A project of Democracy Fund

March 20, 2019

A new Spanish-language site in North Carolina focuses on serving Latinx community


Enlace Latino NC launches email newsletter to inform audience members, build community, and increase readers’ civic involvement.

By Melanie Sill

NC Local is a weekly email newsletter aimed at connecting people across North Carolina who inform people with local news, information and storytelling. This post originally appeared in the weekly NC Local newsletter edition on March 20, 2019 , and has been modified slightly for the Local News Lab. Subscribe to NC Local here.

Paola Jaramillo and Walter Gómez cofounded the nonprofit Enlace Latino NC with ambitious aims: To provide a digital-first service for North Carolina’s Spanish-speaking residents covering legislative and government policy on immigration and other issues, not just to inform audience members but also to build community and increase readers’ civic involvement.

In recent months, they’ve posted stories on local and state response to stepped-up ICE enforcement, voter ID legislation and other policy issues. They’ve been in startup mode, working with consultants to map out content strategy, power up social media, redesign their website and start an email newsletter as they learn more about their audience interests.

They’ve also been spending time at the legislature to let people know they’re there not just there to cover an immigration-related bill now and then, but also to report on a variety of issues and to explain how government works.

Enlace Latino NC’s efforts have been boosted by a 2018 capacity-building grant from the NC Local News Lab Fund, a new collaborative fund from Democracy Fund in partnership with state-based foundations. (Read more about the Local News Lab Fund’s first 10 grantees.)

While Enlace Latino NC is new, Jaramillo and Gómez are experienced journalists who have lived and worked in the Triangle and more broadly inNorth Carolina for more than a dozen years. Each has been recognized with awards from the National Association of Hispanic Publications of the United States.

Jaramillo, Enlace’s executive editor, was a reporter and editor for the Spanish-language newspapers La Noticia and La Conexión and was a correspondent in Raleigh  for The Fayetteville Observer’s Accent Latino publication. In her native Colombia, she trained and worked in journalism and in communications and external relations roles for government and private companies.

Gómez, managing editor of Enlace Latino NC, collaborates with Hola News in its editions delivered in Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Jacksonville, Fla. An independent photographer and native of Argentina, he also does work for the EFE News Agency in the Carolinas and Tennessee and worked as a reporter and photographer for La Conexión in Raleigh.

They join a competitive Spanish-language media field in NC, and think their focus on mobile and digital audiences —along with their emphasis on policy coverage and community — will help as they move from starting up to the longer-haul challenge of building readership and revenue.

I shared some questions with Jaramillo via email; her responses have been edited slightly for clarity. Reach her at paola@enlacelatinonc.org.

What kind of impact are you seeing so far, in numbers or feedback?

The articles about immigration, local and state politics, as well as the life stories, are the most read pieces in our digital platform and shared through Facebook by our readers. The readers are grateful for stories (that are) well-written and complemented with video, explanatory tables, figures, photos and other information that helps to understand the subject.

The greatest impact we have seen (is) in social networks, especially Facebook. In December we had 50 followers, and now we have almost 1,000. In the last 28 days the reach of the (combined) publications increased 1.8 thousand percent: During that period the reach was 75,000 users. As for the website, we had more than 11,000 active users, while in December we only reached 200.

At the end of January we launched our weekly newsletter “La Tortilla”. We started with 40 subscribers and in three weeks we already have 120.

What is your hope for the next year and beyond?

Our hope is that by the end of 2020 we will be the benchmark in Spanish for the diverse Latino immigrant community interested in local and state politics, immigration and community affairs in North Carolina. We would also like to connect with the audience by opening spaces for collaborative participation, so that they become involved and are an active part of the information production and growth of the site.

How long has it taken to get to this point, and what has been your biggest challenge?

We started in September 2018, we have been studying and receiving expert advice that has helped us in creating the brand, developing our website and determining our products. The biggest challenge is finding financial support for the continuity of the project.

How can other news organizations in the Triangle and NC work with you, and what help do you need?

One of the ways is for independent news organizations to share their experiences, success and failures with us to learn models that we can replicate. The other way is to share our content on your sites and that we share your information on ours. Also, include us in your contact list and think about us when they tell a story related to the Latino community.

How are you trying to reach people, and what have you learned so far?

We are exploring the different ways to reach our audiences. So far we are testing with different products: A newsletter that is sent over email to a network of subscribers, we are active on social networks, we produce videos and broadcast on Facebook Live. In social networks we also share information that comes from other organizations or community groups, which (has) helped to make us known.

We have an allied media outlet in Charlotte, the largest in the area, Hola News, which shares our stories and reproduces them in its newspapers.

We participate in radio programs, we give community communication workshops for groups and organizations, and we are in the process of starting to send information through WhatsApp and Messenger.

We are also creating a network of influencers to help us differentiate information.We are also working on the creation of a conversation group and a readers’ forum.

Other ways to reach our readers is through the podcasts, which we plan to start in April.

What we have learned is that we must be clear about our audience (s) to create products focused on those audiences. As well as trying different ways to spread the information.

This blog post is part of an ongoing series sharing stories from North Carolina Local News Lab Fund grantees and others working in local news ecosystems. 

Melanie Sill is a veteran news leader and change-maker now working as a senior consultant on projects including Democracy Fund’s Local News Lab in North Carolina. She was the top editor and news executive at The News & Observer of Raleigh, the Sacramento Bee and KPCC/ Southern California Public Radio and directed The N&O’s Pulitzer-winning “Boss Hog” series in the mid-1990s.