The Houston-based newspaper Our Texas hopes to foster a sense of community to its Russian-speaking members.
By: Ed Mayberry, July 08th, 2015 05:00 AM (www.houstonpublicmedia.org/news/russianlanguage-newspaper-thrives-in-houston/)
In the Russian General Store, Sophia Grinblat, the editor-in-chief of the Houston-based Russian-language newspaper, holds a copy of Our Texas.
Houston is a diverse city — a melting pot of races and cultures. Different ethnic groups often have their own media outlets. Our Texas is a Houston-based Russian-language newspaper that serves immigrants from countries of the former Soviet Union and from Eastern Europe.
«Nosh Texas, and we have the same three letters. Our and Nosh, and Texas you can write the same in Russian and English. That’s why we play a little bit with that,» said Sophia Grinblat, editor of Our Texas.
Our Texas is celebrating 15 years of publication, according to editor, taking advantage of Russian interest in cultural events like symphonies and ballets.
Sophia: «We came here 25 years ago with my family and I started this newspaper as a hobby. And it was addressed to newcomers. They didn’t know a lot about this city and about this state. When we just started the newspaper, all my friends and relatives were very skeptical because they did not believe we have enough advertisement.»
Ed: «Flipping through the pages, you see there’s a lot of advertising.»
Sophia: «You see, that is why our newspaper is different, because we advertise a lot of American businesses, especially cultural institutions.»
Grinblat said about 60,000 people speak Russian in Houston, including immigrants from former socialist republics and Eastern Europe. Our Texas is distributed in Houston, as well as in Austin, Dallas and San Antonio, in Russian doctors offices, at oil companies with ex-pats from Russia, through NASA, by subscription and also at some Russian retail outlets.
«You see, that is why our newspaper is different, because we advertise a lot of American businesses, especially cultural institutions,» said Sophia Grinblat, editor of Our Texas.
«We know each other for many years, even before I started this business and she had this newspaper,» said Anna Levitin, co-owner of the Russian General Store on Hillcroft.
Sophia: «They’re our best supporters from the very beginning of the newspaper. Our first issue, we brought to the Russian General Store.»
Anna: «And since then, we always have these newspapers available for customers. Most of Russian-speaking people. But we have customers from Poland, from Bosnia, different part of … »
Ed: «Slovenia. I saw the wines.»
Anna: «Of course. Of course.»
Ed: «I just love it that there’s, you know, this Russian community here in Houston. The paper and this store kind of provide a taste of home, really, or a taste of …»
Anna: «Mostly, it is Russian corner. And Sophia brings Croats here, and … »
Sophia: «You see, if you take into consideration that former Soviet Union used to be very multinational place. So when we are talking about Russian community, we mean people from Kazakhstan, from Azerbaijan. One thing connected them is Russian language. That’s why they read our newspaper, that is why they come to this Russian General Store.»
University of Houston journalism professor Garth Jowett said ethnic newspapers serve an important purpose.
«It does give a feeling of community of people who are still using their own language, but also they have a sense that there’re others out there like them,» Jowett said. «They’re sharing information, their weddings, their various festivities and so forth. All of these have been covered in these papers, and they do lend a sense of community.»
Grinblat said Our Texas covers cultural events that feature visiting Russian artists, but the scope is bigger than just covering Russian events.
Sophia: «Sometimes people think if there is Russian pianist in town, yes, we need to place an ad in the newspaper. But this is completely wrong, because if there is good pianist from let’s say Vienna, our people would be interested as well. Russian community is curious about a lot of things, and good educated people. They would like to attend different kind of events.»
Ed: «Thank you very much! I appreciate it.»
Sophia: «You’re very welcome!»