This week, NY1’s Budd Mishkin sits down with one of the most important voices in New York’s Latino community, el diario publisher Rossana Rosado.
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Spend a few minutes with Rossana Rosado and you learn quickly.
What she thinks is what you get, mostly unfiltered. Like her memories of being a young female reporter in el diario’s male-dominated newsroom in the early Î80s.
"I had to learn to be one of the boys, you know,” says Rosado. “I had to learn to curse and drink, oh damn I shouldn't have said that on T.V. I learned very well."
Problem is that her job, publisher of the most influential Spanish language newspaper in the city, often requires her to conduct herself with, as she puts it, “behavior becoming of a publisher.”
"The publisher is more of a diplomat in many wasy,” says Rosado. “And I don't always enjoy that. I don't always enjoy being the diplomat· because I like to say to someone Îgrow up!’"
Rosado says el diario is read by New Yorkers from Latin America, South America, and Spain.
"And yet when they come here they’re all in this Latino thing and some have rivalries in their own countries, you know, with each other. But when they come here they live on the same block in Jackson Heights or Washington Heights and they come together with this fierce unity,” says Rosado.
Yes, she says she occasionally gets complaints that the paper is doing too much news about one group and not enough about another. And she claims that once she returned to the paper as editor in 1995, Latino legislators felt that the paper became hostile to them.
"I could see how they felt that way Îcause the coverage changed. It was not one of unconditional support, it was one of critical view,” says Rosado. “We're not just going to publish the press released and the ribbon cuttings. We're going to take you to task. And if we're going to take mayor and governor and everyone in power to task, we have to start with our own people."
There's little doubt that Rosado and el diario are players in New York. Most recently she was part of Governor Spitzer's transition team.
Even with her increased involvement with the city's power brokers, Rosado knows that she is beholden not to the people making news, but to those reading it.
"I think it's appropriate for the publisher of a Spanish language paper to kind of be in those circles and to at least be brought to the table,” says Rosado. “But at the end you have to remember that there is another side of the table and you have to stay true to the constituency. You have your foot in these two worlds.”
“For me it's important to remember that I'm in another world and I'm not in that world,” she continues. “I think it's great to be in the breakfast rooms of New York City, and to remind people that there are issues that are really important, but I don't think we should ever be fully on the other side of that table looking down."
As el diario’s publisher, Rosado occasionally visits the parent company's other Spanish language papers L.A., Chicago and Florida.
Nice places to visit, but:
"I’ve traveled the country and have never ever fallen in love with a city like I am in love with New York,” says Rosado. "You go to airports across the country and you have some beautiful airports in parts of this country and then you come home and it's JFK and everybody is so rude and it's Îthank God I'm home.’"
Rosado has had to overcome some obstacles in her career. A young female reporter in a male dominated newsroom in the early Î80's, editor of el diario in 1995 without previous editing experience and the first woman to be named publisher of the paper in 1999.
She's always had a can-do approach to these situations.
“Honestly, I think it comes from being from the Bronx,” says Rosado. “Because when you're from the Bronx, people just assume that you can kick their ass even though I'm not a violent person· you have a certain attitude and you're maybe overconfident and you come across that way and so people accept that."
But Rosado says the Soundview neighborhood where she grew up was not an obstacle she had to overcome.
“It was a great neighborhood to grow up in Îcause they were all homeowners,” says Rosado.
Until recently, her family owned a home in the neighborhood for more than 30 years.
"This is a unique location all these private homes on the peninsula right next to Short Haven — we’re actually one block away from the water," says Rosado. "I don't like for people to kind of invent that whole sense of you're from the Bronx, you had a hard life. I didn't have a hard life in the Bronx. We had a wonderful childhood, a great upbringing and only fond memories."
After Stevenson High School, Rosado went to Pace University in Westchester.
An assignment to interview the editor of Latin New York led to her writing a piece for the magazine.
"Once I saw my byline, I was thrilled,” recalls Rosado. “I don't know if it has the same meaning today in this age of electronics, but having my name in print solidified for me that that's what I wanted to do.”
Rosado says when she first started working at el diario in the early 80's, the paper was filled with journalists who weren't from New York and wrote more about life back in Latin and South America.
Rosado was different, born and bred here.
And with the support of then editor Manuel de Dios, she started doing stories about housing and drug trafficking and cleaning up blocks — what would later be called civic journalism.
"While we understood that the readers had one foot back home, we needed to bring the other foot firmly into New York and to really help them with the issues that they faced in New York and to really empower them by giving them the information and really focusing on what's happening here,” says Rosado. “We didn't want all of our readers looking back home all the time, and there was a great response to that."
Rosado left the paper in 1988 to work at Channel 11, and then in the city Health and Hospitals Corporation during the Dinkins and Giuliani administrations.
In 1992, her journalism mentor, Manuel de Dios was murdered, presumably for his anti-drug gang reporting.
The killing shook Rosado and made her ask herself some important life questions.
“My son was about four months and for the first time in my life, in my four months of motherhood, I said do I want to do this at the risk of my life?” says Rosado. “And if I don't want to do this at the risk of my life, does that make me a bad journalist?"
“So when I came back, as editor, I realized this is a role I was comfy with managing the news team as opposed to being on the street,” Rosado continues. “And because I also did not want to give up being a mom and having a family."
Rosado talks about resuming her reporting career one day, but for 11 years she's been behind the scenes as editor and publisher.
And as the granddaughter of people who came here from Puerto Rico, she is trying to instill in who she calls her new age kids, an appreciation of their heritage.
"I’m overbearing about their speaking Spanish,” says Rosado. “My daughter is struggling with it right now, she's in seventh grade, only Hispanic in her class and she is getting Î80s, and I’m like, Îyou need to be getting 100s.’"
Some el diario readers have been here for generations, while some are just off the plane.
The challenge for Rosado is to both be a voice and provide a voice for all of them.
"As publisher of a Spanish language paper, you become this default leader and you can either embrace that or you can kind of walk away from that and I've never been able to walk away from that," says Rosado.
— Budd Mishkin