MundoFox Affiliate, Tribune Team For Co-Branded Chicago Newscast

When broadcaster MundoFox launched across the U.S., the nearly year-old network called on its affiliates to bring a local newscast to their program schedules.

In some markets, doing so required a significant investment, presenting a daunting challenge to build a newsroom from scratch in a highly competitive environment.

For KM Communications-owned WOCK-CD in Chicago, the solution to providing the market with its first -- and only -- Spanish-language newscast at 9 p.m. came from the titan of Windy City journalism, Tribune Co.

Starting April 18, Hoy Noticias MundoFox 13 will air as a 30-minute co-branded newscast produced by Hoy, Chicago’s leading Spanish-language print and digital news source. The Hispanic sibling to the Chicago Tribune, Hoy is distributed weekdays as a no-cost tabloid available at news racks across the metropolitan area. However, it is the portal, featuring a wide variety of video content, that will serve as the nexus of MundoFox 13’s televised news coverage.

John Trainor, publisher and general manager of Hoy Chicago, told Hispanic Television Update in an interview that the partnership is the culmination of a long-held desire for Hoy to expand its reach to television.

“In the six years I’ve been with Hoy, it has dominated the Hispanic print market in Chicago,” Trainor said. “There are formidable competitors here that serve a specific need, and they are important to have. But if we wish to continue to grow, we need to diversify our touch points.”

Early efforts involved on-screen content at retail partners across Chicagoland. The project was abandoned due to poor response from retailers and consumers. At the same time, relaunched in September 2009 as a portal heavily vested in video and digital capabilities.

Today, Hoy Chicago is perhaps more of a digital spot-news organization than a traditional newspaper, capable of producing breaking news reports at the same level of speed as the market’s radio and television stations.

Yet one glaring fact about the Chicago media landscape proved vexing for Trainor and his team: Getting at least a portion of those Hispanic marketing dollars devoted to TV.

“About 70% of the marketing budget in the Hispanic space is still going to television, and for several years I’ve been trying to find an angle to tap into those marketing dollars,” Trainor said. “We have a newsroom that has become multiplatform-ready. We’ve already incorporated video as part of our digital rollout, and we’ve made a little money, but not enough to pay for the initial launch.

“When MundoFox launched with a local affiliate, they didn’t have the capability to do local news, and in this space local news can really be the heart and soul of a station, and help them gain a real presence in the market,” Trainor added. “With reporters on the street, along with editors and staff, we are using all of the content that we already have in our paper and hired a staff to produce the stories on a TV format.”

Among the new hires is Nicole Suarez, a 2011 contestant on Univision’s Nuestra Belleza Latina beauty pageant reality show who will serve as a co-anchor alongside Pablo Cesar Soto, who served as a backup sports anchor for Telemundo Chicago from 2007 to 2009. Maria Morales Salazar, a 14-year veteran who has worked for Univision and Telemundo in creative services, news and production, has come aboard as senior editor.

 “We’ve integrated the production team with our news staff, and there is a subject matter editor who is responsible for getting the news out in multiple platforms,” Trainor said. “It really has never been done in the way we are approaching it.”

Trainor said MundoFox senior vice president for news Jorge Mettey was fundamental in putting together the partnership.

“MundoFox is changing the way Hispanics get their information, and I applaud the leadership, vision and passion that MundoFox 13 and Hoy Chicago have demonstrated in bringing this project to fruition,” Mettey said. “I believe this groundbreaking partnership will become an example for others to follow in the news industry."

Trainor also credited Donald Bae, WOCK’s general manager, for having the vision to put together the arrangement. Bae said: “The next step in the evolution of our station is not only to entertain, but also to educate and inform our viewers. The partnership with an established news organization like Hoy will allow us to deeply connect with our viewers and, at the same time, give our advertisers a unique opportunity within our two powerful brands."

Rather than focus on chasing competing news outlets on covering fires and car crashes, Hoy Noticias MundoFox 13 aims to feature selectively curated reports tailored to Chicago's Spanish-speaking community. Trainor said the news content will be reflective of the newscast’s tagline: El poder de la información (the power of information).

“We’re going to start doing a lot of investigations, and a lot of in-depth reporting,” Trainor said. In addition, regular segments covering business, sports, education and lifestyle will be offered, as well as several special-interest segments focused on such topics as immigration, automotive trends, home improvement and economic, political and social issues in Mexico. The vast majority of Chicago’s Spanish-speaking Hispanics are of Mexican descent.

"Technology allows brands to blur the lines and enter new spaces across mediums," said Joseph Schiltz, senior VP of marketing and targeted media for Tribune Publishing, who was also instrumental in putting the partnership in place. "We are eager to bring this opportunity to the marketplace."