still trying to. The community is, I think, quite skeptical.
So it was important to us for the community to understand what this association meant and what it meant to us to sell 50 percent of the company, especially since it's so steeped in tradition. It depends so much on the notion that it was born out of struggle and it continues to struggle, and the dedication with which it was founded. The community responds to that. They understand what La Opinión is as an institution, and the fear was that we were selling off to a big corporation and that we would become less interested in their needs, more commercial and more institutional, like you said.
Biagi: So it all kind of congealed at the same point?
Lozano: Yes, those were very difficult years.
Biagi: You talk about La Opinión as if it's not only just a newspaper. People who don't know it, from any other part of the country, would think, well, it's just another newspaper. What would you tell them about it? Is it just another newspaper?
Lozano: I don't think so, and I think that most of our readers don't think so. Certainly even those who are not our current readers, but who have lived and grown up with La Opinión in Los Angeles, don't think so. Again, it goes back to its roots, and to the decade of publishing under very adverse circumstances, and in a population— [Tape interruption.]
Biagi: We were talking about the relationship of Times-Mirror and the Lozano family, and the newspaper, is it just another newspaper?
Lozano: I don't think it is. You always want to think that you have a more direct relationship with your audience than you may have. You aspire to have that type of a relationship. At least we do. Now, maybe that's the difference. Maybe most newspapers don't aspire to have a direct and intimate relationship with their readers, but we do. We always have, since my grandfather started the paper, throughout its sixty-seven, sixty-eight years, and that gets played out in different ways. It used to be, for example, when I said that the newspaper was founded by my grandfather as a Mexican newspaper, the paper was very involved in the Mexican community, its cultural events, the beauty pageants, the young women's leagues, the money drives for orphanages in Mexico, and all of those charitable activities. They were not charitable, they were almost more familial. It was a different sort of relationship.
We've always tried to maintain that. The difference now, 1994, is that the population in Los Angeles is so huge, that there's no way that we can have that type of relationship any longer with "the community." There's no such thing anymore as "the community" in L.A. It's very large and very complex and very diverse, and there are segments and sectors and different populations, and there's newcomers, and there's residents who are third, fourth, fifth generations.
There are people who are here as migrant workers, who are only here for six months and go back, and are certainly not going to develop a longstanding relationship with the newspaper. But what we do try to do is be very committed, both as an organization and as a news vehicle. We try to be very committed to the issues in the community, and I think people respond to that. They know that we care about them. They know we care about them in what we cover and how we cover it, how we place stories on the front page, what we try to follow up, the things that we investigate, what we try to uncover. Those are things that I think every newspaper tries to do, but they try to do it sort of depending on the market. Because our market has such tremendous needs, that the newspaper really does fulfill some of those needs and it plays a role in their lives that I think most newspapers don't come to play. They really see us as their defender. They know that we're on the line for them. And I don't know how common that is among newspapers.
Biagi: Do you feel, then, that the newspaper has a social purpose?
Lozano: Yes, definitely. We've had long conversations internally about what are we and what are we trying to do, and are we too much advocates, or should we distance ourselves more from the issues. What role do we play? We decided that in keeping with our long history, we need to be sure that their concerns are known, that the concerns of our readership and our community are known. For example, a fire just occurred in the central city area which is primarily newly arrived Central Americans. A fire broke out in an apartment building that was not up to code and that was overcrowded, and where the landlord was an absentee landlord, and over twenty people were killed, were burned to death because they couldn't get out. Like every other news organization in the city, we'll be over there covering the fire and reporting on the tragedy and reporting on the conditions in the building, but we'll take it up as our cause on the editorial pages, and we'll slam and we'll slam and we'll slam until we make sure that city council does something about buildings like that, where too many people are living, and where the building and safety doesn't come in and cite the landlord and make sure repairs are made, etc. Because there's no reason why people should live under those conditions. Everybody understands the economic situation, but the person that owns that building needs to be held responsible. The city has a role in that, the mayor has a role in that, the fire chief has a role in that, and we have a role in that. Nobody else in this city maintains alive those issues on its editorial pages, and we do. That's where we would take up the cause.
Biagi: So it would leave the news pages, but it would go to the editorial page in most cases?
Biagi: But you wouldn't feel that your role was to maintain the issue in the news pages of the newspaper, necessarily?
Lozano: No longer than is necessary to do a good job of reporting on that particular issue.
Biagi: In talking with Danny Villanueva and his feeling about Latino media, he said to me that he felt that people who use Latino media expect community participation, they expect you to be out there. Do you think that's true of your audience, that they expect you to be out there and be visible, raising money, putting back into the community?
Lozano: Yes, definitely. That's certainly the case.
Biagi: Which would differentiate you, I think, from an institutional newspaper, do you think?
Lozano: Probably. I don't know if the readers of the L.A. Times would expect them to be involved in certain causes or certain charities. I think that the readers of our paper and the viewers of Spanish-language TV and those that listen to Spanish-language radio probably do have that expectation. There are organizations that are watchdog organizations, that make sure that media puts back into the community. Spanish-language television, which is where Danny Villanueva comes from, has really been taken to task for its contribution back to the community more so than we ever have.
Biagi: But if it were true here, and if it is in some way, what would those organizations be expecting you to participate in and help or support? Do you do that?
Lozano: Oh, yes. We now have a department, a community affairs department. Community affairs wasn't born out of anybody saying, "You do this," or, "You do that." It became a way of us streamlining what we were already doing a lot of. If you'll recall, in fact, the relationship of La Opinión to the Los Angeles Hispanic community has always been a direct one, and we've certainly always donated both time and money and resources to a lot of nonprofits in this city. It just became a way of deciding the priorities of the company for the community and organizing it in a way that was much more manageable than it had been before, but we do a lot of that.
Biagi: Would you say in any way that that affects your point of view, the point of view of the newspaper? That might be an ethical question, for instance, for the newspaper to be involved in community organizations and then cover the issues.
Lozano: I wouldn't allow a reporter to be involved in an organization that he was being asked to cover. I do think that that becomes a problem. We do have, as an institution, for example, very good relationships with organizations which are primary sources for some of our reporters. I don't know how that affects the source's perspective when they get a call from us, and I wouldn't even care to speculate, but I don't think it affects our ability to be objective and critical if we need to be objective and critical. I do think, though, that as an institution, we do become involved in causes, and we don't have a problem with that. We think it's absolutely appropriate as an institution to have a social agenda.
Our social agenda, if you want to call it that, has prioritized some issues that we perceive to be the most important, and get involved in activities based on those priorities. The first one is education. Everything starts there, and the newspaper knows that, most corporate citizens understand that, parents understand that, everybody understands that education has to be a primary concern. And so La Opinión does a lot of things involving education. I also have an education reporter. I don't think our involvement in newspapers and education, for example, in any way sways his ability to report on the board of education.
Biagi: Newspapers In Education (NIE), which is the program that brings newspapers into the classroom.
Lozano: Exactly. Newspapers In Education has become almost a full-time job at La Opinión. Newspapers In Education essentially takes the newspapers into the classroom. It's an organized relationship between this newspaper and the school district and individual schools who want to use the paper as a teaching vehicle. As far back as I can recall, there have always been solicitations
from individual schools to have La Opinión sent to particular teachers. "I'd really like to use your newspaper in my classroom. Could you send me forty copies?" Well, we had gotten so many of those requests, and the NIE program had also been developed in L.A., that we got involved with NIE and the L.A. Unified School District and now have a lot of schools that participate in this program, that use La Opinión as a teaching vehicle.
Biagi: Has there been any backlash? Because I know there's been controversy in education about bilingualism. Has there been any backlash to the newspaper being in the classroom?
Lozano: Not that I'm aware of. L.A. Unified School District has a 70 percent Hispanic population. Some of the children may be immigrant children or some may be born in this country, U.S. citizens, but for those that come to the school district or come to the classroom only speaking Spanish, the bilingual education philosophy implemented by the school district is one of teaching children in their primary language, teaching literacy in your primary language and then transferring over to your second language, as a teaching method. It's what has been adopted by the school district, and it's what's been found to be the most effective in teaching kids a second language. First, you become literate in your first language, and it's much easier then to transfer over to English, in this case.
So, actually, the newspaper is used not as a way of keeping kids monolingual, but a way of teaching literacy that then allows them to transfer over to English. So it's really a tool towards learning English, and most people I don't think understand that, which is where the backlash would come. But from within the schools, we've never had any problems.
Biagi: How has La Opinión responded, for instance, to the criticism in the movement—in California, I remember in a continuing movement off and on, about making English the primary language in the schools? How have you responded to that editorially? Have you?
Lozano: We've always been against it. We think that it's another very narrow, very myopic view of contemporary Californian society, and it goes against every single study done on English proficiency among non-English speakers, which is what I was just referring to.
Biagi: Does it aggravate you?
Lozano: I'm not as angry about it now as I may have been years ago. You get used to those sorts of attacks and the comments about "This is America, and everybody should speak English." We don't share that philosophy at all. If it is America, which it is, we should understand that not everybody speaks English, and we should value that, we should treasure that. There's actually some real benefits to having a multicultural, multilingual society. And again, the newspaper has never said, "Don't learn English." The newspaper stresses, "Learn English. It's the only way to really get ahead in this society. If you're going to be here, learn English." We don't say, "Don't learn English," but we do resent being told, "Don't speak anything else but."
Biagi: How would you characterize people who have that point of view?
Lozano: Narrow-minded. I find movements like those to be sort of last-minute, desperate attempts to return society to something that it used to be, which it no longer is. I think it's really unfortunate that people can't see change as a positive, that resist it. I think that that's exactly what these other restrictionist movements are all about, fundamentally.
Biagi: You say that the newspaper represents struggle. Have you had cultural struggles with people saying to you, "You're Latino so you don't belong here"? Or have people made that identification with you throughout your life, or have you made that identification?
Lozano: No, I was born here. My dad grew up in San Antonio, Texas, when San Antonio was a very segregated city, Mexicans lived on one side and non-Mexicans lived on the other side, that he literally went through the period where kids were punished for speaking Spanish and for being here. But that sense of oppression I never dealt with. I was never personally affected by it, and I certainly never internalized it.
Biagi: Has the newspaper ever been criticized by its readers for not being aggressive enough? And if so, for which issues, do you think?
Lozano: The paper was criticized by certain segments of the population during the seventies, late sixties, mid-seventies, when it was just seen as not radical enough. There were radical movements, the Brown Berets, the Raza Unida party, and a lot of very aggressive Chicano organizations. La Opinión was seen as not radical enough. And it's true. [Laughter.] Definitely we're not radical, by the way.
Biagi: Why do you think your father wouldn't wear a brown beret, do you think? For you?
Lozano: There are a lot of reasons, but essentially it's because he didn't share those values. He was not of that way of thinking at all. To see my dad in a brown beret is comical.
In the time since I came back to La Opinión, I can't recall that we've ever been really criticized for what I would call important reasons. You always have people who don't agree with you or think that you haven't done enough, who threaten to boycott or refuse to buy your paper again. But the sense that the community felt that we had turned on them or that we had abandoned them, I can't recall.
Biagi: Let's stop and we'll get a new tape.
[End Tape 1, Side B; Begin Tape 2, Side A]
Biagi: We were talking about cultural changes that happened in the newsroom.
Lozano: Right, and the relationship with the community.
Biagi: How does it enhance what goes on in the newsroom? For instance, if you not only have a culturally diverse, but you have a gender diverse newsroom, what changes, do you think?
Lozano: Gender diversity certainly brings a different perspective to what we cover and how we cover it. I haven't quite decided whether or not it really is that women perceive things differently and so our approach to it as we report on it is different, or whether it's not a combination of things which have to do with how editors perceive women and what they assign to them, which I think is also a big part of it.
For example, on our staff, our metro desk, our reporters, we have probably more women than men right now. It's a very small staff, it's only ten people, but I know at least five are women. I would expect them to cover things as well as anybody else. I mean, there's no differentiation in our expectations. On our features desk, there is a difference. I have a woman
in charge of the food section. We have a woman in charge of health and lifestyles issue, but most of what she does is on health. It doesn't mean that she does it differently, but I think that possibly the interest was hers because she's a mother, and all of these issues are issues that she deals with as a individual. I'm not really quite sure why it is, or if it really is that women do things differently in the newsroom. I don't think so. But I think that some of them are assigned things because they're women.
Biagi: What about children's issues? Do you think they get more attention in the newspaper now than they did, say, ten years ago?
Lozano: No doubt, yes.
Lozano: Probably because the features desk has been run by women. For most of the stuff that we do, for example, on children, parenting, adolescence, all of that, really up until we developed the features desk, which was developed by women, we hadn't been doing almost anything on children. And yet at the same time, I don't know—again I'm sort of thinking in circles, I'm not being very clear about this—but since our population is so young, in general, Latinos are a very young population and quite prolific, with high birth rates, and so the newspaper has taken a interest in children's issues. Two days ago, we did an editorial on a Carnegie study on the state of children nationally, and we're very aware of organizations like Children Now, which rate the status of children in society, poverty rates, immunization rates, and all of that. So we are aware of it, I think both because they are issues that touch our community and also because most of our readers certainly are concerned about children's issues and parenting issues.
Biagi: Would you say that most of your staff are family people? Do they have young children?
Lozano: Most of the staff, the majority, probably two-thirds.
Biagi: That could account for a little bit of it, because of their own personal interests.
Lozano: Sure. I was trying to think while you were asking the question, I was really trying to think if it had made any difference that I was here and in charge of the newsroom, and I don't really know. I don't think it's made that much of a difference in terms of whether or not we've shifted our focus away from certain things and become much more aware of other things that we used to not cover. I think that children are something that we've always tried to be aware of, children's issues.
Biagi: So not only when you and your brother started taking over did the age of the people in charge change, but it seems that it happened coincidentally with hiring and the turnover in your hiring, and so there's been shift, do you think, a generational shift in the newspaper, maybe in the last ten years?
Lozano: Definitely there's been a shift. At least part of it is just turnover. It's people who have gotten older and have retired, and we really have lost most of the old guard, certainly the people that used to work with my grandfather. There's one individual, one man, who was among the original founders, who still comes in every Friday, and still appears in the directory as general manager, and feels like this is his life. He's here at least once a week, and he's in his late-eighties. But for the most part, the company has grown and it's much younger than it used to be. The management team, if you look at our staff meeting, I'm guessing, but I don't think anybody is
over fifty. I'm talking about the circulation director, the advertising director, our production manager. Everybody at the top in this company is relatively young.
My brother and I are relatively young. I'm thirty-seven right now, and my brother is thirty-nine. We are very aware of our personalities, of our qualities, and our way of thinking, and how different it is from how it was ten years ago with my father for example. You know, we're young, we're much more contemporary, very modern, and want the paper to be young and contemporary and modern, and our readers should get that. We've done a lot of reader studies, market studies. The most interesting thing about them is that the perception of the newspaper, up until a couple of years ago, was that the paper was very conservative. Editorially speaking, its line and its perspective was very conservative, very traditional. It was written for older people. It didn't have anything to do with me and my life.
We were disconcerted, to say the least, because we didn't think that we were any of those things. We thought we were young and "with it," and talking about contemporary issues, and your life, your lifestyles, and your problems. But the perception was one of La Opinión that was stuck in the fifties, that had just not moved forward. That was one of the reasons why we redesigned and we changed the logo, put more color, and launched the new product. Part of it was the same material that you would have found in the paper two years ago, but packaged differently so the people would say "Aha! Maybe I was wrong. Maybe there is something in there for me, mother in my twenties."
Biagi: What went into your thinking in redesigning the paper of competing with Spanish language media? Did you feel like you had to compete with broadcast journalism?
Lozano: We had started talking about the redesign years ago, towards the end of the eighties, early nineties, mostly because the paper had just never changed. We still had an old-type face, the layout was very disorganized. You couldn't follow a story. It would start on the third column, then drop down the second column, and then go back across to the first column. It wasn't organized, it wasn't helpful, and it looked like things were just thrown in there. We had a method of diagramming pages, where six or seven different people would be working on different pages, and there was no consistency. You could have page two in one typeface, and page three would be completely different because somebody else had done it and was just using their creative imagination. [Laughter.]
Of course we had rules, you know, only certain typefaces and only certain headlines, etc., but if you were to go page to page, you would think you were reading seven different newspapers. It was very strange. And it was unexciting. It was a very blasé newspaper. So we wanted to organize things, we wanted to make it more modular and easier to read, more helpful in terms of how you could [move] to other parts of the paper, things that would draw you in and help you to turn the page and move from story to story. So that was really what had driven us.
We also [were] learning about our market through market research. If you recall, we had only started doing market research. We had just developed a marketing department right around that time when we had lost circulation. We felt like we needed to do something to entice them back to the paper.
We weren't necessarily competing with broadcast, we were just looking for ways to improve the product and convincing people that you need us. In that sense, maybe we were competing with broadcast because we've always used the argument that you don't get the depths
of information on TV that you're going to get from La Opinión, and that you can't make informed decisions, you really can't survive with the twenty-second sound bites that you'll get on broadcast.
Biagi: What arguments were you making to advertisers and do you continue to make to advertisers about why they need you as opposed to the mainstream media, or in addition to the mainstream media?
Lozano: The arguments are pretty straightforward. You're not going to reach this segment of the population through any other vehicle. We're not asking to pick one over the other, but we're saying that if you want to get full market coverage, then you have to advertise in La Opinión because otherwise you'll never reach them, you'll never be talking to them. There is no duplicate readership between us and the L.A. Times, for example.
Biagi: You did not find, for instance, in your surveys that people were buying both papers? They were buying one or the other?
Lozano: We found 3 percent duplicate readership, so 97 percent, almost the entire market, was not reading the L.A. Times, does not read the L.A. Times. When you're talking about L.A., at least in terms of Spanish-language dominance, you're talking about one and a half million people, and if you want to get to them, you've got to get to them through us, which is another reason why the L.A. Times and a lot of other publications have been compelled to do their own Spanish-language products, because their advertisers are asking, "How you are reaching that community?" And for the most part they all had to say, "We're not." So we've now ended up competing with big, major media companies who have begun Spanish-language publications in our market, in the L.A. market.
Biagi: So you're competing with Hispanic Business publications?
Lozano: Hispanic Business is a magazine, and it's monthly and in English. We don't compete with them. We don't sell ourselves against magazines. We're a daily newspaper, so we don't even sell ourselves against weeklies. We sell ourselves as a daily.
Biagi: You're competing against what?
Lozano: Against other dailies, which would be your English-language publications in the market, or against television broadcasting, TV, and radio. What you get with TV and radio are large numbers, but the message needs to be reinforced by print. Print allows you to have much more of a direct relationship with the client. You can do product awareness through TV, there can be name recognition, you can see the image of a particular product that you're trying to sell, but you really need a message that is detailed and that is sustained, and that you would find in a newspaper, to give you the information that you need your reader to know about, what it is you're trying to sell.
Biagi: Let's take a broader issue now. If you had to place La Opinión and the Lozano family in the history of L.A. media, how would you place them? What's their place here?
Lozano: The history has already been written, and so I'm thinking about what it is that I've read in the past and how much I agree or disagree with it. I think, for the most part, historians or media reporters or people that were going to look at the history of media in Los Angeles and what role has La Opinión and the Lozano family played, would say that its impact was not substantial through most of its life cycle. Circulation, just circulation, was 20,000, 30,000, 40,000,
up through the seventies. It really didn't have a large circulation, and so its impact was almost more symbolic than real.
The Lozano family, I think, probably played a more important role as leaders within the community. Certainly my grandfather was one, and my father was a leader in two communities, really bridged the two communities, the Mexican community and the Anglo business community. He became quite well respected. I think that the impact that we have now is much greater, and so people would say in the last decade, La Opinión really has taken off and has come into its own. It's much more important now than it has been, partly because of the numbers and partly because of these outreach campaigns that we've developed, and partly because of our own personal relations.
L.A. has changed. L.A. now has a very strong network of Latinos that are in very high positions, well-placed positions. I think my brother and I are more apt to be in those circles, so that the paper is perceived as being in those circles.
Biagi: Political circles, would you say?
Lozano: Well, many circles—they're political, commercial, and social. They could be anything, whether it's the Central City Association and the Chambers of Commerce. La Opinión is a big business. It employs five hundred people, it's got very substantial revenues, and my brother interacts with the business community quite a bit.
Biagi: What do you do?
Lozano: I have less of a direct relationship with the business community. I'm much more involved in the issues that we cover. So in terms of interacting with politicians and community groups, etc., I do much more of that.
Biagi: So if we had to place you in this picture, and we're writing it in the year 2050, how would you write the history so far of your role in the Lozano family and certainly in La Opinión. How would you characterize it?
Lozano: I've been told, so it's partly what I think and partly what others think, that I'm the conscience of the paper, that the paper has really become involved in the issues because I wanted to get the paper involved in those issues. I think I have the soul of the company and it's reflected in what we're doing and what we're covering. My brother is good at the business side of publishing the newspaper. He's the publisher, and he's good at being the publisher. I'm drawn to the content of the paper, the coverage, the issues, the special reports. I like being the editor, and that I'm good at being the editor, and I've found a way to do it so that it's really reflective of our community. You can't publish a newspaper and be successful if you stop being relevant. So the ability of La Opinión to continue to be in touch is something I think that I've brought to the table.
Biagi: In those issues, we talked last time about immigration was one issue, and you'd done a special supplement, hadn't you recently, about that?
Lozano: Recently what we just did is a ten-part series on immigrants and the contributions of immigrants. We debated back and forth about how legitimate was it to do a series that looked at the contributions of immigrants to society, and to label it as such.
Biagi: Was that your idea, or where did the idea come from?
Lozano: We've always covering immigration, and we've watched as the immigration debate subsides and rears up again. This last year has been crucial in terms of the immigration debate. It's taken on a whole different tone.
Biagi: Good or bad?
Lozano: From our perspective, it's terrible, it's devastating. The direct ramifications are very dangerous.
Biagi: The tone being what?
Lozano: It really began as the argument that immigrants are a burden to California, and that we can no longer grow as a economy and as a state with so many foreigners in this state, with so many people who are not native. As that argument started to take shape, it really looked only at the cost of immigration, at the burden that immigrants caused the state and the state's ability to meet its demands for services. So the reason that we decided to do a ten-part series on the contributions was because we'd spent the last year reporting on this perspective of burden and cost, and felt that nobody had done anything yet to really counterbalance that, to say, yes, in fact, maybe there is an issue here about the ability to deliver services, but that aside, immigrants contribute and are beneficial in all of these different areas, and in some of them, very bottom-line resources in terms of revenues and what's contributed through taxes, etc.
So we looked at the contributions of immigrants in ten different areas, and did a ten-part series which we think was a resounding success. We have had requests for reprints from all across the country, and are currently in the process of translating it to English because of the number of requests from other publications in other community groups, politicians, etc., that want to have the information. We look at the growth in Hispanic businesses, the contributions through the service sector and the clothes that you wear that's sewn by a person who's being paid $1.25 an hour, and the mark-up when it hits the rack at the department store is 3,000 percent. We looked at all the different areas in which your life is better, thanks to the contributions that immigrants have made to the community and to society as a whole.
