Tony Diaz, host of KPFT's Nuestra Palabra program, has a bone to pick with us.
He is alarmed that the "Ask a Mexican" column no longer runs in the print edition of the Houston Press. It runs online (after a slight glitch), but to Diaz running it online is like putting it "in the back of the bus," as he told our associate editor Cathy Matusow.
That's kind of a nostalgic view of things in this web-crazy world, but the man's entitled to his opinion.
Diaz has demanded someone from the Press appear on his show to defend the outrage; if not, pickets will appear outside our door Wednesday. Editor Margaret Downing is on vacation, so it looks like La Revolucion may be on.
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Diaz says we just don't understand how popular the column is, possibly because we have no Hispanic staff writers. (Using the term "staff writer" is a nice strategic move, since two of the most important staffers on the edit side are Night & Day Editor Olivia Flores Alvarez and Art Director Monica Fuentes.)
Downing did release a statement from the road:
"Ask a Mexican" by Gustavo Arellano is not canceled. The column, which has been running with us for more than three years (since May 4, 2006) is no longer in our print edition but appears online at www.houstonpress.com.
We made this change about two weeks ago. Due to a just-discovered technical error, the column did not initially appear online, but is there now.
Like most newspapers, the Houston Press has been moving more items to online-only publication. Many of our listings are there. To be online is not a relegation to "the back of the bus" since we regularly add new coverage to our online effort with its unlimited space.
In print, space is limited and has become increasingly so. In the last year, we have dropped the comics that we carried for far longer than "Ask a Mexican." By moving "Ask a Mexican" we freed up half a page that could be used for other writing and we still retained it in our online publication -- which we did not do with the comics.
While I certainly understand the disappointment of some of our readers, to say that not carrying the column in print shows a lack of commitment to the Hispanic community is nothing but hyperbole, given that we regularly cover Hispanic artists in all their genres, and we publish extensive stories about Hispanic leaders, immigration concerns and social services issues regularly.
And we remain committed to doing so.
Update: It's possible that instead of using the exact phrase "staff writers," Diaz used a more generic description in talking to Matusow. But the point still stands, because his description revolved around people who do feature stories, and those people are staff writers.