Jonathan Sanchez, a longtime Los Angeles County community newspaper executive and activist devoted to Latino issues, has died. He was 64.
Sanchez passed away Dec. 23 at his home in Highland Park, after a short battle with cancer, relatives said.
The associate publisher and chief operating officer of Eastern Group Publications ran a collection of community newspapers serving Los Angeles County, including the Eastside Sun, Northeast Sun, Montebello Comet and Commerce Comet.
He and his wife, Dolores Sanchez, pioneered the bilingual format, publishing stories in English and Spanish in neighborhoods that often lacked resources and political influence.
"He's a huge loss," said Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard. "His reporting through the paper demonstrated his love and concern for the community. He did it with integrity, with objectivity and fairness."
Roybal-Allard began reading Eastern Group newspapers at the start of her political career more than three decades ago. When she met Sanchez, she said, her admiration grew.
"I saw his passion, his commitment," she said.
Sanchez came from a big family. He was one of nine children, born to Juanita Beltran Sanchez and Jose Vicente Sanchez in 1952. He lived most of his life in Highland Park and Mt. Washington.
He went to UCLA and started off as an art director at an advertising agency that published magazines.
At Eastern Group, running the business was a family affair. He and his wife and their grown children, from previous marriages, played different roles, with Sanchez in charge of the business side of things.
Dolores is the publisher; daughter Bianca Preciado is the operations manager; stepdaughter Gloria Alvarez is the managing editor.
As the lone Republican of the bunch, Sanchez sometimes differed with family on issues, but he always listened, Alvarez said. He never wanted the spotlight on himself, often gushing about his family and his staff, she said.
"He'd always look at my mother and say, 'Look how beautiful she is,' " Alvarez said.
Over the years, Sanchez created a vast network of connections: media leaders, business owners, politicians, nonprofit directors and youth advocates. Many knew him for his steadfast support of Latinos and small media. He was eager to lobby on their behalf, to preside over meetings and show up at promotional events.
His death, announced by family a week after he died, came as a shock to many. Relatives said Sanchez was a private man who didn't want to burden others with his illness.
"Jonathan left us too early and will be sorely missed," his family said in a statement.
Throughout his career, the news veteran mentored many new to the industry.
Gregory Arroyo was among them. He was 23 when he got his start at the Montebello Comet. The English major was fresh out of college, he lived with his parents and had little clue what to do with his life, other than write poetry.
Jonathan and Dolores Sanchez took him in and got him hooked on journalism. They taught him to question everything, to demand attention and be a voice for the community.
During chats with Jonathan Sanchez, Arroyo learned about all the Latino movers and shakers who worked across Los Angeles and beyond to raise the profile of the community.
"It was a whole new world I was not aware of," said Arroyo, now 42 and editorial director for a group of automotive retail magazines.
In May, Sanchez was honored for his contributions to the Los Angeles Boys and Girls Club.
Children were an important part of his outreach work. Through the EGP Foundation, he and the Sanchez family held an annual Letters to Santa program that helped more than 90,000 disadvantaged kids and families.
They provide internships and encourage high school students to pursue careers in journalism.
"He wanted kids to learn those journalism skills so they could also become advocates for their community," said Juana Lambert, executive director of the Los Angeles Boys and Girls Club.