And again we debated, is it ethical? Is it correct for us to just look at the contributions, in this series? And we decided, yes, because we have been reporting every single day for 365 days on the other side of the argument, and feel that there wasn't sufficient information out there to balance it.
Biagi: It's interesting you say that you're translating the series, because you've talked about before the arguments about whether you should have English-language translation. What made you decide to do that this time?
Lozano: Because this one in particular, we think that the people that are expounding certain perspectives on immigration need the information that we've investigated and uncovered in this series. That's almost a misnomer. I don't know that we've uncovered anything; all we did was package it. We went out and looked at different sectors, but in reality I think anybody could have done it if they had wanted to. None of this was tremendous investigative work, it was just a question of looking at an issue from a certain perspective and trying to find out what the truth was to that.
So for the most part, we know that the immigration debate has been relatively one-sided, up until now, that there hasn't been a good response to the argument that immigrants are a
burden. So we wanted to be able to get this into the hands of everybody who's talking about immigration as an issue and who probably isn't reading our newspaper. It could be elected officials in Washington or it could be teachers in the central valley. There are huge numbers of people that we would like to have this information and aren't going to get it if we just leave it in La Opinión.
Biagi: Another issue that might be a difficult one, and it hasn't come up in the last few years but it continues to rise up again like immigration, would be abortion. How is the paper positioned on that issue?
Lozano: The publisher had changed. When my father was the publisher, the paper was against abortion. But we tried not to editorialize a lot, because there was real division among the editorial board over the issue. When the publisher changed, so did our public position on abortion. We currently believe in, and defend, a woman's right to choose.
We are independent enough to challenge certain institutions in our community, including the church, and especially knowing how strong the Catholic Church is among Hispanics. And yet just like on abortion and our position that a woman has the right to choose, we've always been for the prevention of AIDS through the use of condoms, for example, which the church has been against. We've been for needle-exchange programs as a method of reducing the incidence of AIDS, for example, which the church has always been against. I think that on certain issues we're willing to stand up to traditional institutions in our community and say, "That's not what we believe." And we think that we should speak out about it.
Biagi: Have there been some arguments over that at all?
Lozano: There are certainly arguments among the editorial board, but the dissenting voice has always been outnumbered.
Biagi: Has your father and your brother and you had discussions about this, too, about the editorial policy of the paper?
Lozano: Yes. Oh, yes. But we have discussions about—at least we used to. Now my brother and I really don't consult unless there's a real question, because we're pretty clear on what his position is, and it's relatively consistent with the rest of the editorial board's, and so we don't need to consult with him often. But there have always been some areas of discussion and disagreement.
Biagi: With your father still in position here or still active and around, there might be a feeling that you would defer to your father's point of view on editorial issues. But there's not here? He seems willing to let you run the paper.
Lozano: He is now. It took a long time for that to happen, though. When he initially retired as publisher and named by brother publisher, that was in 1986, and my dad still maintained an office and came in almost every day, and ran it as if he was running it. It was very hard for him to let go and for him to let my brother make decisions without those decisions being questioned. But he's stopped being so directly involved in the newspaper and has certainly recognized, I think, my brother's capacity to manage the paper. And like I said, our greatest periods of growth, not as a reflection of my father but just as a reality, the greatest periods of growth have been under my brother's management, and I think we've done well.
Biagi: The last issue that would seem to come up regularly was unionization. How has that affected the paper?
Lozano: I think that if you asked my father or my brother, they would be very adamant about wanting to maintain this as a non-union shop, essentially, but it's not. Our press room is unionized, for example, and they had organized and voted in the union maybe six years ago, maybe less than six years ago.
Biagi: Within the last decade, would you say?
Lozano: Yes, definitely within the last decade. Since I'm not directly involved in production, I'm not part of the negotiating team and don't work out the contracts, etc., I don't think it's been a problem. Philosophically, though, I think that the newspaper would prefer to be independent of unions.
Biagi: What about the newsroom staff? Have there been some discussions about unionization in the newsroom?
Lozano: There were when I came in. One of the reasons why I was asked to come was because, as I've mentioned, morale was so low, and staff management had been so poor that there were very open attempts to unionize the newsroom, and my dad was livid, he was furious. How could we not take care of our own employees? What happened that they felt that they needed to be represented by an external body? That, and going back to the relationship of employer/employee which had always been so tight, and really, I think, so good.
It must not have been more than four months after I was on the job, if even that, that there was a vote and they voted against the union in the newsroom. The editorial employees voted against the union. The VDT operators, the people who just input text in the newsroom, they voted for union representation. So there were three people who were represented by—I can't remember which union it was, if it was Communications Workers, I can't remember which one it was. And that only lasted for a couple of years. When their contract was up for renewal, they all voted not to renew. That was the one and only time that I can recall that there was really any attempt.
Biagi: And you are in a town where at the Los Angeles Times there is no newsroom union. Again, so I think people who don't know Los Angeles wouldn't understand that.
Lozano: Right. No. Exactly. This is not a town where newspapers have traditionally been run with unions representing the newsrooms. It's certainly not like the papers on the East Coast.
Biagi: Was there ever a time in which people made the argument, where you were supporting César Chavez, and then yet not supporting unionization of your own employees?
Lozano: No, I don't think so. I think that really the issue was how are individual employees treated, and do they think that it's fair. It's not whether or not philosophically we're against
unionization and collective bargaining. It's not that. I think really literally it was an issue of, "Do I feel like I'm being treated fairly?"
Biagi: As an employee?
Lozano: As an employee. And I don't think that there was any perceived inconsistency there.
Biagi: Are there any other issues that I've overlooked, where the paper has had discussions, strong issues for the paper, internally has had discussions on issues that are really important to the paper, that you would say you consistently followed, that maybe have been overlooked by other media in town? You brought up immigration, education, I thought of abortion.
Lozano: Health care, in general, has been a big issue of ours. The problem is not that we've done something more consistently than other media, it's really that other media, for the most part, ignores this population. You just don't get good consistent coverage about Latinos and Latino issues in most media that's available in Los Angeles. So really we almost become mandatory reading for anybody that wants to know about what's going on in the Hispanic community. And even then, if you want to know about just general interest topics, you could read us and you could read the L.A. Times, and you would think we were covering two different stories because the angles are really so distinct.
Biagi: Can you think of a specific example where that happened?
Lozano: Well, just about everything. You know, we could go into a city council meeting, and we've got reporters there who are assigned to city council just like everybody else, and what we'll walk out of and report on is going to be item X, and they walked out and reported on item Y. For example, it was Tuesday of this week, which is the day that the board of supervisors regularly meets, and the board of supervisors has a long agenda, and you know they deal with a lot of different issues. There were two items that were addressed at that board of supervisors' meeting, and the L.A. Times covered one of them, and we covered something completely different.
The board of supervisors voted on more funding for the district attorney's office, and we reported on a major debate over the future of county hospital. We ran ours on page one, and they didn't even mention it. The issue with county hospital is that it's located in east L.A., it's in Boyle Heights, it services 75 percent Latinos, it's not only an emergency and trauma care hospital, but it's primary care for all of the uninsured. So for a lot of different reasons, but anything that has to do with county hospital for us is of utmost importance. They didn't even mention the fact that there was an issue voted on that could literally have moved the process forward to close down county hospital. I mean, this is very important stuff.
One of the supervisors, one Latina supervisor, Gloria Molina, had brought 400 people and packed the board of supervisors' hall that morning, and 284 of them spoke out in favor of keeping it open. I mean, it really was a show of force. I was really quite impressed. And like I said, we ran it on page one, and we editorialized on it the next day, and the L.A. Times didn't mention it. You would think it never happened.
Biagi: So in that case, you're saying you—
Lozano: So in that case, I'm saying it feels like we cover two different cities, and we really are mandatory reading if you want to know not only what's going on in the Latino community,
the issues that are important, I think, for the general population, but that might have a different twist or a different angle.
