TWO new newspapers in the northern Pacific coast region of Guanacaste are keeping English-speaking residents informed about beach community happenings.
Before they debuted, The Howler, a monthly magazine that covered the Gold Coast, and The Tico Times, this national weekly, were charged with informing Guanacaste residents in English.
Now, The Tamarindo News, a monthly bilingual paper that has been operating for about a year, and The Beach Times, a weekly that published its first edition on March 26, also are providing information to area residents and tourists.
THE newest kid on the block, The Beach Times, is a family affair that is written, photographed and laid out in its entirety by a husband-and-wife team of professional news reporters.
Australian Ralph Nicholson and Colombian Zoraida Díaz moved to Guanacaste’s Playa Potrero in January of this year.
Their paper was conceived not so much as a moneymaker (Nicholson said he will be happy to break even), but as a whetstone to keep their minds sharp and occupied.
“Even paradise can get boring if there’s nothing to do,” Nicholson said. They publish 2,500 copies weekly and distribute them throughout the PapagayoGulf, from Tamarindo to Playa Hermosa.
It is printed in color, contains original area news coverage, soccer coverage, a two-page full-color feature centerfold, international news shorts, guest columns, and letters, a Web site in the works and is free.
“I don’t want the fact that you have to pay for a newspaper to be a reason not to pick it up and read it,” Nicholson said.
The “wildly increasing English-speaking population,” as he described it, tipped him and Díaz off to the idea that there was a need in that region for a local weekly paper.
“We could have done another monthly, but there are lots of those here and frankly it’s hard for me to write a monthly. We spent our lifetimes chasing stringent deadlines,” he said. “In a monthly, the news is old before it goes to print.”
They have ironed some of the wrinkles that crease a start-up business in a developing country, including printing delays, broken printing machinery and power outages.
A couple of the highlights that Nicholson should put at the top of his resume for his lifetime reporting career are his post as the bureau chief in Jerusalem for Reuters Television and opening that company’s first bureau in Moscow in the late 1980s.
Díaz is a photojournalist who began shooting for Reuters in Colombia in 1987. She photographed events throughout the Americas, including some she described as disturbing and bloody.
The welcome letter in their first edition of The Beach Times touches on her experience as chief photographer in Bogotá when cocaine trafficker Pablo Escobar was “considerably more powerful than the president.”
The pace is slower and the news less volatile in Guanacaste than in Jerusalem or Colombia, and Nicholson said he enjoys it, blaming his youth for his enthusiasm to be in the midst of breaking news of worldwide importance.
THE Tamarindo News, the region’s monthly, filled a news void in the region previously informed only by The Howler.
Juanita Hayman, the publisher and editor of The Tamarindo News, claims The Howler editorialized its articles.
“We felt there was no publication that just reported the news,” Hayman said.
“Guanacaste does get some exposure in national papers, but not a lot. I don’t believe the region gets a fair representation in the Tico papers.”
The Tamarindo News first saw the light of day with the help of some front money from the local Century 21 real estate agency.
“We started doing it and it just took off,” Hayman said. Other beach communities called The Tamarindo News asking for sections dedicated to their news.
NOW, The Tamarindo News is independently owned and self-sufficient, hovering around 28 pages, according to Hayman. The company that helped launch it takes a monthly advertisement and occasionally contributes articles to the real estate section.
Hayman and her part-time staff print 3,000 copies monthly. The paper has color photos, a Web site, community news, letters, a host of guest writers, and coverage of surfing competitions.
The most distinguishing characteristic of the free paper, however, is that every article is printed in English and Spanish.
That is what sets it apart from The Beach Times, Hayman said, adding she does not view it as competition because of its single-language format.
“We cover progress within communities, restaurant reviews, concerts, book reviews…” she said. “I do (the book reviews) more for residents. When you’re living down here you’re out of touch with what goes on in the United States.”
HAYMAN dabbles in all aspects of the paper’s production, from writing to layout.
She is one of three staff writers, and hers is the only full-time post at the paper – the other staff members are a photographer and a graphic designer.
“I made it so people can use this job to supplement their income. I’m sure when the paper gets a little larger I’ll hire some full time staff,” she said.
Hayman has been in Costa Rica for six years, arriving here after she retired early from a tanking dot-com in San Francisco. She left before it folded and moved to Guanacaste.
“All I knew about Costa Rica was that it had nice waves,” she said.
She began an off-road adventure-tour company called Rica Road Trip that suffered through a slow high season in the wake of the dot-com crashes and the plunging U.S. economy. She abandoned that company when she became pregnant.
A year and a half ago, the Century 21 agency approached her with the idea to start the paper, Hayman said.
“The newspaper has been a wild ride because I had no idea that it was going to grow so fast,” she said. “I certainly hope it portrays the Tamarindo community pretty well.”
At least one of the readers, massage therapist Molly O’Connor, has paid close attention to the paper.
“It’s changed a lot in the last several months,” she said. “The layout has improved, great visuals, the information is good, and she (Hayman) checks out a lot of things and describes them well.”