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Bell corruption scandal inspires a new media experiment: A newspaper, in Spanish

Photo by NS Newsflash/Flickr (Creative Commons)

It's been a while since all heck broke loose in Bell, a working-class, Latino-majority city in southeast Los Angeles County.

In 2010, eight city officials that included the mayor and former city manager were arrested and charged with corruption. Things have settled down somewhat since, and the city has just named a new city manager to replace the one accused of bilking residents.

But some of the same circumstances that contributed to the scandal, namely a busy, working-poor immigrant population with little political investment or involvement, are still there. And while mainstream media coverage became intense for a while, with two Los Angeles Times reporters who investigated the scandal winning a Pulitzer, this coverage still doesn't easily filter down to residents. All of which has made the city a draw for the latest local media experiment.

The Spanish-language news website, staffed by several Spanish-language media veterans, is taking a step back in time and launching a local newspaper - yes, a print newspaper - that it says is inspired by the corruption scandal. The idea is the "to contribute to the strengthening of the political, social and economic" development of the community, reads a press release in Spanish from founder-editor Maria Luisa Arredondo.

It's an interesting experiment. There should be some ads to help pay for publishing costs, at least, since one of the project's partners is a local business association. It will be called Latinocalifornia edición Bell, the Bell edition.

LatinoCalifornia bills itself as an alternative news site, with general interest content that's heavier on politics and social issues, particularly on immigration, education, and other topics key to its audience. From the site:

The site is different from others because it emphasizes community news and social services for the Latino population. One of our main objectives is to give people information that can help them improve their daily lives and take full advantage of the opportunities that this country offers.

Why a newspaper and not another website? That's an easy one. Media research in recent years has shown that as English-language newspapers have lost readers, their Spanish-langauge counterparts have continued to do surprisingly well. This is due to change sooner or later as smartphones become increasingly popular and as the nation's demographics shift, with growth in the second-generation Latino population overtaking that of the foreign-born first.

But for now, first-generation immigrants continues to rely on print media, and this is reflected in heavily immigrant communities like Bell. The newspaper plans to launch this week.

KPCC's Ruxandra Guidi interviewed LatinoCalifornia's Maria Luisa Arredondo about the project. Listen to the audio below: