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The Boston Globe

Anchoring The Hispanic Community Channel 27 Launches Area's First Spanish-Language Newscast

Suzanne C. Ryan, Globe Staff

March 31, 2003
Copyright © 2003
The Boston Globe. All rights reserved. 

NEEDHAM - Since 1997, whenever news has broken in the Boston area that affects the Hispanic community, journalist Angel Salcedo has been on the story.

As the host of a community-affairs program for WUNI-TV (Channel 27), the only such Spanish-language television show in Greater Boston, Salcedo has single-handedly ensured that often-overlooked Hispanic teachers, lawyers, and other newsmakers have had their say, in their own language.

"No one was doing local newscasts in Spanish," Salcedo explains.

Until now.

Tomorrow night at 6, to the delight of many in the community, Univision affiliate WUNI is launching the area's first Spanish- language newscast. The regional show will be aired throughout most of Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, as well as in Connecticut on sister station WUVN-TV (Channel 18).

The 30-minute show, called "Noticias Univision Nueva Inglaterra," or Univision News New England, is a milestone for the market, which, according to Nielsen Media Research, includes about 200,000 Hispanic homes with TVs.

"For Greater Boston to have a local newscast is just amazing," says Carlos Yescas, community- affairs coordinator for the Mexican Consulate in Boston and a regular viewer of the national Spanish- language newscasts on Univision and Telemundo. "It means that the issues affecting my community - the Hispanic population - will now be reported. Clearly, this is a reflection of the fact that New England has seen an exponential growth of Latinos."

It's appropriate that Salcedo - who has interviewed hundreds of newsmakers over the years, from actor Edward James Olmos to former president of the Dominican Republic Leonel Fernandez - will anchor the newscast, alongside Sara Suarez, a former anchor and assistant news director at the U ni vision affiliate in Denver. (Suarez is married to Boston Globe photographer Essdras Suarez).

"We've been saying for four or five years that we were going to produce news, and it's finally happening," says Salcedo, a 38-year- old native of the Dominican Republic. "It's going to take a lot of work, but forget about the hours.

As a Latino myself, I've been waiting a long time for this."

To be sure, producing a regional newscast is a huge undertaking. With just two anchors and three reporters, WUNI initially plans to rely heavily on footage from New England Cable News, CNN, and Univision. The largest Spanish-language television network based in the United States, Univision and its affiliates produce 29 local newscasts nationwide.

WUNI, which is owned by the Univision affiliate group Entra vision Communications Corp., will be able to broadcast news only on weekdays. The program's format includes regional news, with an emphasis on Hispanic concerns, such as immigration and bilingual education in schools.

Sports, weather, business, entertainment, and international news will also be included. "Everything you see on the general market news - from the Iraq war to the Red Sox - you'll see with us, but our coverage will be more skewed toward the Hispanic community," says Felix Perez, WUNI's general manager.

"Should we have 40 people doing this? Absolutely. But we only have 10," he says. "It's a major investment in terms of equipment, personnel, and access."

Speaking from experience, Philip Balboni, founder and president of NECN, says it will take some time for the public to find the newscast. What's more, he says, WUNI "will have to build their credibility as a news organization."

Still, says Balboni, who started his network with just seven reporters and six anchors 11 years ago, "one of the great advantages they have is they're tapping into a completely unexploited market. It's a great opportunity."

Suarez, who is working on a story about the newly crowned Miss USA, Susie Castillo - a Lawrence resident with roots in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico - says her biggest concern is getting the WUNI production team sufficiently prepared for the rigors of live news.

Since the station began broadcasting in 1993, it has aired primarily the national feed from Los Angeles-based Univision. That has included soap operas, talk shows, variety shows, and a national 5 p.m. newscast out of Miami called "Primer Impacto."

WUNI's only local programming has been Salcedo's weekly "Enfoque Latino" (which is being condensed into a 5-minute twice-monthly segment on the newscast) and a Saturday-morning entertainment show called "Pachanga Latina," which is still on the air. Both shows have been pretaped.

"Some of the crew have never done live news," says Suarez. "It's a big change knowing that you can't yell out `Cut!' "

In the long term, WUNI envisions adding an 11 p.m. newscast, then programs on weekends and mornings. "We think our investment will pay off," says Perez. "We have a nice exclusive audience. Our viewers know they're not going to get news about Puerto Rico on Channels 4, 5, or 7."

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