SILER CITY — The Chatham News + Record published its first Spanish print edition of La Voz de Chatham last week nearly a year after the bilingual reporting project first began.
It’s also Chatham’s first Spanish community paper.
After sending the new edition to press last Wednesday, the News + Record directly mailed over 2,500 copies to every Spanish-speaking household in the county. Hundreds more will be distributed primarily to Hispanic-owned businesses and organizations around Siler City and Pittsboro.
“This has been months in the making,” said lead La Voz reporter Victoria Johnson. “Even at the beginning, we’d always planned to publish some kind of Spanish-language print product of La Voz to reach people who might not have online access or know about the project. We’re super happy with how it’s turned out and hope that readers will feel the same.”
La Voz de Chatham is a bilingual project the News + Record began last June thanks to a Facebook Journalism Project grant to cover COVID-19’s impact on Chatham’s Hispanic/Latinx community. At that point in time, over half of the county’s COVID cases came from Chatham’s Hispanic community, even though Hispanic residents make up just over 12% of the population.
Led by Johnson, the project publishes La Voz stories in English in the weekly print edition of the News + Record, and both English- and Spanish-language stories on the News + Record’s website. The stories are shared through the News + Record’s various social media platforms as well.
And La Voz de Chatham has since expanded to cover more than just COVID’s impact; to date, La Voz has published more than 60 stories, and at least half have been community and organization profiles as well as event features.
“The intent of our La Voz project from the beginning was to give a voice to a segment of Chatham County’s community, and cover important stories which hadn’t been covered previously,” said News + Record Publisher and Editor Bill Horner III. “We’re a community newspaper and part of our mission is covering our community. To not address issues within the Latinx community isn’t just a disservice to them, it’s a disservice to everyone. Ultimately what we have in common is Chatham County as a whole.”
The original Facebook grant, for $30,600, expired last fall, but the News + Record is continuing to fund the project. Assisting is Chatham Hospital, which has provided supplemental grant funding.
“UNC Chatham Hospital is excited to announce a partnership with La Voz de Chatham, a project launched by the Chatham News + Record,” said Susan Magrogan, the marketing operations specialist for UNC Health. “The COVID-19 pandemic has and continues to affect all of us in Chatham county, but especially the Latinx community. It is important that this community can easily access the latest information about COVID-19, stay up to date on how to keep their family and themselves safe and hear directly from others what they are experiencing. By working with the News + Record, we want to focus on sharing stories from our Latinx communities and serve as a trusted resource for health care, during and long after the pandemic. We look forward to helping tell your stories.”
Within 18 pages, the print edition contains articles produced over the past year, plus a two-page opinion section and two facing inside pages dedicated to the pandemic’s impact on the Hispanic community. The edition also offers a chart informing readers how and where they can get vaccinated against COVID-19 in Chatham County.
“It was hard to choose which articles would be included and which wouldn’t,” Johnson said. “In a perfect world, we probably would have included half of our work from the past year, but since we had limited space, Patsy and I chose the articles we thought would be most meaningful and useful to the community.”
Patsy Montesinos, a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill, is part of the La Voz reporting team, along with CN+R intern Olivia Rojas, who, like Montesinos, is studying journalism at UNC. Besides translation and multimedia projects, Montesinos writes columns for La Voz, one of which appears in the print edition.
“I’m so happy that the Hispanic community, my community, will finally have a place to see their stories and their work,” Montesinos said. “It’s been a hard year for all of us, and I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done at La Voz de Chatham to keep the community informed.”
So far, the La Voz print edition has been well received by many among the county’s Hispanic community, as community members and organizations have told the News + Record. Chatham ESL teacher and activist Alirio Estevez told the News + Record that he was excited the La Voz print edition had been made reality and looks forward to reading every future issue. He contributed a column to La Voz’s opinion section.
“I feel that our Latino community will benefit tremendously by having a trustworthy newspaper that will inform us about important events in our county and our state,” he said. “La Voz de Chatham will help increase the civic involvement of our community. I want to thank the Chatham News + Record and its journalists for making this dream come true.”
Maria Gomez Flores, the Liaison’s Advocacy and Civic Engagement Program Manager, also contributed an opinion piece to the print edition. She told the News + Record that as a bilingual resident, she’s able to read about local news in English publications, which helps her feel more connected to Chatham. But not all Chatham residents can say the same, she added.
“The Spanish-speaking community for the longest time didn’t have this privilege,” Gomez Flores told the News + Record. “That’s why I was really excited for La Voz and their new Spanish print (edition to) bridge that gap for Spanish speakers. The Latinx community also deserves to have access to local news and to feel connected to the place they call home."
"I am excited to see La Voz and the Chatham News + Record further their connection with the Latinx and immigrant community because we exist and we are a part of Chatham County,” she added.
Future print editions of La Voz de Chatham are being planned.