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Getting the news out in Spanish

From left: Teresa Foster, Nico De Luna, Mari Martinez and Noris Binet participated in a "Que Pasa Napa" forum on the state of Spanish-language media. Alex Loyola/Register

“Que Pasa Napa,” a talk show on Napa Valley TV, brought together three prominent Hispanic media personalities last week to analyze the state of Spanish media in the Napa Valley.

The host, Mari Martinez, invited Nico de Luna, Noris Binet and Teresa Foster, to talk in their native language about the successes and difficulties they have each experienced while trying to keep Napa’s Spanish-speaking population well-informed.

“This is the cream of the crop as far as (Spanish-speaking) media veterans are concerned,” said Martinez, whose show began airing on local TV and radio in January.

De Luna, host of the radio show “La Voz del Valle” (“Voice of the Valley”), which airs Sundays from 8 a.m. to noon on KVON 1440 AM, began his foray into radio in the 1970s, while promoting a family business, La Luna Market in Rutherford.

The host of “Charlando con Teresa Foster” (“Chatting with Teresa Foster”) and “Comentarios” (“Commentaries”), which airs Fridays from 8:30 to 9 p.m. and 9 to 9:30 p.m., respectively, on Napa Valley TV, said it has not been easy for De Luna to maintain his on-air presence. “He has really had to fight to keep that Sunday time slot,” she said.

Foster said her first show needed to limit its discussions to certain topics in order to continue being sponsored by the Queen of the Valley Medical Center. Wanting to cover matters that fell outside of her original show’s guidelines, Foster created a new show with her husband, Sean Foster, where she could have more open conversations about a variety of issues, including health and politics.

Foster, an immigration consultant with over two decades of experience working with Napa Valley families, has been a member of the Queen of the Valley Board of Trustees and the Napa County Hispanic Network. She credited her passion for immigration policy for her transition into local radio and television.

Foster also served as a columnist for the Register’s now-defunct Spanish-language publication, Tiempo Latino. That print product gave way to Hispanos Unidos, a twice-monthly newspaper which the Register published until 2010. Latinos in search of local Spanish-language print media today have had to depend on bilingual publications from outside the county, such as La Voz out of Santa Rosa.

Artist, sociologist and writer Noris Binet, who is originally from the Dominican Republic and spent 13 years living in Mexico, hosts the “Nueva Vida” (“New Life”) radio show on FM KSVY 91.3.

“As a sociologist and an educator, I began to notice that there is a void in education, because the majority of the migrant Latino community has not been able to go to a university and is not aware of several important issues,” Binet said.

Through her writing, Binet has searched for ways to encourage the Spanish-speaking community to read, by themselves and with their children, in order to better deal with the challenges of their bicultural experience.

“I would also like to see us find ways to reach the Anglo-Saxon community, because we might be reaching our own community, but we’re not educating others about our culture,” said Binet. “In reality, what I’ve noticed is that there are a lot of diverse groups living together, but we don’t really know each other.” 

The panelists talked about the need for more local Spanish-speaking members of the media, as well as the symbiotic relationship between current programs and their audience. “We’re here to help the audience, but we also need their support,” said Foster. “We want young people to offer fresh themes and to come on our programs to discuss them.”

De Luna feels that the Spanish-speaking audience is not fully aware of what it takes to keep radio and television programs on the air. “Sometimes people listen or watch our shows, but they don’t understand that there are people who have to go out and sell commercial time,” said De Luna. “If you hear or watch something that you like and enjoy what a show is doing, the best thing you can do is support its sponsors.”

Another concern was Napa’s overall lack of local Spanish programming. Sonoma County, for example, has a much larger Spanish-speaking media presence with a similar Hispanic population, said Benit.

Jose of St. Helena, an audience member who phoned-in to share his thoughts on the day’s theme, spoke of situations in Mexico, Brazil and Egypt, where technology and social media have played a large role in bringing about change. It seems like the United States has not been able to make the most out of its advances in technology and social media in the same way, he said.

“It would be nice if our youth were able to use social media in the correct manner, not just for gossip,” said De Luna, echoing the caller’s sentiments about not using technology to its full potential. “We dedicate so much of our time toward negativity, when we could be utilizing that same time to better ourselves.” 

Even with its setbacks, Benit said, the “digital revolution” has completely changed, and in many ways improved, the way in which we communicate with each other. People now have immediate access to information in a manner that these hosts could never have imagined. 

“We’re seeing now, with the possibility of immigration reform, that our community is glued to the television and staying informed,” said Foster. “With immigration amnesty in the 1980s, there was very little information being spread around. Back then, we were able to legalize just over a million people; now we’re talking about legalizing 11 million people, who are all staying informed by watching the news and coming into my office asking, ‘Have you seen this?’”

Martinez, who works as the associate librarian for Spanish services at the St. Helena Public Library, said she derived a great satisfaction from receiving feedback from her audience. “We’re archiving this period in the United States through our programs for future generations, so children, like those who come to my Story Time program at the St. Helena Public Library, will be able to look back and see what worked and what didn’t work.”

Somos Napa, the nonprofit organization behind “Que Pasa Napa,” was created to help spur communication between both English- and Spanish-speaking residents of Napa, said program director Debbie Alter-Starr.

Through the support of its sponsors, such as Cope Family Center, which contributes $5,000 annually for web programming and staff time and serves as the program’s fiscal agent, Somos Napa has been able to use various forms of media to help deliver information to Napa’s Spanish-speaking community.

“James Raymond, the executive director of Napa Valley TV, lets groups make free public service announcements in both English and Spanish. It’s just another way of getting people to think outside of the box,” said Alter-Starr. “There is a need for communication to be a priority in all groups.”

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