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The Times banks on L.A.’s Latino future (and its own)

Flashing and color-changing words "De Los."
(Diana Ramirez Santacruz / De Los )
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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, July 11. I’m Ryan Fonseca.

More than 40% of Californians identify as Latino or Hispanic, according to U.S. census data. In Los Angeles County, that share is nearly half (49%) of all residents.

But much of legacy media has fumbled attempts to serve those communities and build an audience. This week, The Times launched a brand-new section in an effort to change that.

De Los is driven by a team of Latino reporters, editors, illustrators and other creative voices with one key mission: telling stories about and for Latinos centered on culture and identity.

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The ambitious new section — led by Times General Manager for Latino Initiatives Angel Rodriguez, Editorial Director Fidel Martinez and Design Director Martina Ibáñez-Baldor — is years in the making.

The ideas took shape within The Times’ Latinx Files newsletter, anchored by Fidel, which launched in November 2020. That effort served as a precursor, he told me, to explore how to “hyper-serve the Latino community,” which historically had been marginalized and maligned by news media — including The Times.

“It’s really showing a commitment by The Times to right this historical wrong,” Fidel said. “And beyond the moral imperative of truly representing the area in which you cover, I don’t think there’s a viable future for the L.A. Times without Latino readership.”

Despite that general “Latino” label, the multitude of individuals, experiences and cultures that make up Latinidad are impossible to pin down.

That doesn’t mean media and markets haven’t tried, as Times culture columnist Suzy Exposito wrote for De Los this week.

“If anything makes me feel cynical about the concept of Latinidad, it’s about how inextricable our identities have become from marketing,” she told me. “We’re a diaspora, yes, but in the States we’re practically regarded as a niche little subculture to be bought and sold.”

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But Suzy finds excitement in how Latinos have “used our amorphous status to upset status quos,” noting the soaring popularity of musical artists like Bad Bunny, Cardi B and Ice Spice.

“A platform like De Los is especially critical in a city like Los Angeles,” she said, explaining:

“We live in a massive entertainment hub where Latinos make up half the city’s population... but were only accounted for in 4.6% of movie roles and 5.3% of broadcast TV roles in 2019. Socioeconomic disparities abound in a number of industries across the city, and we hope to shine light on that for our readers.”

I asked Fidel what will set De Los apart, since there’s no shortage of media companies hoping to attract a younger, more representative audiences.

Community buy-in is key, he said, as their goal is to be more collaborative with voices outside the newsroom. And while De Los work won’t be replacing the paper’s existing coverage of Latino issues, Fidel said the team strives to “supplement it and complement” that coverage.

“Having a dedicated team, instead of a team that embedded with the other desks, kind of gives us that that leeway to sort of experiment and try new things,” he said.

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Fidel also hopes that Times readers will see that “Latino culture is everywhere” — especially in Los Angeles.

“While we’re focusing on the Latino community,” he said, “one of the things that we’re trying to stress and drive home is that we’re actually very much part of the mainstream.”

De Los’ site is now live and fresh with new webpage smell. The team is also sharing their storytelling on Instagram and TikTok.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

There’s more turmoil in Southern California journalism, this one affecting what had been our sister publication — until Monday. L.A. Times owner and biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong has sold the San Diego Union-Tribune, just over five years after buying both newspapers from Chicago-based Tronc. The San Diego paper is now in the hands of a media group run by Alden Global Capital, notorious for buying up and stripping down newspapers across the country. Within hours of the sale being announced, the new owners dropped another bombshell on their new newsroom workers: Buyouts are being offered, and layoffs could follow. San Diego Union-Tribune

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

How much do California cities’ mayors make? At $444,000, San Francisco Mayor London Breed took home the most in wages and benefits last year — notably more than fellow mayors in the state’s more populous cities. Curious how much your city pays its mayor and city manager? Check out these charts. San Francisco Chronicle

Before 2013, same-sex married couples were required to file their federal income tax returns separately, leading some to owe more. There’s a new effort to allow those taxpayers (including some in California) to recoup that money, which a congressional committee estimates could be as much as $57 million. The Sacramento Bee

JUSTICE AND POLICING

Recent lawsuits accuse L.A. County sheriff’s deputies of using excessive force for firing 58 tear gas canisters into a men’s dorm at a Castaic jail in November. In a pair of lawsuits filed in federal court, an attorney alleges that the Sheriff’s Department violated the incarcerated men’s constitutional rights. Los Angeles Times

A yearlong investigation by CalMatters found California poured $600 million into a rehabilitation program for former California prisoners, but has failed to track key data on the program’s success. The state lacks data on how many formerly incarcerated people found jobs through the program — and how many returned to prison for other crimes. CalMatters

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

A girl sprays a horse with a hose.
Helena Staszower, 16, sprays off the dust and, at the same time, cools off her horse Ember at the Oak Canyon Equestrian Center in Santa Clarita.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
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An intense heat wave is slated to sizzle SoCal this week. Beginning today, forecasters expect temperatures could reach high as 112 degrees in some regions through Saturday, with overnight lows in the 70s and 80s. Los Angeles Times

Southern Californians are signing up to participate in trials of experimental drugs for Alzheimer’s disease. But as my colleague Melody Petersen reports, some doctors are worried about the rush to recruit older people with memory problems, as some might misperceive a drug trial as medical care. Some are also concerned about the ability of those patients to consent to the drug therapy. Los Angeles Times

L.A. STORIES

A vision to create 54 urban farms in South L.A. is taking root. With a recent $7-million state grant, local leaders and community groups aim for a planting spree to bring fresh produce to neighborhoods that often lack access to nutritious options. Los Angeles Times

The second wave of hotel worker strikes kicked off on Monday, as thousands of employees walked off their jobs at hotels around LAX. Workers from eight El Segundo and Los Angeles hotels are demanding higher wages and improved benefits in a strategic series of work stoppages coordinated by their union. Los Angeles Times

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AND FINALLY

Today’s California landmark is from Debra Jensen of Fort Bragg: the alluring Mendocino County coast.

Yellow flowers and plants appear on a shoreline, with waves and the ocean in the background.
The Mendocino coast as seen near the mouth of the Little River in May 2023.
(Debra Jensen)
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Debra doesn’t mince words about its place as the Golden State’s essential landmark:

There are about a dozen vying for No. 2 and thousands more that make California exceptional in every category. But there’s only one No. 1.

What are California’s essential landmarks? Fill out this form to send us your photos of a special spot in California — natural or human-made. Tell us why it’s interesting and what makes it a symbol of life in the Golden State. Please be sure to include only photos taken directly by you. Your submission could be featured in a future edition of the newsletter.

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.

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