Future of Journalism: La Gaceta publisher Patrick Manteiga

09/29/11 Dawn Morgan
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Earlier this month an L.A Times editorial pointed out how 8000 small weekly newspapers in this country are thriving.

Ybor City’s trilingual La Gaceta is one of them. Patrick Manteiga is the third generation publisher and editor of the paper, which he said had its most profitable year ever in 2010.

In this third installment of WMNF’s Future of Journalism series, reporter Dawn Morgan talks with Manteiga about the struggles and successes of his small newspaper.

How has the recession affected La Gaceta?

The downturn has actually proved to be a benefit to us. While our clients such as banks and restaurants and things like that suffered decline and had to cut back, one of our clients for the last 20-30 years happened to end up becoming one of the biggest foreclosure lawyer on the west coast of Florida.

So last year we had almost some newspapers that had almost 100 full pages of advertising of foreclosure notices. So we actually had our most profitable year last year.

How many reporters or staff do you have at the paper?

In house, we have 10 people. Contributors, we have, depending on the week, anywhere from 10-15. Freelancers, volunteers. As a small newspaper you have to beg, borrow and steal. We underpay everybody. We try to get the most out of them. A lot of the people who do things are doing it for love. That’s really what it needs to be about. We’re a small community newspaper and it’s going to take a community for us to survive.

And who is your audience, who is the community?

A lot of our audience are Latins who are may be second, third generation in the area. We get a lot of people who have an interest in politics. Then we get some newer immigrants who come in and want some serious news inthe Spanish language to read that news. We have a wide diversity.

I know we’re the only newspaper that during legislative session still mails our paper to every legislator in the state of Florida. It used to be that the Miami Herald, St. Pete Times, Orlando Sentinel, Jacksonville Times-Union, everybody wanted to get their newspaper read in the capitol so their editorials would be read and influence the legislature. We’re the only ones who still does it. Everyone else says they can no longer afford it.

What kind of stories did you have in the paper this month?

We’re dealing a lot with historic preservation issues, we’re dealing with Cuba travel. Two big things on our agenda, in my column, which is As We Heard It, is focused on. Panhandling issues coming up in the city of Tampa, and try to give a different voice. I find it interesting that a lot of the panhandling stories are being influenced by the Tampa Tribune and St. Pete Times. And both of them have a very high stake in this game, in which they both want to sell their papers in the middle of the road. Which is an odd place for commerce. So I find that their editorials and their news articles are a little imbalanced on this issue.

Is your paper ever accused of having a bias one way or - ?

I don’t let people accuse me of it, I say I am a little biased. I think that in today’s world to say you’re fair and balanced, when the reality is we’re all a little imbalanced. You can be fair with that imbalance. And I think the way of really being fair with it tell people where you’re coming from.

Our newspaper has never supported a Republican in a general election in our entire history. We’re pro-union, pro working-class newspaper and we’re proud of it.

Do you have an online presence?

We do not. Besides just a simple website that tells you how to order our newspaper. About 20 years ago, we made a decision that when we saw a newspaper actually make money with its online presence we would go online. And we’re still waiting.

Let’s talk about the important of that voice, especially coming from a minority community.

I do believe there’s a necessity for minority voices, while I don’t think we have the same situation in the deep South that we had in the 50’s and 60’s, and before that, where you had a lot of violent kind of racism, there’s still racism, and still needs to be a reminder.

I was at a Republican meeting the other day, actually volunteered to be on the Republican Host Committee, don’t know what caused me to do that, a little moment of insanity. But I was at one of the meetings the other day, and I'm introducing myself to a delegate from Missouri, and I tell him I’m with La Gaceta newspaper, and we're a Spanish, Italian and English newspaper. And he says ‘When are you people going to learn English?’

And you can get mad, or you can figure well maybe you’re just ignorant. So I then tried to explain to him what might look like a community that isn’t learning, is really a community that's constantly being replenished.

People after they’ve been here for 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 years, 15 years, they are learning English. Their kids are mainly English-speaking. But that there’s a new set of immigrants coming right behind him whose main language is Spanish.

So sometimes a lack of knowledge of what these immigrant communities are, who they are and what they do for our country, it’s a disadvantage to us and I think it’s up to newspapers like mine to try and educate people.

La Gaceta

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