For first time in two decades, Teton County has local TV news, and it’s in Spanish

But in a region that struggles with affordability, it’s a challenge getting the international operation off the ground.
Alicia Unger worked in broadcasting for decades before launching TODO TV in the Tetons. (Courtesy of Alicia Unger)

Alicia Unger was setting up her iPhone on a tripod. She was preparing for an interview on Jackson housing issues for her local current affairs show, Pulso Jackson. 

“When you have a business with no money,” Unger said, “you have to be very creative.”

She founded TODO TV earlier this year — the only Spanish-language local news channel in Wyoming and Idaho.

Unger has worked in broadcasting for 25 years for big networks like Telemundo and Univision. 

“They have all these big equipments and lighting and the whole crew goes there,” she said. “They have so many options to have a great shot.”

“But no, I just do it with my cellphone and so far, so good,” she added, laughing.

Alicia Unger interview Sonia Diaz, who manages the housing program at the local Habitat for Humanity branch. (Hanna Merzbach/KHOL)

Since February, TODO TV has aired two local newscasts a day, along with other Latino-focused cultural programming. That includes international shows like Aqui Estoy, which discussed issues like migration, art, politics in the Latin world.

“The important thing here is to inform the community,” Unger said. “That’s the main goal.”

A dream turned reality

Unger said she began brainstorming about the station a few years ago when she moved to Jackson Hole.

It’s estimated that roughly 30 percent of Teton County’s population is Latino, but there are few local news options in Spanish.

“That concerned me because if you don’t have information, the right information, it’s difficult for the community to integrate,” Under explained.

So, she went looking for some help to get the station off the ground. Her first thought? Her former boss, Fernando Gonzalez.

“And I said, ‘You know what? Let’s do it,’” he said.

Gonzalez lives in Los Angeles, where he launched a Spanish-language TV newscast in the late 90s. And up until recently, he was the Spanish-language announcer for the Lakers. He held that role for nearly three decades.

“When she called me and I made my decision, when the time came to renew my contract, I told [my employers], ‘You know what? I’m going to quit,’” Gonzalez said.

Fernando Gonzalez and Alicia Unger speak to members of the Latino community at a fundraising event. (Hanna Merzbach/KHOL)

Gonzalez and Unger founded TODO TV together, and right now they’re funding the operation themselves while they look for investors. 

“I took my 401(k) fund,” Gonzalez said. “And [Unger] did the same thing.”

Barriers to entry

Faced with high rent costs in Jackson, the station doesn’t have an office in town. They’re still also on the hunt for Spanish-speaking reporters in the area. 

Right now, most of the content is being filmed and produced in a studio in Mexico City. 

“It’s more convenient for our budget to produce it there,” Gonzalez said. “Now with this modern world, it doesn’t matter where you are … as long as you take care of the community and bring the needed information.”

Gonzalez said they hope to find local reporters, but for now, they’re working on bringing employees, like news anchor Alejandro Villanueva, from Mexico to Jackson.

Like many in Jackson Hole, known for its high cost of living, he’s struggling to find housing. 

“It’s been difficult, to be honest,” Villanueva said. “We’ve been looking, and a single room, it’s like $2,500 or something like that. On a reporter salary, that’s not going to make it.”

He said he’s staying optimistic something will come through. Villanueva, who’s in his 20s, said he believes in the news they’re producing — which is also available on YouTube, Roku and social media.

“I think it’s very dynamic,” Villanueva said. “It offers some opportunities that maybe other media don’t have, being able to show people what’s going on.”

Engaging the Spanish-speaking community

Dozens of people from Jackson’s Latino community recently got together at the Center for the Arts for a night of music, dance and fundraising for TODO TV. 

A Hispanic dance troupe performs at TODO TV’s launch event in early May. (Hanna Merzbach/KHOL)

Villanueva said Spanish-speaking residents are welcoming the station. 

“I mean we’re basically creating a new place where Latinos can have their voices heard,” he said.

One fundraiser attendee was Raquel Zapata Ramirez. She’s a house and office cleaner in Jackson who mostly speaks Spanish. 

She said it feels good to be represented on TV. 

“We feel included,” she said in Spanish. “I think we have achieved something impressive as a Latino community, especially here in Jackson, and it’s nice to be able to see a channel in my language on the news, events and more.”

But TODO TV still faces some roadblocks getting the community on board. Unger, the founder, said it’s hard to get advertisers and convince residents to do on-camera interviews, since the region hasn’t had local TV news for two decades.

“We have to show them who we are,” Unger said. “We have to teach them what television can do for them.”

Unger said the launch has been tougher than she expected, but now that they are on-air, she’s hopeful the station will become a staple for Jackson Hole news. 

“They say, you have to be crazy sometimes to change the world,” Unger said.

TODO TV is available en Espanol on Channel 24 on both sides of the Tetons in Wyoming and Idaho. 

Alicia Unger is a former KHOL correspondent. TODO TV is in discussions to collaborate with Jackson Hole Community Radio on programs in the near future. 

 

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About Hanna Merzbach

Hanna is KHOL's senior reporter and managing editor. A lot of her work focuses on housing and local politics, but also women's health — and whatever else she finds interesting. You can hear her reporting around the country and region on NPR, Wyoming Public Radio and community radio stations around the west. She hails from Bend, Oregon, where she reported for outlets such as the Atlantic, High Country News and Oregon Public Broadcasting. In her free time, you can find Hanna scaling rock walls or adventuring in the mountains.

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