El Eco del Valle Weekly to Fold After Next Issue, a Casualty of Recession

TIMES STAFF WRITER

El Eco del Valle, a Spanish-language weekly newspaper serving the San Fernando Valley, will cease publication after distributing its final issue next week--a casualty of the recession, the newspaper said.

The decision was announced in a front-page article in the Thursday edition of the newspaper, which was distributed free, mainly in San Fernando, Sylmar and Pacoima.

The newspaper, founded in 1987, relied exclusively on advertisers for income and was devastated by the recession and a competitive market in Spanish-language publications, Editor Carlos Ruvalcaba said.

"I feel very sad about El Eco. We never thought this would happen to us," Ruvalcaba said. "This is just not a good time for newspapers."

Ruvalcaba said that although the Spanish-language market has been growing, the recession has forced many advertisers to cut back--forcing Spanish-language television and radio stations and publications to compete even harder for what remains.

The paper is owned by Lozano Enterprises, which also publishes the Spanish-language daily newspaper La Opinion, based in Los Angeles. Lozano Enterprises is half-owned by Times Mirror Co., parent company of the Los Angeles Times. The other half of Lozano Enterprises is owned by members of the Lozano family.

Times Mirror "is an investor in Lozano Enterprises" but is not involved in the day-to-day management of either El Eco or La Opinion, said Stephen Meier, Times Mirror vice president for administration and community affairs. "Because we aren't involved in the management of the company, it wouldn't be appropriate for us to comment on this decision," Meier said.

Ruvalcaba, who will become night editor and art critic at La Opinion, said most of El Eco's 19 employees will be hired at La Opinion.

"We are not sure how everything will work out. We hope they all can stay on," Ruvalcaba said.

Publisher Monica Lozano could not be reached on Friday. In the notice printed on the front page of Thursday's edition of El Eco, she said the closure came despite circulation gains. "We reached a circulation of 90,000, but the economic climate hit us very hard," she wrote.

As a cost-cutting measure, Ruvalcaba said, El Eco had moved most of its staff from the Valley to the La Opinion offices in Los Angeles two months ago. He said he had hoped that by trimming costs the paper would be able to weather the recession.

El Eco, at least the third Spanish-language newspaper to cease publication in the San Fernando Valley in the past three years, provided mainly local news for northeast Valley residents, Ruvalcaba said, unlike its chief competitor, El Universal, which carries a mix of international and local news.

"I think El Eco del Valle was very important for the Hispanic community in the Valley. We were an important source for local news," Ruvalcaba said. "I don't think anyone will take our place."

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