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Heralding an Era Nueva

With El Heraldo Latino, a local high school is on the leading edge of a trend toward educating students to work in Spanish-language media

May 29, 2000|JOSE CARDENAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Venice High School's Spanish-language newspaper, El Heraldo Latino, has only one issue under its belt.

And the Spanish is a little rusty at times.

But modest as the effort is, it appears to be at the leading edge of an incipient trend: the training of would-be journalists to work in America's burgeoning Spanish-language media market.

Many of the thousands of journalists working for Spanish-language newspapers, television and radio stations around the United States are imported from Latin America, the Caribbean or Spain.

So it seemed only natural to teacher Nancy Zubiri, an author and former journalist, to institute a Spanish-language journalism class that could potentially lead students to jobs in the growing domestic market.

"I went to a workshop, and people were saying, 'Well, where do we get training in Spanish in this country?' " she said. "So it seems very appropriate to teach journalism in Spanish because some kids might eventually think about going to [the newspaper] La Opinion or [TV networks] Univision or Telemundo."

The class is part of the school's Bilingual Business and Finance Academy, a program that focuses on building job skills such as computer literacy.

"The idea is to teach students to read and write Spanish better," giving them a greater range of skills to bring to the work world, said Joan Miner, a counselor at Venice High who created the academy.

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Even though U.S.-based Spanish-language media--from radio stations to magazines--are increasing in ratings, circulation and number of outlets in the United States, there is a scarcity of academic programs focusing on the niche, which makes a Spanish journalism class at the high school level unique.

"It's very rare," said Miriam Galicia Duarte, community affairs manager at the Spanish-language daily newspaper La Opinion. Galicia Duarte helps high schools and universities that are trying to create Spanish-language journalism programs for American-born Latinos and others who wish to work in Spanish-language media. She says Spanish-speaking students inquiring about internships often tell her, "I'm taking journalism in English but I can't write Spanish."

At other local high school newspapers, students translate some articles from English into Spanish. But at El Heraldo Latino, where the class is taught in Spanish, the opposite is true: Students translate the front-page articles into English and run the translations on inside pages.

High school newspapers published in other languages were not rare 30 years ago when school districts around the country had stronger foreign-language programs, said Edmund Sullivan, director of the Columbia Scholastic Press Assn. at New York's Columbia University.

However, the philosophy of those newspapers--of which there are still probably a few around--was different, Sullivan said. Students usually began learning a foreign language as freshmen, and by their junior or senior year they published a newspaper to demonstrate their mastery of that language.

Fifteen hundred copies of the first issue of El Heraldo Latino were printed, costing the school about $80, mostly for film and other odd costs.

The school avoids outside printing expenses because Venice High is one of the few Los Angeles Unified School District schools that have a printing shop (which also handles the school's regular paper, the Oarsman).

Venice High also has something else most other schools don't have: a foreign-languages magnet . . . and plenty of Spanish teachers to critique El Heraldo Latino, where the fine points of the language are still being worked out.

"One teacher said there was bad grammar," said Mayra Rodarte, 17, a senior who wrote about the school's production of "Grease" and interviewed actors from the movie "Luminarias" for El Heraldo Latino's first issue. But most comments, she added, have been positive.

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For an upcoming issue, Rodarte, who is considering a Spanish-language journalism as a career, hopes to interview the parents of a classmate who died recently of an unknown cause.

But for students such as Rodarte, who will attend Santa Monica College next year, there aren't many other options for such training at the university level, said La Opinion's Galicia Duarte.

La Opinion sponsors two Spanish-language journalism classes taught by two of its journalists through UCLA Extension. Galicia Duarte said Cal State Long Beach is considering a similar program.

"What we are trying to do is actually hire bilingual candidates [who were] . . . raised in Los Angeles, who have gone through the education system [and] are familiar with [local] politics," she said.

That resonates for Mayra Morales, 17, another Heraldo Latino reporter and editor, who explains her goals very simply: "I want to do something in Spanish for Spanish readers."

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