Newhouse senior Michael Collazo entered the world of Internet news last February when he and his brother launched LATNN.com to cover the Latino community in the United States and abroad.
The media were after Michael Collazo '99 last summer. He was just finishing up a photo shoot with the Philadelphia Inquirer and already moving on to another interview. He was neither stressed nor drainedin fact, he was excited and eager to stop a moment and talk about his groundbreaking project that had caught the media's attention. Collazo, a senior broadcast journalism major at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, is co-founder, with his 24-year-old brother Raphael, of the Internet web site LATNN.com, as well as editor-in-chief of Grafico, the site's monthly news magazine.|
LATNN.comwhich stands for Latino Online News Network (http://www.LATNN.com)uses EFE, a Spain-based wire service, and local Latino publications from across the country to spread the word in English and Spanish about happenings in the Latino community in the United States and abroad. "I had been reading national and local African American publications, and wished a publication existed along these lines geared to the Latino audience," Collazo says. "So, instead of just saying I would love to create the medium, I decided to do it."
Collazo and his brother sat down in July 1997 and devised a plan, moving forward with the guidance of a family friend in the television business. Last February they launched LATNN.com and Grafico with a seven-member team. The core group works in Philadelphia, the technical staff in New York City, and the writers wherever they're located. They turned to the Internet because it was the least expensive medium and could reach a limitless audience. "By doing it this way, we can expand wider than we could on paper," he says. "I was also intrigued by the notion of having an international audience."
Originally a quarterly, Grafico became a monthly electronic publication in June. "Online magazines are usually not very successful because visitors hit the site once and don't come back until the next month or longer," Collazo says. "If we have people visit daily because of the news network, we don't want them to wait too long before they can read the next issue."
Collazo is interested in more than the latest Washington scandal or other mainstream media stories; he focuses the magazine on Latinos in the United States and Latin America, and addresses issues like U.S. immigration and Spain's role in the Latin American community. Collazo plans to enhance Grafico with regional coverage and reviews of Latino-authored works.
As with most entrepreneurial ventures, problems are inevitable, and the Collazo brothers have seen their share, such as not having enough people to execute their media plan. "It's been a struggle to find young, seasoned journalists to write about Latino issues," he says.
Financial constraints have been the biggest obstacle, however, preventing them from adding animated graphics and sound to the web site. "At this point we don't have any character," Collazo says. "Grafico is only text, and I want us to move toward a more visually pleasing product." They also want to add stories from The Associated Press and The New York Times wire services, minute-by-minute and hourly news updates, and chat rooms to address Latino issues.
The Collazos also hope to land national advertisers for the site, start a classified section, link to other Latino sites, create an online radio show, and spin off an actual magazine. In addition, Collazo wants his technical staff to capitalize on the venture and offer web development services. "We want to be as big a news provider as possiblethe authority on Latino news," he says.
Collazo hasn't committed to a time frame for these projects, focusing instead on wrapping up pending stories so he can concentrate on his senior year. "The only time I devote to this project now is late nights and weekends," he says. "I primarily want to be a student."
After graduation Collazo will move full steam ahead with the service and Grafico. "I don't want to go too fast for fear of losing consistency," he says. "We work with limited resources, so I want to make sure we are factually correct, cross every 't', and dot every 'i'."
NATALIE A. VALENTINE