For more than two decades, the local print newspaper industry has been in steady decline with the rise of online news and social media. A report by Medill’s Local News Initiative found that the U.S. has lost more than one-fourth of its newspapers, and by 2025, it estimates that nearly a third will close. Most communities that have seen their local newspapers shut down live in what are called ‘news deserts.’ That is about 70 million residents without access to critical information.
In San Francisco’s Mission District, the digital and print bilingual newspaper, El Tecolote, continues to serve its community through its publisher, Acción Latina. Amidst a declining local newspaper industry, El Tecolote reaches a 53-year milestone this month of operating and informing the public. For the past decade, Johnny Garcia, the newspaper’s distribution manager, has been one of the main driving forces in ensuring that the Bay Area community has physical access to their local news. He has hand-delivered more than two million copies during his tenure so far, a historical record for the publication’s distribution manager.
At 59 years old, Garcia still believes he has another two decades left in him to do this job, which will take his hand-delivery tally to more than six million copies by the time he calls it quits. Garcia’s job is a task that isn’t for everyone’s liking. Delivering the newspaper demands agility, strength, cardio, and some street smarts in order to effectively weave through foot traffic on the bustling sidewalks. Garcia does this effortlessly. He describes his position with the publication as being a kicker to a football team.
Every year, Garcia delivers more than 200,000 copies throughout his community, where he has lived since the 1980s. In the age of a dying printed newspaper, Garcia continues to hand-deliver El Tecolote’s bilingual newspaper every other week, an essential role for communities that are most vulnerable to becoming ‘news deserts.’