War of the Words

With big dollars at stake, rival newspapers duke it out to capture Valley's rapidly growing Hispanic market

Kaye was born in New York, grew up in Chicago, and moved to Tempe at 18 to enroll at Arizona State University. He never graduated from ASU, but he built an eclectic résumé of work experience. Kaye bought and sold cars, managed a restaurant, and ended up finding success in real estate. From there, he stumbled into publishing.

"I was managing an apartment complex over on Seventh Avenue and Indian School, and I started advertising with a lot of publications," Kaye says. "I was having a very difficult time. The market was terrible.

"So I didn't find a lot of advertising that worked, and I was very disappointed with the results I got. So I looked around and saw a void."

Manny Garcia and his wife Lety have built Prensa Hispana into the most powerful Spanish-language newspaper in the Valley.
Paolo Vescia
Manny Garcia and his wife Lety have built Prensa Hispana into the most powerful Spanish-language newspaper in the Valley.

On November 23, 1991, Kaye started TV Weekly, a 28-page television programming guide. He worked out of his house, sold advertising door-to-door, and began with a circulation of 10,000. TV Weekly was English-only, but Kaye found that he was reaching a surprising number of Hispanics.

At the time, Southwest Supermarkets had only one location, at 35th Avenue and McDowell, and Kaye says he moved 500 to 600 copies a week of TV Weekly out of that store. He and Southwest owner, the late Mike Peterson, became fast friends.

"Mike said, 'You know, Dave, 80 percent of my customers are Hispanic, yet you're moving an awful lot of papers. Why?'"

Kaye suggested that the Arizona Republic had low penetration into the Hispanic market and that Hispanics simply found a free TV guide appealing. Peterson responded by offering his financial backing for a Spanish-language TV guide.

In February 1993, Kaye launched TV y Más. Its circulation has grown from 10,000 to 85,000, making it the largest Spanish-language publication in Arizona. But Kaye's play-to-win style -- and his close connection to Southwest Supermarkets -- hasn't endeared him to all his competitors.

"TV y Más is an Anglo business, so he comes from a business perspective, he doesn't see this as a community," says Juan Valera, of Monitor Hispano. "He's got a lot of control with Southwest, and he wanted us and Prensa Hispana taken out of there. He's wanted to force us out of business."

While Southwest Supermarkets has certainly been good for Kaye, he denies that he ever tried to use the supermarket chain to destroy his competitors. He says that he simply tried to clean up a chaotic, eyesore of a magazine section at Southwest Supermarkets by offering to build distribution racks and take over the Free Publication Display Program at the stores.

In return for his $50,000 expense on the racks, Kaye suggested charging newspaper owners between $6 (for the bottom pocket on the rack) and $9 (for the top pocket) a month to have their papers displayed. Kaye insists that his prices were more than reasonable, and that he had no intention of excluding any of his competitors. But local Hispanic publishers -- particularly Valera and Garcia -- balked at the idea of paying Kaye for what they'd long had for free, so he withdrew his idea, saying that he lost $50,000 on the fiasco.

"They were all sitting together, singing 'Kumbaya' and saying 'Kill Whitey,'" he recalls, with more than a hint of bitterness. Mindful of what a lightning rod he'd become in Spanish publishing, Kaye was determined to stay in the background with La Voz and let Torres represent the paper publicly.

The Southwest Supermarkets controversy also made allies of Valera and Garcia, who'd been fiercely competitive since Valera began Monitor Hispano in 1993.

"The last two years, we've changed, and decided not to fight each other," Valera says. "We've realized we're in the same boat, so we better get along. I've proven to Manny that I'm going to stay here. We've sat down and had menudo, and decided to work together on certain issues."

Valera says he used to be friendly with Torres, but that they've only spoken once since the advent of La Voz.

"One time we had a problem with distribution, and he called and said some of our newspapers were in their racks," Valera says. "And I said that I don't want an Anglo publication throwing away our Hispanic newspapers. Ricardo said, 'This is not an Anglo publication!'

"He says, 'No, no, no, I'm the owner and the president.' And I said, 'You can say what you want, but you're a salesman from the radio station. I know where you're coming from.'"

Torres and Kaye wanted to shake up the market quickly with La Voz, and within three months of its January debut, the newspaper was at the center of a huge controversy. It began on March 16, when Mesa Police called the Immigration and Naturalization Service to a home where 140 illegal aliens were being detained. The action drew fire from activists who thought the police had overstepped their bounds.

In a March 22 interview with La Voz, former City Council member Rosendo Gutierrez called for a Mesa boycott of the forthcoming census, in protest of the police department's action. In the same issue, a La Voz editorial echoed the sentiment, demanding "whatever action, just and reasonable, including a boycott of the census," until the Mesa Police Department creates a coherent, consistent and fair policy with regard to undocumented immigrants.

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