Over the course of its six-year existence, La Palma, the weekly Spanish-language spinoff of the Palm Beach Post, has seen plenty of ups and downs. The editorial staff grew to about 14 people, then shrank back down to four.
Two weeks ago, that lonely group of four walked into a meeting thinking they were going to be praised for putting out a paper with so few resources. Instead they learned the gig was up: La Palma is shutting down on July 16, and nearly all of them are facing unemployment.
"It was devastating news," says one employee of Palm Beach Newspapers Inc., which owns
La Palma and the Post. "It's a mix of being upset, sad, confused."
With massive layoffs throughout the journalism industry and major dailies shutting down in some cities, the death of one Spanish-language publication in South Florida may seem minimal. The Post alone has slashed more than 300 jobs through layoffs and buyouts in the past two years.
But for those who have followed La Palma's story, this latest move was a stinging symbol of the Post's attitude toward Latino readers. "They don't really care about the Hispanic community," the employee says. "They didn't really give a damn."
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La Palma reporters covered local immigration issues, Latino businesses, Latin American food, and sports, always with an eye toward providing news their readers couldn't find elsewhere. But employees often felt like second-class citizens, never receiving the same resources or attention as their counterparts at the Post. Former Post Editor John Bartosek used to take Spanish classes so he could read and critique La Palma, but those days are long gone.
In a news release announcing the closing of the paper, Publisher Tim Burke said the Post would hire an Hispanic affairs reporter to help fill the gap in coverage of the Spanish-speaking community. But that position has not been advertised internally yet, the employee says, and it's unclear when it will materialize.
Some of La Palma's 25,000 readers are bilingual, and nearly half have salaries that top $50,000 a year. One would think news execs would drool over the advertising revenue that kind of audience could generate, especially in a county that's 18 percent Latino.
"I think they're shortsighted and blind," the employee says of the Post execs. "Someone else is gonna do what [La Palma's] been doing."