Biagi: One last question on this train of thought. When you talked about how important it is that the paper be there and cover issues, how important is it to the paper that you be here, that you're here?
Lozano: I'm not really sure. I'm not satisfied with what I've done. I think that we have tremendous capacity, and there are occasions when I am overwhelmed with our ability to respond as a news organization, given our very limited resources.
[End Tape 2, Side A; Begin Tape 2, Side B]
Lozano: —that I'm not satisfied with what I've done here, and that I really am overwhelmed by our capacity and our ability to respond in certain circumstances, given our limited resources and the small number of people that we have in the editorial department as a whole, but more specifically in our news department. I don't think that we've progressed enough for me to be able to leave and to be convinced that we can sustain momentum, because not all of the elements in the infrastructure are in place yet. We do very, very good work, extraordinary work sometimes, and mediocre to good work most of the time. It's not because there's not the personal desire and the personal capacity isn't there, but we don't have everything in place that allows you do that.
When you only have ten reporters, and two of them go on vacation and you only have eight, and you're trying to cover police, the board of supervisors, and this and that, you can just have yourself strung so thin that you're lucky just to be able to do that every single day. That's the most frustrating thing about being at this newspaper. I know that we have the capacity for really great things. We could be an extraordinary newspaper, and we're not. Certainly that would bother anybody who's the editor of that newspaper. We're always trying to improve, and I think we do a very good job, but we've got a lot more to do.
Biagi: Are your expectations too high?
Biagi: Is that good or bad?
Lozano: No. You know, I don't think my expectations are too high at all. They might be unrealistic, given the circumstances. And this interview might just be at a very opportune time, in the sense that I've been thinking about this a lot lately, because this has been an incredible year for us. Here we are, it's April of 1994, and we started off the year with a major armed uprising in southern Mexico, which caught everybody off guard, and we mobilized like crazy and sent people down there, and had important exclusives filed from our Mexico City bureau. We were doing some unbelievable work. And the earthquake hits L.A. on January seventeenth, and again we go into full gear locally and do specials, and partner with the Daily News up in the San Fernando Valley, get information out through the Salvation Army, Red Cross and shelters and print 150,000 resource guides. We were everywhere. Then the assassination of a Mexican candidate in Tijuana. It seems like we've gone from one major event to another.
I literally am just so proud of us. When we can respond with our ten people, and you look at the Daily News who, at the end of it all, does a wrap-up and says, "We put our 240 reporters on the street," or the Los Angeles Times does theirs after the earthquake and says, "Four hundred and
fifty people collaborated on this special coverage," and we look around and everybody "high-fives" each other, because there's thirteen of us doing what 450 people have to do in another newspaper. And we can do that over and over and over again. So under those types of circumstances, we're on par. I don't think we're any less good than anybody else. So in terms of our journalistic objectives, we're way up there. I don't have any doubt, I think we're fantastic, but we can't sustain that. You can't ask that same group of ten individuals to go out there every single day and keep it up with that sort of pump and enthusiasm. It's just not possible.
I know we can do it, but I need more bodies. I can't do it every single day. We can do special reports galore, but what I want is, for my newspaper, every single day, to be topnotch, and I know that we're not. For me, that's very frustrating.
Biagi: You sound like you're going to go and argue for more staff.
Lozano: Well, I'm always arguing for more staff. [Laughter.] Remember, we've got a freeze on, we've had a freeze on for years. I understand newspapers have to allocate resources and look at the big picture. Right now what the paper needs is more money, we need more revenues, and I can't do anything unless there is more revenue, so when there's a lift on the hiring freeze I know my department won't be the one to get it, because I don't generate revenues, I just spend money. You know, that's all I do, is spend money. So from the paper's priorities, I know I'm not number one. I wish we were, and I suppose this is the traditional battle within the newspaper. Editorial always thinks they're the most important, and I've come to agree. [Laughter.]
Biagi: Even though you're 40 percent of the paper? [Laughter.] Spoken like a true editor.
Lozano: But if you don't have a good product, what are you trying to sell? When you go to an advertiser and talk numbers, you're not just talking numbers, you need to convince people every single day to buy the paper. With all due respect to our advertising department, people buy a paper primarily for news. I know they buy it for the classifieds and the help-wanted ads. I know that that's part of it. I would like to think that what's compelling them to buy it is because they care about the news that we're offering. What are we writing about? What are the issues?
Biagi: You said, "I couldn't leave yet, because my work is undone." Have you given thought to that? Have you ever given thought to leaving? Or is this the place you're going to be?
Lozano: Well, I don't know. I suppose at some point I'm always going to have to be open to doing something else, and I think I might be. In other words, I have thought about leaving, but I certainly wouldn't leave now. I love what I'm doing, I really do. There are certain things that frustrate me, obviously, like the lack of resources and our inability to get our paper into the hands of some people who I really think should read it. But I can't see myself doing anything else. I really like what I'm doing. And it offers me all of the support that I need and that I needed to learn my job. I could never have done this anywhere else. There is no learning curve when you go in as a managing editor, or the editor of a paper, after you haven't even been in a newsroom. Remember, I literally had been sent up to a different floor. I wasn't even part of the editorial department when I got asked to assume responsibility. That wouldn't have happened anywhere else but here, and I recognize that. So I am going to make the most out of that opportunity, you know, to learn. And maybe if certain circumstances change and I would want to go elsewhere, I would need to know that I could transfer my skills to another newspaper. I still feel like I have a lot more that I can do.
Biagi: Let's go to the prepared list now, the list that we try to ask all the interviewees, some of the questions to make sure we hit them all. Have you ever felt throughout your working career, but especially here, that there was a time in which you were asked to do something, or not asked to something, because you are a woman?
Lozano: Yes, certainly before I came here. If you recall, I had gone back to a community college after moving to San Francisco, and got a degree in printing technology, and ran a press for a number of years. I was a blue-collar worker. That was interesting, and I had a lot of resentment by some of my co-workers, my male co-workers.
Biagi: In that situation, were you the only female in the printshop?
Lozano: Yes. So even issues like safety, safety training, I wasn't trained like the other men.
Biagi: In which way?
Lozano: I just wasn't trained on some of the equipment. I learned my skills on my own, but some of the equipment they just assumed was too big or I wouldn't use it, or whatever, even though part of my job required that I use it. So there was a situation there.
Biagi: So did you use it then?
Lozano: Yes, I did.
Biagi: If you did then, how did you learn to use it?
Lozano: Well, there's manuals. The boss, the one who ran the company at the time, was a woman, and she was very supportive. But I did get clunked in the head quite a few times. [Laughter.]
Biagi: There's a better way to learn. [Laughter.]
Lozano: Yes. [Laughter.]
Biagi: By clunked in the head, you'd better explain that. By a piece of equipment, you mean?
Lozano: Right, just because I used it wrong. I mean, I literally could have been knocked out, I suppose. It could have been very serious. But anyway, that was probably the most blatant. It was just an issue of refusing to train, because it was something that they didn't think a woman should be doing. And in the newsroom, not really, because, as you recall, I wasn't reporting. There weren't issues, for example, of being told you can't cover that because it's too dangerous, or something like that, which I know a lot of women, colleagues of mine, have gone through those types of situations. I know that women on my staff, when we've all sat down and said, "Who are we going to send to El Salvador?" sometimes there's reluctance to send women to what's perceived to be a more dangerous environment. I think we've been pretty good about that, though. We always had women to do it. [Laughter.] Just to make sure people don't take it wrong. We've never really just outright said no. Even covering the riots, for example, and putting people out on the street, we teamed people up. We made sure that nobody rode alone, and that included men and women. But personally, I can't recall any such incident.
Biagi: Has there ever been any comment, "Well, that's just because you're a woman that you feel that way, just because you're a woman"?
