The two Heralds—brief history

The Miami Herald (TMH) was founded in 1903 as the Miami Evening Record (renamed in 1910), and emerged as the dominant newspaper in Miami. John and James Knight acquired the publication in 1937, and in 1974 the Knight Newspapers group merged with Ridder Publications to become Knight Ridder. As the Spanish-speaking Miami population burgeoned, the Herald decided in 1975 to create a Spanish-language insert to the paper, which it called El Herald. For 12 years, the insert featured mostly Spanish translations of Herald stories.

But in 1987, the Herald decided to create a separate Spanish-language publication, El Nuevo Herald (ENH). The Miami Herald Media Company owned both publications. The new paper was still an insert inside the Miami Herald, but it had its own staff and conducted original reporting. ENH’s audience was, first and foremost, the influential Cuban-American community in Miami. But it also appealed to a growing immigrant community from the rest of Latin America. “Miami is in many ways sort of a New York of Latin America,” says Clark Hoyt, former Knight Ridder vice president of news and a long-time Miami resident.[1]

ENH was seen until 1995 as primarily a “Cuban” newspaper. The non-Cuban Hispanic community resented the emphasis in ENH’s early days on Cuban affairs. In 1996, however, that changed, and ENH came to cover Latin American news in greater depth than its parent publication. ENH had a lively writing style characteristic of Latin American newspapers. Miami was only the third largest Spanish-speaking market in the US after Los Angeles and New York, but in Miami-Dade County, roughly half the 2 million residents spoke Spanish; more than half of those were of Cuban origin, the rest from such countries as Nicaragua, Colombia, and Venezuela. Many of them were educated and middle class. From the 1960s to the turn of the 21st century, Miami’s population went from majority Anglo (non-Hispanic white) to majority Hispanic.[2]

Ibargüen. In January 1996, the Herald Media Company hired Alberto Ibargüen as publisher of El Nuevo Herald. Ibargüen was born in Puerto Rico; his mother was Puerto Rican and his father Cuban. He had been raised in New Jersey, attended schools in the Northeast (including law school) and worked at the Hartford Courant and Newsday.[3] Hired as publisher of Nuevo Herald and vice-president for the Miami Herald international edition, in August 1998 he became publisher of both newspapers. Ibargüen recognized that Miami had a unique cultural blend of old-line Floridians and émigrés—dating back to Nicaraguan arrivals in the 1950s—who considered themselves in exile from their countries of origin. Later arrivals from Cuba in the 1960s and onward had swelled the émigré ranks. “The concept of exile here is much stronger than the concept of immigration,” comments Ibargüen.[4]

Ibargüen says he accepted the job of Nuevo Herald publisher with the understanding that the paper would have its own identify, separate from the Miami Herald. “If you want a newspaper that will give voice to a different community that happens to inhabit the same geography, then we’ve got something to talk about,” Ibargüen told then-publisher David Lawrence. Early in his tenure, Ibargüen (with Lawrence’s support) made a momentous business decision—to distribute El Nuevo Herald separately from the Miami Herald. It took two years, but by May 1998 readers could buy a separate edition of the paper. In its first year, the separately distributed ENH earned an additional $2 million for the company and saved another $2 million in printing costs.

[1] Author’s interview with Clark Hoyt in New York, NY, on January 7, 2009.

[2] It’s worth noting that Miami also attracted a large number of New Yorkers, who made their own contribution to the local culture.

[3] Ibargüen had just come from the painful closing of New York Newsday.

[4] Author’s interview with Alberto Ibargüen on April 14, 2009, in Miami. All further quotes from Ibargüen, unless otherwise attributed, are from this interview.