Latina Publishing Magnate Shares Wisdom From The Trade
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.
Now it's time for our Wisdom Watch. That's the part of the program where we talk to people who have made a difference through their work, people who have wisdom to share. Today, we hear from one of the most influential media executives who many people have never heard of.
Monica Lozano has spent her entire career working for newspapers that fly off the shelves in some neighborhoods but are bypassed in others because they can't read them, because they are in Spanish. Monica Lozano is the CEO of Impremedia. It's this country's largest print and online Hispanic news company. She's also the CEO of La Opinion, the largest circulation Spanish-language daily newspaper in the country. And she's with us now in our Washington, D.C. studio., Welcome, thank you for joining us.
Ms. MONICA LAZANO (CEO, Impremedia): Thank you, Michel, it's great to be here.
MARTIN: La Opinion was started by your grandfather.
Ms. LOZANO: It was. It was started in 1926 on September 16th, which is Mexican Independence Day, and he deliberately chose that date because in his mind, the paper's role was to really be the voice of the Mexican immigrant community in the United States. And he founded it under a slogan, Diario Popular Independiente. In other words, independent, popular and a daily. His vision was that La Opinion would serve as an independent voice for all the people who found themselves on this side of the border.
And as you know, back then, media in Mexico was very ideological. It was aligned with different political parties. And it was important for him to establish the newspaper as a credible, legitimate, independent voice for a migrant community. And over 85 years, weve tried to stay very true to that mission, which is what guides our work even today.
MARTIN: Your family has kind of traveled the arc of our conversation around immigration in this century - or the last century. I mean, your grandfather starting the business here in 1926, to your becoming a CEO sitting astride a large business empire. And yet at the same time, we are engaging in weve had some very intense debates about immigrants who come from your familys original country - of origin and whether they, you know, belong here and want to be here and will fit in here.
And Im wondering, are we at a watershed moment or do you have a moment of - do you think that this, too, shall pass? Or, you know, 10 years from now, are we still going to be talking about this?
Ms. LOZANO: Our family represents so many millions of other families - maybe not in the exact, same way. But the aspiration of coming here and not having anything and having a dream, and being able to sustain that and to work hard and to pass it on to the next generation, and then from that generation to the next.
And ours was around La Opinion and this media company, but it happens every single day. And thats what we need to recognize, that the reason why people come is not to take but to give. And the contributions that are being made by whether its our family, that has been able to employ so many thousands and thousands of people over the year and to give them the opportunity to buy a house and get their kids into college.
And, you know, that entrepreneurship is really the driving force of this community. And so I would say thats the story. And too often, our point of view is misdirected - looking at the negatives of this experience as opposed to the positives.
MARTIN: How are you addressing this whole question now with you know, of course, immigration is once again a front-burner issue for many people. Its evoking a lot of very intense debates in many places, Arizona just being one. But one of the issues here is this whole question of acculturation. People are saying, these are people who are continuing to hold themselves apart, who are not assimilating, not embracing the American culture.
And there are those who would argue that Spanish-language media, even if it provides a valuable service for people who are newly arrived, there are some who say, well, it provides another shelter for people to avoid completely integrating into the culture. Have you heard this argument, and Im wondering, what do you make of it?
Ms. LOZANO: Well, I think its interesting because precisely what you say is sort of the common misconception of Spanish-language media - that we are in fact isolationist, that what Spanish-language media does is, in fact, maintain you within a certain enclave. And our feeling, and the way that we approach our content, is that we, in fact, are a tool for integration.
And what I mean by that is that immigrant integration, which right now is the way we think about this - as opposed to assimilation or acculturation - you have a large group of people that come, and they come with the aspiration that theyre going to make a better life for themselves, benefit their families, give back to the country that has given to them.
And the tools that they need to be able to do that is primarily information. How do you do certain things? How do I make sure, though I aspire for my kids to go to college - and if you see the most recent, there's an Univision-AP Poll thats out right now, more than 80 percent of all Hispanic adults saying their number priority is for their kids to go to college.
The thing that keeps them back is not knowing how. So what are the steps that I take to make sure that my kids are prepared for college? What is it that I need to do to ensure that they have financial aid, and affordability isn't the barrier to college-going?
MARTIN: I take it, but why do you think that that perception exists?
Ms. LOZANO: I think its because people dont know, dont understand, are not familiar with the content that we provide. And so if you had an opportunity to interact with it - which is one of the reasons why weve made the decision that we have to go bilingual. So for example, all of our editorials are published bilingually because if we have a statement, we want to make sure that it reaches the broadest audience possible.
But so much of our work is around entrepreneurship, and how do you start a new business, and how do you access capital, and where do you find the financing? And we do that in the area of small businesses and home ownership and education and health care.
Our mission is very much about both - informing, educating and empowering. Those are the three pillars of our mission.
MARTIN: Give me an example, though, of a story you think that your outlets would cover that perhaps other media would not or have not.
Ms. LOZANO: I'm not sure that I would say outlets that have not covered. So I've got a very good friend that works at the L.A. Times, and she often says to me: When I read your paper, its like we were in two different cities -because what we cover is very much about how do public policies, how are decisions impacting a particular community?
Well go into neighborhoods that may not be covered by other media and try to understand, what are the quality-of-life issues, and what about public safety, and what about, you know, the health-care environment, etc. So its really looking at how people are impacted by the news of everyday.
MARTIN: Recently, a columnist at one of your papers, El Diario La Prensa in New York, was arrested for spying for Russia and has since been deported. I have to say, this is something that - headline I never would've thought I would've seen associated with El Diario La Prensa, which is known for a number of other things, like tough coverage of the New York scene and so forth. But did you have any inkling about this? And did any of her colleagues have a clue?
Ms. LOZANO: We had no idea. And of course, had we known, the woman would I mean, what do you mean, had we known? She was a spy, so we had absolutely no idea. And our...
MARTIN: But did you think there was something interesting or odd about her work behavior? Was there anything that...
Ms. LOZANO: Well, I never worked with her. And weve gone back, and we did an analysis and we asked ourselves, was there a failure of any kind in terms of oversight of people in the newsroom, etc. And we agreed that there was not. And weve gone back, and weve checked every single accusation. None of it is true. The woman was a spy. We had no idea that she was an operating - and whats particularly...
MARTIN: Was she a spy?
Ms. LOZANO: No. She was actually found the charge against her was being an unregistered foreign agent. The story is that her husband was, in fact, the spy posing as a Uruguayan immigrant, was in fact, Russian, and because they had been married and because they had children, she left the country with him when they did they conducted the spy swap.
MARTIN: Her children didnt know.
Ms. LOZANO: No. Who knew? Who knew? So the only part I wanted to...
MARTIN: Thats kind of weird, isn't it?
Ms. LOZANO: Its, you know, its 2012 and you had no idea that this was still going on and, you know, thats the world that we live in. But...
MARTIN: I would love to have known when you got that phone call, what were you like...
(Soundbite of laughter)
MARTIN: Can you even repeat in a family setting what you said when you got that phone call? Must have been interesting.
Ms. LOZANO: No. So listen, the only thing that I want to reiterate - and of course, you know this - is that we reaffirm our commitment to the journalistic standards and the integrity and the high quality of our work. And you know, in no way, shape or form do we feel that we violated that. But in fact, just want to reiterate that we have a complete commitment to transparency and to those standards.
MARTIN: Does anybody say you didnt?
Ms. LOZANO: Some people do.
Ms. LOZANO: Because she was working in a news outlet.
MARTIN: Okay. There have been spies who were working for the FBI.
Ms. LOZANO: True.
MARTIN: I mean, Robert Hanson, the best-known and the most damaging spy in recent history, was working for the FBI, so...
Ms. LOZANO: So the most important thing that we can do is say, one, we knew nothing; shocked and surprised, just as were all Americans. And in no way, shape or form do we feel that it influenced any of our coverage, or that we let down our audience in any way.
MARTIN: If youre just joining us, youre listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm speaking with Monica Lozano. Shes the CEO of the largest print and online Hispanic news company, Impremedia. Shes here with us in our Washington, D.C., studios.
How are you also addressing that whole language question, and that your media outlets are all Spanish language to this point - they're Spanish language primary. But how about the second and third generation for whom English is their primary language? Like, for example, do your kids read La Opinion?
Ms. LOZANO: They dont read La Opinion, but they read online content so...
MARTIN: In Spanish?
Ms. LOZANO: Yes. And so what you see with young people is that, in fact, they may be born in this country, but they have recovered their sense of culture, their sense of identity. They use language as a way of saying, this is who I am. And they're embracing their multilingualism, multiculturalism in a way that maybe we didnt back in our generation as young people. Back then, it seemed as if you had to make a choice: You were either one or the other.
Now youve got kids, and especially because our school systems are made up of, you know, people from so many different countries and so many different languages, that the sense of otherness really doesnt exist, at least among the young people that we see in our urban centers.
MARTIN: So you think there's still a future for Spanish-language media, even with the second and third generation who use English - I would assume predominately - in their daily lives?
Ms. LOZANO: Oh sure. You dont operate for 80-some years, having gone through all of the cycles of immigration, ebb and flow, and assimilation and acculturation and - you know, our sense is that its about relevant content. And we are moving - we haven't done it as aggressively yet, but we're not afraid of it and we're prepared to do it - were - to move into platforms that allow us to disseminate both English- and Spanish-language content.
