When Myriam Marquez was named the editorial page editor of the Miami Herald this summer, she became the first Hispanic -- and the first woman -- to lead the Herald's editorial department since the paper's inception in 1903.
It's no small responsibility. Through the decades, the Miami Herald has garnered 20 Pulitzer Prizes. Two of those belong to the editorial department -- one for cartooning in 1996 and one for writing in 1983 about the federal detention of illegal Haitian immigrants.
Over the past couple weeks, the editorial department has gone toe-to-toe with the mayor of Miami-Dade County, blasting him for giving generous raises to a dozen staff members during a time of deep financial malaise.
In October, Marquez -- who fled Cuba for the United States with her parents as a toddler during the country's Communist revolution in 1959 -- will be among the 100 people mentioned in HispanicBusiness Magazine's annual list of influential Hispanics.
Her appointment comes at a time when diversity initiatives in American newsrooms are stagnating -- even backsliding -- as newspapers grapple with plunging ad revenues and outmoded business models.
Even before last year's historic economic meltdown, minorities were under-represented in American newsrooms, making up just 13.4 percent of the nation's journalists, despite constituting a full third of the U.S. population. In the last year, while the total number of U.S. journalists fell 11.3 percent, the head count of minority journalists dropped even steeper 11.9 percent, according to the American Society of News Editors.
As for the Herald, which is weathering its own financial storm, the paper has "made great strides in diversity," Marquez told HispanicBusiness.com.
"I am following in the footsteps of a top African-American journalist (Joe Oglesby), and in the newsroom, the No. 2 person behind the editor is a Hispanic woman (Aminda 'Mindy' Marques)," she said.
Marquez, 54, takes the helm at a time when the Herald, like many American newspapers, is fighting for survival. Some experts say the Herald's situation is particularly dire.
This past March, the Herald's management announced it would lay off 19 percent of the staff and reduce the salaries of the remaining employees.
That same month, Time Magazine ranked the Miami Herald No. 3 on a list of the nation's 10 most endangered newspapers. Time predicted the paper will soon go the way of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: available only online.
But Marquez told HispanicBusiness.com there is no validity to Time's prediction. In her estimation, things at the Herald are beginning to turn around.
"Our online hits are among the top in the nation, according to the latest study, and McClatchy stock prices have started to rise," she said in an email to HispanicBusiness.com.
As for the editorial page, Marquez has put it on a more interactive path, posting videos of public officials meeting with the editorial board and video op-eds from readers. The editorial page has even taken up Twitter, allowing readers to tweet questions to the editorial board recently as it interviewed Miami Mayor Manny Diaz about the city's budget woes.
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