Stop the presses – San Antonio’s bilingual language newspaper, La Prensa, is back.
A week after Publisher Nina Duran announced that the paper her father had owned since 1989 was folding immediately, La Prensa Texas, a rebranded version of the San Antonio staple, found its way to newsstands on Sunday thanks to Steve Duran, her brother, who borrowed from his retirement savings to keep the presses running.
Steve Duran re-hired three former La Prensa staffers and brought in four new people to the publication headquartered at the Westside Development Corporation. He renamed the publication La Prensa Texas to reflect his goal – and his father’s – of taking the paper statewide. A website is in the works.
On Sunday, Steve Duran began delivering the latest edition of La Prensa Texas to convenience stores, offices, and clinics throughout the South and West sides – right on schedule.
“The Hispanic community is still picking up the paper,” Steve Duran said. “I understand papers are having a lot of problems … [but] a lot of older people don’t have computers, so they want something they can hold in their hands and read. As I was delivering them, people were asking me for a paper before I got into the store.
“I tell everybody I’m driving a train and not stopping for nothing.”
Established in 1913, La Prensa De San Antonio was the first bilingual publication in the state of Texas. It has always been independently owned.
Former owner and publisher Florentino “Tino” Duran bought the paper in 1989. When Tino retired in 2016, he turned the business over to his youngest daughter Nina. The father of five succumbed to complications of Alzheimer’s last year.
Shortly after, La Prensa reduced its publication frequency from two days a week to Sundays. Three employees were laid off in April, and initially, Nina Duran announced La Prensa was closing print operations in July to focus on a digital-only product.
But on June 11, the outlet issued a surprise announcement via Facebook that it would cease operations altogether. But Steve Duran, who had worked with his father at the paper until 1995, already was gearing up to bring La Prensa back to life with a new name and a revitalized staff.
“About a little over a month ago, I saw an article in the Express-News that said La Prensa was going digital. It threw me for a loop,” Steve Duran said. “I called Nina and she told me about her situation, so she informed she was going to close the paper. My head started going – this is not something my dad would have wanted, what I wanted. It has to live on, it just has to.”
Others agreed, he added, including Bexar County Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Calvert, who appears as a columnist in the most recent issue, and former UTSA President Ricardo Romo, who called and urged Steve to keep La Prensa alive.
La Prensa, with a circulation of 15,000, is one of five Spanish-language newspapers in Texas, including Al Dia in Dallas, El Diario de El Paso, El Nuevo Heraldo in Brownsville, and La Voz de Houston (which is owned by the Hearst Corporation).
Ethnic media, once known in this country as the “immigrant press,” has always served an important function, said Rob Huesca, communication department professor at Trinity University, but for the Spanish-speaking population, perhaps an especially significant role.
“The Latino population is cycling in and out all the time, so the patterns of acculturation don’t match with that of European immigrants,” Huesca said. “[Also] the level of antipathy toward Latinos and Mexican immigrants has been intense and perpetuating the need for the immigrant community to have resources to defend themselves and function in our society.”
Noting that print media, in general, has been on the decline in the last decade, Huesca thinks La Prensa will need to consider philanthropic business models, in addition to advertising and subscriptions, to raise revenues and keep its doors open.
“I don’t see those [models] as long-term viable, but as a stop-gap measure, that may be the best avenue of hope,” he said.
The newspaper also will need the kind of dedication Huesca saw in Tino Duran.
“When Tino was alive, it was a passion for him, I don’t think it was ever a cash register,” Huesca said. “Sometimes that’s what it takes to see a print publication through hard times.”