MARTIN: You are one of the highest-profile women in American media, I just think its fair to say, in terms of the - sitting atop of a business empire that serves a particular market, it's very dominant in that market. But I think its fair to say a lot of people dont know you. I mean, people in the business world know you. But I mean, I'm just saying in terms of being a media figure, that a lot of English speakers would know - like people would know Katie Couric, or theyd know Barbara Walters. Now, I know youre not an on-camera talent in the sense of that, but you are a major American woman in business, like a Cathie Black, or they know sort of Oprah as a publisher. Does that bother you?
Ms. LOZANO: My number one responsibility is to the company that I run, and to make sure that we're running it well, and that weve identified pillars of growth, and that we're driving revenue, and that we're increasing our audience, and we're making sure that our advertisers are able to connect effectively with those audiences. So I really am focused internally.
I used to do a lot more, sort of outreach and external relations. It doesnt bother me that I'm not well-known outside of the world that I run, unless it inhibits my ability to grow the company. And so I put everything through that prism. Its not about me. Its about the company that I run. And if people are familiar with our brands, and they associate those brands with high-quality content and the ability to connect with the growing Hispanic market, then I've done my job.
MARTIN: Is there any way in which being a woman, do you think, has affected the way youve gone about doing your job?
Ms. LOZANO: Absolutely.
MARTIN: Tell me.
Ms. LOZANO: Well, because the CEO position is relatively new. I was named CEO in March of this year, even though I've been running La Opinion as its CEO and publisher prior to that. But my approach - and everybody that works with me knows this - I'm very collaborative, and I believe in building teams. And I want to make sure that everybody understands where we're going, and that we all have the same general sense of vision, and that we're moving the company collectively in that direction. Its not authoritative. Its not top-down. Its not, I say, you do. And I think that style of management - as you and I both know - is very much associated with the way women run things.
MARTIN: When you first started, though, in the business working in the business, it was a family-owned compan, but nevertheless, it was still a very male-dominated business, both in the newsroom and on the business side. I'm just curious about whether you have any interesting stories about that.
Ms. LOZANO: Well, I've been there for over 25 years. And so yes, I came in not just as the daughter of the owner, but one of the first women in the newsroom. And absolutely, those were the days when, you know, men had pictures of women all over their cubicles and, you know, they would take long lunches, and you would come in and it was just, you know, an entirely different atmosphere and attitude.
And the women in the newsroom, when I came in - because I came in, in the position as managing editor - the women in the newsroom immediately asked for a meeting; can we talk to you? And you know, lo and behold, they felt harassed and uncomfortable in that environment. But it wasnt until there was a woman in the leadership position that they felt that they actually had an outlet where their voice not only would be heard, but we actually could do something about changing the culture in that newsroom.
MARTIN: But you know, I got to tell you, that's still not necessarily your outlets but - and also, some of it, I'm talking about the broadcast side -there still are a number of Spanish-language media outlets where, you know, women who are dressed a lot less well, how can we put it? Not your standard business attire, let us say. The suit behind the desk kind of thing: short skirts, tight dresses, a lot of, you know - are still very prominent in the pages. And I'm just - whats up with that? Whats up with that?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. LOZANO: Well, I dont know. You know, I can't tell you. I mean, theres, its like entertainment, right? So you find very serious media outlets that would never do that, and you find others that say okay, well, you know, what sells? And so you know, theres the TMZ approach to entertainment news. So thats, I think, kind of it.
MARTIN: Before we let you go, do you have any wisdom to share?
Ms. LOZANO: Wisdom to share?
MARTIN: Yeah. If you were talking to somebody, a younger you or if you could talk to yourself if you could go back and talk to yourself 20 years ago, what wisdom would you share?
Ms. LOZANO: You know, so I always say, one, you know, follow your passion and do what it is that you are most compelled to do, because life is too short to not do things that you absolutely love doing. And the other thing is around both perseverance but also determination.
And, you know, a lot of people ask, you know, well, so how did you get to the top? Well, you dont start at the top. You work your way up. And, you know, constantly just demanding more of yourself, making sure that youre working at the very highest level, and making sure that your reputation is intact as you move along the path of life. Because at the end of the day, thats what you carry with you, and thats what people will remember about you.
So just make sure, along the way, that youre working hard. When people turn around and say, you know, that woman is really good; I can depend on her -thats what you want them to say about you. You know, strong values: highly ethical, smart decision-making, you know, philosophy - thats whats important.
MARTIN: Monica Lozano is the CEO of Impremedia, a Spanish media network that includes 13 print publications, 14 online sites, with a monthly audience of 11 million people if I have that right. She was kind enough to stop by our Washington, D.C., studios on a visit to Washington. Thank you so much for joining us.
Ms. LOZANO: Thank you, Michel. Very much appreciated it.
(Soundbite of music)
MARTIN: And that's our program for today. Im Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Lets talk more tomorrow.
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