Monday, January 05, 2009

The state and newspapers in Latin America

Evo Morales announced that the Bolivian government will launch its own daily newspaper. I assume this will be attacked and described in some Orwellian manner. It is, however, not that remarkable. Chile, for example, has had one of the stronger democracies in the region, but also has a state-run newspaper (La Nación).

At the same time, for Morales to claim that the new paper will be the "truth" made me think immediately of Fox News' vaunted "fair and balanced" motto. All media has some sort of spin, which is not necessarily a problem. In all Latin American countries, readers know the spin of every newspaper, and interpret them accordingly. The Bolivian state paper will become one more voice in the media din.

15 comments:

Randinho 12:02 PM  

It is, however, not that remarkable. Chile, for example, has had one of the stronger democracies in the region, but also has a state-run newspaper

And when Pinochet was in power they had El Mercúrio />snark.

Greg Weeks 12:07 PM  

But the thing with El Mercurio, like any other newspaper in Latin America, is that it is open about its leanings. There is no pretense about "balance." I think the pretending about having no bias is what bugs me, esp. about the U.S. media.

mike a,  3:44 PM  

It is definitely open about its leanings, but only to those who care enough to read the op-ed pages. However, if the average layman picks up and reads the front pages, he would not realize that El Mercurio is conservative, just as he would not know that the NYT is left-leaning. That's the problem with most newspapers - they allow their tendencies to bleed onto the front page, but the editors do it in such a way that the bias is not overt. The average reader sees it as news when it is really opinion disguised as news.

Another word for this is brainwashing.

Greg Weeks 3:48 PM  

The "average layman" in Chile knows full well the leanings of every major paper.

mike a,  4:01 PM  

I think you're giving far too much credit. Do you really think the average stiff knows the leanings of every major newspaper in Chile?

boz 5:08 PM  

Do you really think the average stiff knows the leanings of every major newspaper in Chile?

Having lived in Chile, I can say yes, everyone knows El Mercurio is conservative.

Randinho 7:18 PM  

Greg,

Agreed. Part of my point, however, was that El Mercúrio actually received a $53 million loan from the Pinochet government in 1982 when the newspaper came close to bankruptcy.

I cannot imagine a responsible newspaper doing that without having strong ties to the regime in power.

KA 4:16 PM  

Greg, thought you might find this of interest

http://www.noticias24.com/actualidad/noticia/22312/grupo-venezolano-habria-adquirido-diario-boliviano/

KA 4:24 PM  

apparently La Epoca was purchased by PDVSA. It has, shall we say, a very interesting slant.

http://www.la-epoca.com/

http://www.lostiempos.com/noticias/06-01-09/06_01_09_nac9.php

Greg Weeks 4:39 PM  

Very interesting. Maybe I am wrong, but my impression was that La Razon tended to be critical of the government, but who owned it before? I wonder about their rationale for selling to Venezuelans.

KA 5:01 PM  

To be honest I am unfamiliar with La Razon.

From the linked article is appears that it was recently purchased by unknown Venezuelans. My money is on the fact that they are tied to the venezuelan government since they are the only ones with the money to buy it. I'm sure with time 6-12mo you will see a change in news and the editorials.

jd,  10:37 PM  

This is indeed very interesting. La Razon was previously owned by Spaniards. It was/is critical of the Morales admin but often takes a somewhat high-minded tone that distinguishes it from the more rabid El Deber from Santa Cruz. Almost Bolivian papers are critical, which is why the media war that preceded the state's announcement of its new paper occurred in the first place. Conditions have been very bad for journalists - for much of 2008 it was nearly impossible for journalists from the "wrong side" to cover marches and protests throughout Bolivia without catching a beating. Nonetheless, agree with its perspective or not, La Razon has been among the more intelligent papers for a long time and it will be interesting to see what happens.

mcentellas 1:10 PM  

Yes, I "trust" La Razon more than I would most other Bolivian papers. In part, because I know some of their editorialists (e.g. Carlos Toranzo manages the "Tiempo Politico" weekly insert; he is co-director of the German SDP funded ILDIS).

LR has been critical of Morales, as any good paper should of anyone in office. It has also done a much better job of "investigative" journalism than other papers.

That said, most Bolivians are familiar w/ at least several papers on a regular basis. Not sure about Chile, but in Bolivia many papers are posted (at least the front sections) by venders throughout the city. The more "populist" El Diario (La Paz) actually posts the entire content of its paper on the windows of its main offices daily. Additionally, several NGOs post large sections of various papers on their walls daily, too. In short, the public often has a fairly good sense of how different papers cover stories.

Justin Delacour 10:19 PM  

I think the pretending about having no bias is what bugs me, esp. about the U.S. media.

The pretense of journalistic objectivity is largely what makes our ideological system so poorly understood by the indoctrinated.

sharon 5:45 AM  

thanks for the information....

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