El Universal marks 100 years with transition to digital age
MEXICO CITY — Born in the nation forged from the Mexican Revolution, the El Universal newspaper is celebrating its centennial in 2016 as a privileged witness to history and example of the media’s evolution in the era of globalization, the Internet and social networks.
On Oct. 1, 1916, prominent engineer Felix Fulgencio Palavicini founded El Universal “to report on the social changes that Mexico was demanding” in the first quarter of the 20th century, the newspaper’s current chairman and managing editor, Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz, told EFE.
The paper was started with an investment of 50,000 gold pesos, printing 60,000 copies to be sold at 40 cents apiece.
The first editorial offices were located at the corner of Madero and Motolinia streets in downtown Mexico City.
The original Goss printing press also printed the Feb. 5, 1917, Mexican Constitution on which Palavicini had worked since 1910.
The printing press was dubbed “La Constituyente” and donated years later to the lower house of Congress.
The original masthead read “El Diario Politico de la Mañana” (The Political Morning Daily).
In 1921, two years after moving to its current location on Bucareli Street, the masthead was changed to “El Gran Diario de Mexico” (Mexico’s Great Daily), which is still in use.
Although the press is still influential “it is now difficult to carry on,” Ealy Ortiz said.
“Everyone attends the burial of a newspaper, but nowadays no one attends the birth,” the El Universal executive said.
In 1922, the newspaper published an interview with revolutionary leader Francisco “Pancho” Villa, a piece that may have contributed to his killing the next year, Angelica Navarrete, the paper’s librarian, said.
As she walks in the labyrinth containing more than 5,000 volumes of El Universal inside a vault whose temperature is kept at 17 C (63 F) and the humidity at 45 percent, Navarrete explained that El Universal was completing the digitalization of its archives for the centennial.
The archive contains front pages that reported on Wall Street’s 1929 “Black Tuesday,” the 1938 nationalization of oil in Mexico, World War II and the murder of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky in 1940.
“The first full-color front page was printed in 1979, when Pope John Paul II visited Mexico,” Navarrete said.
El Universal currently prints 180,000 copies and has an average daily readership of 285,000, according to consulting firm Ipsos EGM, making it the leader in Mexico’s print media.