What’s newsworthy here is not the gossip of a rivalry amongst the wealthy and powerful, but the abuse of a community institution that at least 56,253 (Al Día’s circulation) Latinos depend on each week—and the fact that most of the English- and Spanish-language press ignored the story from the moment the articles were published all the way up to the jury decision.
Al Día itself didn’t cover the story. Guaracao referred me to Al Día’s official statement, published as an editorial in both English and Spanish in the paper’s print edition, and declined to answer questions on the matter.
The enigmatic missive reiterates the paper’s innocence, and neglects to mention Trujillo’s name or his allegations against the paper: “By definition, the truth is not defamatory. As a matter of principal, the truth is not subject to retraction.” The statement also omits the size of the judgment rendered against the paper, and the fact that Al Día has satisfied the judgment (i.e., paid the $210,000 to Trujillo), foreclosing the possibility of an appeal.
About not covering the story, Guaracao told CJR, “I never felt that was our job to do; it is for the rest of the media to do if they want. But it’s not for us.”
Unfortunately, other news outlets mostly avoided writing about the story too, overlooking the clear newsworthiness of a highly charged libel case involving the area’s largest Latino community paper and one of its most prominent Latino public officials.
Ricardo Hurtado, editor of the smaller paper Sol Latino, which did run stories on the lawsuit, said that Al Día’s articles were “clearly an exaggeration.” But coverage was slim elsewhere, with The Philadelphia Inquirer publishing a cursory 130 words on the matter. The story is not common knowledge in Anglo Philadelphia. If the Inquirer and other mainstream press took such media more seriously, Guaracao’s behavior would have likely played as scandal, and the news community would have been up in arms—a more appropriate response.
The affair provides a cautionary tale on the role newspapers play within ethnic or minority-language communities: papers like Al Día offer invaluable reporting on issues undercovered in the English-language press, and build community among people navigating the complexities of life in a new and foreign country. But all media outlets, ethnic or not, have the responsibility to ensure that the news is not hijacked by the powerful for the prosecution of arcane personal vendettas.