Lozano: No. More, I think, people have seen me as being too liberal or too left wing, you know, it's because of your ideology. It's more that than because you're a woman. And it's the issues that we talked about before—it's reporting on AIDS in the newspaper, our position on abortion, the military invasion of Panama, things that we've had some very serious discussions about whether or not we think they're right or wrong. And it's not that people say it's just because you're a woman, it is more a question of ideology.
But I do think that there was a moment when, not that it was a problem, but I was hindered by my pregnancy. Having gotten married, then being pregnant and having to take off on maternity leave, the issues of taking care of children and all the hours that you're supposed to put in, and whether or not you do put them in, those do become issues. Referring back to my comments about how lucky I've been to be doing what I'm doing at this particular place, that also includes the time that I've needed to take care of myself during pregnancy, childbirth, and all of that, and raising young children.
Biagi: Now alone, raising young children.
Lozano: Right. Now alone. As you well know, these jobs are very time-consuming and the demands are enormous. They can be regularly twelve-hour days. It's not unusual to work twelve-hour days regularly. And when you are doing these special coverages or the city's burning or the earthquake—the earthquake happened in the very early morning. Running upstairs, getting the kids, getting them in bed, wondering when it's going to stop shaking. They're crying, and I'm on the phone trying to find out whether or not we've got power at the building and what are we going to do to mobilize reporters, with these two shaking kids in the bed, and knowing that I'm the one responsible for our editorial coverage and getting everybody out there. We didn't know if the building was even standing at the time.
Biagi: But you're also responsible for the two shaking kids.
Lozano: Exactly. So I ended up getting them in the car after sunrise, driving them to my parents' house, which is about an hour away from here. Luckily, my parents were there. I dropped them off, and by seven-something I was at work. Because they were with my parents, I was able to work all night and be here the next morning, and we were able to do our specials and all of that. But it's very difficult, it's very difficult. Like I said, under normal circumstances, for a woman who has to report to a boss, I think that it could be quite stressful, terribly stressful. I have a lot of latitude here, because not only am I part owner and in charge of the company when my brother is not here, but I am the editor, which means there is nobody else above me and I can essentially make my own hours, or whatever. Most people don't have that capacity.
Biagi: Can you remember a time, or has there been more than one time, when you felt being a woman was an advantage to you here, professionally?
Lozano: I don't know if I would say it was an advantage. My brother and I laugh about this a lot, because both of us have a pretty full public agenda. We sit on boards of directors and are involved in different organizations.
Biagi: Which boards do you sit on, for instance?
Lozano: I think I've been on the board of trustees of the University of Southern California for three years now. I was just appointed to the board of First Interstate Bank of California, which is the first corporate board that I've ever been on. Then I sit on the boards of some nonprofits in
the city—the Central American Resource Center, it's an old organization that's done a lot of work for the Central American community here. Do you want them all?
Biagi: Just a few.
Lozano: The Venice Family Clinic, for example, which is a free clinic that offers health care to low-income minorities.
Biagi: It's not the Venice family. I mean, for people who don't live in L.A., Venice is an area.
Lozano: Venice is a part of the city. The Venice Family Clinic happens to be the largest free clinic in the country, and it services the primarily low-income Latino population on the west side of L.A. I've served on that board for a long time, and it's one of the ones that I really like because it's direct service. What you do there is provide for immunizations, doctors, diabetes screenings, and things that people desperately need and can't get because they're either uninsured or working, but too poor for insurance, etc.
So my brother and I sometimes laugh about the boards of directors that we get asked to serve on. I don't kid myself. I get asked to serve on certain boards and to be involved in certain activities because I'm a woman. It's not to say I'm not capable and I'm not good and I'm not qualified, but they ask me and they don't ask my brother because I'm a woman. People right now are very concerned about diversity, gender diversity and ethnic diversity, especially among policy-making bodies and boards of directors, etc. So I do know that I have certain opportunities because of my gender.
Biagi: In that case it's interesting because it's not your ethnicity so much as your gender.
Lozano: I think it's both.
Biagi: Both. A double kind of a thing.
Lozano: I think that you shouldn't go in with illusions about yourself. If you go in and you know the score, it's much easier to play. So I understand perfectly well what it is that is motivating people at certain levels. For example, I got asked to be on the board of directors of New Directions for News, and I still haven't been able to go to a meeting because of—in fact, I think they're meeting right now—different reasons. Anyway I haven't been able to participate much. But I know that when they asked me, it wasn't because I was a woman, but I think because of what I'm doing with the newspaper. At least I would hope that it had something to do with their interest in servicing different markets, and knowing that La Opinión is very good at one of them. So I think it really is more an issue of straight-out qualification versus gender.
Biagi: Friendships. There are some people I've interviewed who have said that they have no life outside of the newspaper, but would you say that as well? In other words, the newspaper is their social life. Is that true for you?
Lozano: No, no. The newspaper is my work, and I don't have much of a life outside of work. [Laughter.] So that's what I would say. People that I meet through my work and that I get together with, I don't become very friendly with because, for the most part, we're probably going to report some nasty thing about them. [Laughter.] And I don't want to be caught in a situation where I question my capacity to do that because of a friendship. So I think that I have a lot of
social contacts and a lot of acquaintances, but friends, it's true, I have very few. Most of my life really is either my work or my family.
Biagi: You bring up ethics, the issue of ethics and separating yourself in a professional sense from the people that you have friendships with. Has there ever been a specific incident you can remember where there was an ethical debate in your mind about whether editorially the newspaper should cover an issue about a friend or somebody you were friends with in the corporate or business world?
Lozano: No, and I bet you if you asked my staff, they wouldn't know who I was friends with. And so that's very helpful. We meet so many interesting people that come through the paper that I may develop a relationship with, that we also cover as a newsmaker. We might have somebody assigned to them, and I don't think the person assigned to them would know it. So that's good. I think, in general, my staff knows what my interests are or where my sympathies lie, but specifically I can't think of a time where we've ever said, "Kill it. I don't want to do that to them."
Biagi: Have there been appeals made to you sometimes, at an editorial level, to kill a story or something, that was a tough personal decision for you to make to run the story?
Lozano: No, no. I know there have been in the past, but not with me.
Biagi: There have to be ethical dilemmas, though, in the running of a newspaper.
Lozano: Let me say, though, for example, when the paper has endorsed somebody for an elected office, I have had friends call and say, "Thanks for the endorsement," and I have to say it has nothing to do with you and me knowing each other outside of this, and people need to know that. I mean, it has to be very clear that I'd just as soon you not call and thank me for an endorsement. It does make me feel very uncomfortable.
Biagi: Have there been calls made to get an endorsement that the paper didn't make, for instance?
Lozano: Oh, yes. Oh, yes, that happens all the time. Today is a perfect example. The Democratic party is in town having their convention, their endorsing convention, their annual convention. I got a call yesterday to sit at somebody's table at lunch, and we both know perfectly well that they're going to come in here in a couple of weeks for an editorial board meeting, to get our endorsement. I am not about to be seated with them at their table as their guest, at the Democratic party luncheon, when two weeks from now I've got to question them and appear to make a decision based on fairness and qualifications. That happens all the time. People think that they can get close to you this way and that way, and maneuver personal relations, and that it might help everybody to get the paper's endorsement. That does happen all the time.
Biagi: But it doesn't bother you that you're able to split the two?
Biagi: Is there a written code of ethics for the paper?
Lozano: No, unfortunately, there is not. I say unfortunately because we've actually worked on it over the years. It would be much more helpful if everything was written down. I think the reason we haven't finished it is because it's very complicated, the issues of conflict, integrity, and
your ability to participate in outside activities, and all of those things are very complex. I have requested and solicited ethics manuals from other publications just to get a sense of what other people are doing, but we've never instituted one here.
Biagi: So it is situational? In other words, with each situation you have to judge?
Lozano: It's terrible. Yes, it's very difficult. People, for the most part, know what the limits are, but you really can't enforce them when everything is still up in the air.
Biagi: Has there been an ethical situation in the newsroom that you can remember, whether to run a story or something became a situation that you had to face?
