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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's fastest-growing Spanish-language newspaper is celebrating its 100th edition as circulation keeps surging. "El Observador" aims to stimulate ideas and create new connections in the rapidly-growing Latino community.
Deseret Management Corporation -- the parent company of the Deseret News, KSL 5 and KSL Newsradio -- launched "El Observador" in early February. Since that time, the paper has seen steady grown and shared a lot of big news stories in the Hispanic community.
"It's been an incredible experience," says Patricia Quijano Dark, editor of "El Observador."
"Hispanics in this community were not being informed," Dark says. "There was no regular news source that they were receiving regularly that was honest and open, that would shine the light on the truth."
For the 100th edition, the editor assigned each of the paper's four reporters to write a column about his or her favorite story. It also summarizes the paper's top stories so far.
"One hundred editions where we've met people, talked to people and looked into people's lives, and seen how the government and different programs around us have either helped them or put them in a more difficult position," Dark explains.
The free paper comes out Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends: 45,000 issues a week, 7,000 home deliveries and 30 new requests a day.
Dark says the paper's staff aspires to help people and give them the information they need to get involved.
"And as our name says," she adds, "to ‘observe' what's going on in our community."
How to be informed, how to participate; what they encountered as a staff of journalists during the last seven months went even deeper.
"Lots of people with real problems, with real stories, and incredible heroes in our community," Dark says.
They found stories of hope and despair. Readers responded with excitement and trust.
"It has been received as a very serious newspaper," says Mark Willes, president and CEO of Deseret Management Corporation. "The articles are of very high quality, the coverage is very broad, and those who are reading the paper genuinely love it."
Willes calls it a "happy coincidence" that "El Observador" launched at such a pivotal and contentious time for Latino issues. He believes the Spanish-language paper can shine a light on misunderstandings and fear, and help clarify the debate that at times turns angry. "What we're able to do across all of our media platforms is to help lay out information in such a way that people really can understand what the issues are, and hopefully lead to a more rational conclusion," he says.
Willes points out that can be a complicated task when people on all sides of the argument firmly believe in the veracity of their opinions.
Dark says her staff can get to the heart of the issues by telling the stories of people and families directly affected by immigration policy.
"Immigration is such a broken system that so desperately needs a solution," she says. "But, the worst part about it is the fallout, which is the broken-up families."
Dark hopes by telling the tales that matter most, more people in our state will get to know the Latino community.
"People want to hear success stories," she says. "People want to know that if you work hard, and you're dedicated, and you're a good person, good things will happen to you."
"This is a community that wants serious news, but of a very special kind" Willes says. "They not only want news from Utah, which is relevant to their lives, but they want news about what's happening in the countries from which they came."
"El Observador" also aims to help Hispanics figure out all of those things that seem so daunting when they first arrive in a new home. There are policies, traditions and procedures we all need to discover for a first time, like learning more about getting involved in your child's school, taking English lessons, and getting involved in community politics.
"It happens to all of us," Dark says. "Whenever we arrive somewhere new, we need somebody to be our guide. That's what we hope we're helping with."
"El Observador" regularly features a kids' page, plenty of community resources, and lots of soccer. An online version launches this coming February.