Looking at life in Lakeside
By: Patrick O’Heffernan
This week, we celebrate Laguna’s 11th birthday. I have been with the organization for three of those 11 years and it has been an inspiring and supremely educational experience. Laguna has been the best classroom in the world for learning about Mexican culture and the perseverance and hard work of the Mexican people. Thanks to Laguna, I better understand what an amazing country this is.
Eleven years ago, two young men with journalistic stars in their eyes bought a tiny publication serving a small part of Lakeside. There was no regional newspaper at the time that covered the news from Chapala to Jocotepec much less Ixtlahuacán de Membrillos or Ocotlán . These two young men had a mission: create a newspaper that provided all the people of Lakeside with independent news that was fair, accurate and not influenced by the government or advertisers. That was a tough challenge in México, where, I am told, that payments from the government and pressure from advertisers can often influence what is reported.
And they wanted to pay decent salaries to reporters and editors -also a tough challenge in a country where a new community newspaper may last only 18 months and salaries are low or non-existent.
So here we are 11 years later, from a tiny, debt-ridden local magazine to the largest news organization in Lakeside with full-time staff of 13 and three columnists. Add to that a volunteer translation team of 14 Expats, Laguna is now almost 30 people working in spacious new offices in downtown Ajijic across from the plaza.
And readership has grown with Laguna’s expansion: from a handful of subscribers and news rack purchasers in Chapala, Laguna is now sold in plazas, stores and shops throughout Jocotepec and Laguna and delivered to homes in Lakeside.
Not content with growing to a 16-page weekly, Laguna has gone online in a big way. The founders saw that news and information was going digital and becoming bi-lingual and they were determined to be part of those revolutions. So they went to work building the largest news and information on-line structure in Lakeside and soon, the largest English news source in Lakeside.
Laguna now operates a website, a Facebook Page, WhatsApp feeds and Instagram and Twitter accounts. Every month, its digital platforms receive 400,000 visitors; over 50,000 people now follow it on Facebook ( slightly more than a quarter of the population of Lakeside.) Last year Laguna launched an online breaking news service called #CharaquitosInformativos, and its reporters now live streams breaking news from its Facebook page.
But to me, the most exciting part of Laguna’s last 11 years was the introduction 3 years ago of English and an English section. Every week I translate 6 Spanish stories into English, and often write a few myself, to help the newspaper be bilingual. Following up on that, Laguna teamed up with Lake Chapala Society (LCS) to create Todos English, a team of expat Volunteers who translate all 40 stories the Laguna’s reporters and columnists write each week into English for posting on the Laguna website. But that is not enough: in the next two weeks Laguna will launch LakesideNewsChapala, an all- English website that carries all of Laguna’s Spanish stories translated and rewritten for English readers, plus recipes, cooking videos, theater reviews released before the plays open, and in-depth stories investigated and written by Expat-Mexican teams .
So here we are 11 years later, the largest and most innovative news organization in Lakeside and I am proud to be part of it. Happy Birthday Laguna.