Lozano: Sure. Before I go on to that, I just wanted to mention also, one of the things, for example, that the paper has never allowed, and is difficult for some of our staff to understand, is accepting perks, freebies, junkets, and all of that. We have never allowed news reporters to be either invited with their expenses paid for by another entity, or to receive gifts from other entities. Partly it has to do with the roots of the newspaper in Mexican journalism. Journalists, for the most part, in Mexico, traditionally, even up until now are expected to receive outside income. They're literally paid very little by their newspaper, because the newspaper knows that they're going to get paid by officials that they're covering or entities that want a story to run.
The policy of not accepting freebies was started under my grandfather, and then my father maintained it and we still do today, that you just don't take anything from anybody—period. There is no way that we're going to allow anything to be perceived as compromising our independence or our ability to speak out. That really has to do with our roots in Mexican journalism, which is completely the opposite.
Biagi: So actually doing the opposite of what journalism in Mexico does, that's what you're saying?
Lozano: Right. And it's been hard for our writers and reporters sometimes to understand that, that you cannot get invited by one of your sources or somebody that you're covering, on a three-day getaway to someplace in Mexico. "Aw, come on!" Well, no, you can't. You know, just getting it through their mind.
Biagi: So even the travel writers?
Biagi: And the sports writers?
Biagi: Do you pay for tickets?
Lozano: Yes. Oh, yes.
Biagi: You pay for tickets to the sporting events and you pay for tickets to travel?
Lozano: Right, or we trade it, so somehow they're not gifts to us.
Biagi: I wanted to go back to the idea of people helping you along the way. Have you felt like you've made it on your own, or have you felt like you've had help from people along the way that have made this possible?
Lozano: Well, that have made this possible, I couldn't have done it without my family. Literally, I wouldn't be here without the support and the confidence of my family. In terms of learning to do this—
Biagi: To do this, meaning run the newspaper?
Lozano: Yes, in terms of learning to run the newspaper. There are only a couple of people who I think were really critical, and I mentioned them the last time that we had spoken. One is David Hamilton at Newsday, who I met when I was about two months into my job, and really offered not just a lot of help and a lot of support, but built my confidence, let me know that my instincts were right. But, in general, really it's just been sort of hit and miss, a lot of learning on my own.
Biagi: So David was the first one, and the second one was? There were a couple of people, or just David?
Lozano: Right. There are a lot of people that I've met and interacted with that I think were valuable, but none of them that I would say that really marked my career.
Biagi: Some other women in these interviews say that it's pretty lonesome. Have you felt that?
Lozano: Yes, it is. You really have to have a strong character to do this every day, because at some point you always feel like you're hitting another wall, that you're still trying to do things that there's resistance and there's not a lot of support. You don't have large networks of people who pave the way before you. So it is quite difficult.
My circumstances are different in the sense that the newspaper is different. La Opinión may be now perceived more as a "valid" daily publication, but it hasn't always been. It wasn't just an issue of being a woman at the top, it was really sitting down at the table and not having people look at you and think, "La Opinión? What's that?" and really not having a clue, not knowing if you're a daily, if you're a weekly, or if you're published in Timbuktu.
I could list five hundred newspapers that seem to be much more well respected and have less circulation that we do, less readership than we do, lower revenues than we do, smaller page count, and all of that, and yet for some reason, it's always a struggle to sit down and say, "I'm with La Opinión," and have people just sort of look at you with blank faces. So in that sense, it's also lonely. It's very difficult.
[End Tape 2, Side B; Begin Tape 3, Side A]
Lozano: So anyway, what I was saying is, that sometimes it's lonely just being at the table as a representative of La Opinión. I had been invited to be on this committee organized by the Newspapers Association of America, and I found it fascinating and I was so excited to be there. There's been a number of occasions where you're sitting at the table with both large and small publications and you feel like you're still treated as the stepchild in the group. That's one of my big issues in life, to get that mentality turned around, to have people understand what La Opinión is all about and how well we do what we do.
I'm tired of being seen as specialty press, or ethnic press, or niche publications, or anything that seems to relegate you to the corner of the room. I don't feel like sitting in the corner of the room. I think that what we do every single day is done by hundreds of other newspapers across the country, some of them better than others, ours certainly among the more adequate publications. We've already spoken about when we can do things great and when we can't do things great, but we're good. I'm tired of being made to feel like there's something less legitimate about what we're doing. Part of it is language, and the people just don't understand. They don't read the paper so they just don't know. And part of it is because they think that since we're not in English, it's just not as important, and that bothers me very much.
Biagi: The publisher of the Woodland [Daily] Democrat might feel the same, in a sense. I'm just citing them as a small newspaper sitting at a table with large newspapers. How does the Woodland Democrat editor differ from the feeling that you have?
Lozano: Well, because I don't think it's just a question of numbers. We have very good numbers; 120,000 for a daily in southern California puts us number five in the market. There are a lot of other newspapers that seem to be—how would I put it—there seems to be more respect or they're more legitimized than ours. So it's not just a question of numbers. I think some of it has to do, like I said, with the market that we serve and the language that we publish in, the feeling that because, at least my perception, the feeling exists that because we're not published in English, it's just not as important. The Woodland Democrat may have small numbers, but it's what they call general market.
I'm still debating how I feel about this particular issue, but part of me wants to say, "This is California, guys, and very soon the largest non-Anglo population in the state of California is going to be Hispanic." So it doesn't make sense to resist papers like ours. Unfortunately, there's resistance among editors. Even newspapers that want to do something for the market, that want to service the market somehow, and are even thinking about doing things in Spanish, I think there's still a big debate about appropriateness and those issues.
Biagi: How is that going to change? If you want it to change, how is it going to change? What are you going to have to do to change it?
Lozano: Like I said, I respect New Directions for News, but I haven't been able to go to a meeting. I belong to ASNE, the American Society for Newspaper Editors, but they just had their meeting and I couldn't go to that. I want to be at the table. I want to be in the organization, I want people to know me, I want people to know my publication, and I would like to be involved in the industry as it develops. But right now, I feel like my priority is my daily product in getting the newspaper out, and it doesn't give me a lot of time to do other things. It's very difficult for me to be away for a week, strange as it may seem. It's just not my priority right now. I think that's going to be the only way for things to change is for us to get more involved in the "mainstream" institutions and organizations.
Biagi: Do you compete in the Newspapers Association of America? Do you submit for prizes, do you do things like that?
Lozano: Yes, we submit for the prizes that we're eligible to submit for. They won't take entries that are not in English, and just about every single writing contest requires that all submissions, if they weren't originally published in English, be submitted in English. I don't have either the staff or the resources to translate my newspaper to make it qualify for their requirements. We've discussed this at La Opinión, and we've sent letters to some of the associations and asked them to
change their rules, and they say that they can't find the judges. So we won't win writing awards, for the most part.
We do win a lot of awards. We submit awards for design and advertising, marketing promotions. We regularly are recognized for the things that we do in other parts of the newspaper. But I can't get my spot reporting to be considered for a prize, unless it's an organization like the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, which will take bilingual submissions or submissions in Spanish. They are about the only ones.
Biagi: So in an institutional sense, you still have battles to win, or to fight, anyway?
Lozano: Yes. For some reason, this again is something I've had on my mind a lot, because the publications, the large English-language newspapers that have started to do things in Spanish have caught the eye of everybody. The New York Times has done things for the newly discovered Hispanic market. The Chicago Tribune has been doing this, the Florida papers are doing that, and the Orange County Register is doing something. I sit back and I think, well, we're not in the circle of daily newspapers and we're not in the circle of Spanish-language press, because we're not a new product of the Chicago Tribune or a new product of the Los Angeles Times. It feels like, "Guys, the oldest, largest, most successful Spanish-language daily newspaper is La Opinión." I feel like we've just been completely overlooked because we're not viewed as a member of the dailies, and the Spanish-language publications that right now seem to be so interesting to everybody are weeklies put out by the major media companies.
