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United States

The New York Times prints first editorial in Spanish, asks Latinos to vote

On Sunday the paper published an editorial in Spanish and English asking Hispanics to register to vote. The idea came from two writers who wanted to highlight the importance of the Latino vote in November.
2 Oct 2016 – 11:33 AM EDT
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Sunday's first ever editorial in Spanish in the The New York Times print edition

The New York Times published an editorial Sunday in English and Spanish asking Hispanics to mobilize and vote against Donald Trump. It was the first time a Spanish editorial has appeared in the paper's print edition.

The editorial highlights the low participation of the Hispanic community in elections as a factor which could determine the outcome in November.

How the idea was born

One day last month, Ernesto Londoño and Jesse Wegman, two journalists from the Times editorial board, had a conversation about how the editorial pages could have more weight in the electoral debate this year at a time when the electorate is so polarized and options are so extreme.

"No one was surprised that we have supported Hillary and we've been so hard on Trump", Londoño explained in a phone interview.

They wanted to "move the needle" by focusing on Hispanic voter turnout , and to attract attention they decided to propose printing an editorial in Spanish a few days before the deadline for registering to vote in most states, something the paper had never done in its 165 year history.

Londoño and Wegman raised the idea the next day with the Times editorial board, which consists of 16 people, although not all were present at the meeting. The idea excited them, says Londoño.

"It was a way to reach a large part of the electorate (Hispanics) directly in a campaign that has disrespected them," the Times editorial page editor, James Bennet, told Univision. Publishing it in the print edition in Spanish on a Sunday was a way to "get attention and make a statement," he said.

Sulzberger’s blessing

Due to the unprecedented nature of the editorial, Bennet consulted the editor of the Times, Arthur Sulzberger. "He was enthusiastic about the idea," Bennet said.

Sulzberger is one of the proponents of the paper's Spanish edition launched recently to target its audience in Latin America, Spain and Hispanics in the United States. The Times publishes original articles online in Spanish, as well as translations and a newsletter. This Sunday's editorial took that a step further.

"The editorial page is one of the sacred spaces of the newspaper," said Londoño, who has worked on the editorial pages of the Times for two years and writes regularly on international affairs. "And on a Sunday, that’s the day when we want to speak out in a very strong way."

The key arguments

In the editorial, the Times points out the importance of Hispanic turn out. "In a tight race, a resounding Latino turnout could flip battleground states for the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and change how political parties perceive and engage with Hispanic voters in the future,” the editorial states.

“That would leave very clear that Latinos are helping to shape the destiny of a nation that has always strengthened itself by welcoming new generations of immigrants," it goes on.

The editorial recalls that Clinton has not always voted for progressive policies on immigration issues. In 2007, for example, she opposed issuing driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants. But the editorial explains that she has “vowed to continue, and expand, the program President Obama established to temporarily shield from deportation millions of unauthorized young immigrants with deep roots in the United States.”

The New York Times adds: “While immigration reform will no doubt entail a tough political fight, Latinos could make the prospect of an overhaul more likely by going to the polls in November. Low turnout among these voters would increase the likelihood of a Trump victory, which could mean mass deportations and more attacks on immigrants.”

From English to Spanish

Londoño wrote the text in English, the language he has worked in since moving from his native Colombia to the United States in 1999. Afterward he translated it into Spanish and sent it to the editors in Mexico.

Bennet says more editorials could be published in Spanish in the future.

It would have to be a major event for it to happen again, Londoño believes, perhaps a Hispanic candidate running for the White House. In any case, for him, the editorial this Sunday is the symbol of a changing country.

"We are a bilingual country. Many people look with dismay and resent being told 'press 1 for English', but it’s the essence of the country. That's how the country is."