Biagi: Why do you think that is?
Lozano: Because it's innovative. It's this attempt on the part of companies to be diverse and to meet the needs of their populations, etc., which I think is absolutely fine. I'm not saying that as a trend and as a strategy there's anything wrong with it, but it's a little frustrating, because you feel like you're always battling to be recognized, and you would think that we wouldn't have to do that any longer.
Biagi: Ironically, it's not the editorial product that you think is so important, it's being recognized, do you think? You're battling for editorial, in a sense is what you're battling. Because you say that your graphics gets recognized and photography, make-up, design, marketing, and other things. So the argument you're making is for the editorial product to be recognized.
Biagi: What do you think is the solution, besides getting organized to be part of those groups? Should they hire Spanish language judges to judge Spanish-language publications? Should they ask for that so that you can participate? Should they pay for the translations?
Lozano: Yes, I think that they should at least make an attempt to allow us to submit our entry in its original form. You're always being asked to do things because they don't know how or they can't do it. Well, get somebody who can, and if you can't, hire out. I mean, this is not a novel idea that you can pay to have something translated. But why should I? If I'm the one who wants to submit, why do I have to also pay to have you be able to read it? So, yes, I do think that they should. I think that if they feel like they can't find enough judges to judge multilingual or other than English entries, then they should at least allow me to submit it, and find a way to judge it.
We had this argument with the state bar of California. At their annual conference, they recognize media for either legal reporting or public service reporting on a legal issue, etc. We had done this fantastic series revolving around the anniversary of the Bill of Rights, and looked at how the Bill of Rights applied to our population, and what the constitutional guarantees are regardless of citizenship. We did this huge series and then reproduced it as a supplement, sent it out to local organizations, etc. We thought it was fantastic, and we sent it to the California State Bar. They wrote us back saying, "Sorry. It looks very nice, but we can't judge it." So we wrote back and told them how inappropriate we thought it was, and they ended up not only judging it, but we got first place for statewide legal reporting for that year. It was 1993, it was just last year. Anyway, it's what I was saying. I think that we do really good stuff, and we're only preaching to the choir, because very few people know it.
Biagi: So probably what you're saying, too, is that the change is going to come incrementally, but only if you force it.
Lozano: If we force change.
Biagi: Do you see that as part of your role?
Lozano: I do, I do. That's what I said, this is one of my causes, is to do that. I just don't think it's the right moment of my life, for different reasons. Because say we did force the Pulitzer body to allow a submission of Spanish language, I don't think I'm Pulitzer quality. That's why I'd rather pay attention to getting ourselves up to par, versus making sure that they get a judge that can read my stuff. I think that right now the priority is the editorial content, and making sure that we produce a good product.
Biagi: Do you think that the issues that you publish or give voice to in your paper are eventually picked up by what we call the mainstream media? And if so, how that happens?
Lozano: Yeah. Well, we use PR Newswire now. [Laughter.]
Lozano: That's right. When we do things that we think other people should be aware of, we've tried to structure ourselves in such a way that we can rely on organizations like PR Newswire to run a press release on something that we're doing. We also make it available to City News Service locally, if we don't think that anybody else has the story. We also have much more direct relationships with the newspapers in our market area. So if we're doing something that we think that the Daily News may want, we'll call them up and make it available to them. Like I said, we're also doing things like reprints.
Biagi: So the issues that are important to you move into the mainstream media when you choose to do that?
Lozano: Right. They pay any attention.
Biagi: They watch you?
Lozano: I think that some papers monitor us. I would hope that they would. I've been told that they do. It's very frustrating.
Lozano: Because even City News, I can't tell you how many times I've talked to the director of City News Service and said, "How can you run, two days later, a story that cites the L.A. Times when we ran it three days before?" It's the same issue, whether or not they have staff that can clip and read at La Opinión.
Biagi: Has there ever been a discussion about you providing an English language news service?
Lozano: Yes, we've talked about it. We've even talked about ways of translating our material and getting it to City News so they can run it. We don't have the time, we don't have the bodies, we don't have the resources, and we think it's their responsibility, not ours.
Biagi: They haven't seen that it's useful enough to them yet to provide translation services?
Lozano: I don't know, I really don't know.
Biagi: They haven't approached you about doing it yet?
Lozano: We've had many conversations with them. The other times, for example, that we've been able to make a difference is when we've uncovered an issue or been aggressive enough in our reporting that some elected official or somebody picks it up and uses it to promote new legislation.
For example, probably the example that most readily comes to mind was a series that we did on check-cashing and money-transferring facilities that are so prevalent in Los Angeles, and that so many of our readers and community rely upon. We uncovered tremendous fraud and abuse, found out that as an industry it wasn't regulated, people would drop their $100 there and expected it to be wired to Mexico and it never got anywhere, and there was no recourse. The issue was picked up by somebody on staff on one of the assemblyperson's office, who then pushed forward legislation and passed a bill. Now the whole industry is regulated thanks to something that La Opinión had done, but it was only because that person had somebody on staff who was reading La Opinión, and came to us afterwards and said, "This is an issue we want to know about," and we were their source for it. But it doesn't happen often enough.
Biagi: Is there anything that I've forgotten to ask about you or about the paper that you think would be important for people to know about, that they shouldn't forget from this interview?
Lozano: No, I think you've pretty much covered all the big issues.
Biagi: What is it that's important about you in this job that women should know about? If they were to take a job like this, what should they know about it, most importantly?
Lozano: Well, you have to be really committed, and if you're not committed you'll never last, because the barriers are very high. It can be frustrating on a lot of different levels. It can be frustrating because you don't think you have the support of the company and the resources that you need. It's frustrating because you feel like the outside world doesn't pay attention to what you're doing. It's frustrating because there's still sexism and all of those things that prevail. I think that different women probably respond differently. I'm probably way too serious about my work, definitely way too serious about my work. I don't know if that's helpful. I think that what it is, it drives you. You feel like you're never there, you've never finished, and probably will never finish. I would hate to have to work around me every single day. [Laughter.]
Lozano: Because I think there's room for levity and humor, you know, just relax, and I don't relax enough on the job, probably. I did. I came into this with a whole different character.
Biagi: You did?
Lozano: Yes. I was very different than I am now.
Biagi: How were you different?
Lozano: I had more time. I felt like I could just relax and let go. I'm much more uptight now than I used to be. I feel like we just don't get it. I'm more impatient than I used to be. You know, you can only work around somebody like that for short periods of time.
Biagi: But if somebody were taking this job and they were going to become you in this job, what do you know now that you didn't know in 1985, do you think?
Lozano: Well, that it's more difficult than it seems, so you really have to be very motivated and very committed, and just keep pushing, just keep plugging along. The rewards are tremendous. There is really great satisfaction that comes with it, but it's not easy, it's really not easy.
Biagi: What's the worst job you ever had?
Lozano: The worst job I ever had? Being a tour guide on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco.
Biagi: We didn't talk about that.
Lozano: Well, this was one of these things where I was desperate to find work. I had been laid off from one job that I had, and in between jobs, I needed to work, so I got hired as a tour guide on Alcatraz.
Biagi: For how long did you have this job?
Lozano: I lasted about four months. But Alcatraz is out in the middle of San Francisco Bay, and the fog would roll in and it would be raining, and the tour boats would just keep coming, and you had to smile and talk to people about Al Capone and "Pretty Boy" Floyd. It was not what I wanted to be doing. It was terrible. I was young.
Biagi: What was the best job you ever had?
Lozano: Oh, this is definitely it. There's no doubt that this is the best job.
Lozano: Well, because for everything that we've been saying. I'm doing what I like. I think that we're recognized by our community as being valuable and important, and doing good work. It's quite satisfying, I really like it.
Biagi: Thank you.
© 1994, Washington Press Club Foundation.
Washington, DC. All Rights Reserved.