May 22, 2013
Indecent journalism: going too far
A personal embarrassment provides an illustration of abusive, or militant journalism, which weakens the role of the Fourth Estate in defending democracy.
In my previous column (Sept. 9) I wrote about a campaign of defamation launched and sustained by pro-government media against Jorge Fontevecchia, the CEO of Editorial Perfil which publishes a newspaper and more than a hundred magazines including the leading newsweekly Noticias.
On Sunday, when I went to the newsstand near my home to pick up the Herald, I noticed the then current issue of Noticias. My heart sank and my stomach turned. The cover is a segment of an animated cartoon about President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. I will use the least offensive words I can think of to describe it by saying that the President is depicted at a moment of sexual ecstasy. Frankly I was disgusted.
I could not bring myself to buy the magazine, although I knew that I would have to read it, sooner or later, to explain to readers how it came about that I had written an article about Fontevecchia without mentioning the offensive cover. Continues on Page
Back home my wife told me I should read an email sent to me by a friend.
This is my translation of that e-mail:
“I think it is interesting to know the true story of Fontevecchia which is surely not known by many people. But I would now appreciate it if you would take a position on the aberrant cover of the magazine Noticias which Fontevecchia directs. To my mind it is shameful, not only because it is an attack on the office of the president of the nation, which according to law is a crime that requires rectification but because it attacks all society, going beyond bad taste shown toward the feminine sex. To depict (sexual) gratification as the cover does will make many people sick but, to make a finer point, I think that it also has something to do with masculine debility. Could it be that the ‘opposition’ cannot abide a strong president who uses her power?”
To begin with, I would describe the cover as abhorrent, not merely aberrant. Worse still, the cartoon depiction of the president, which is reached through a link given inside the magazine, strikes me as pornographic. I can think of no redeeming feature in the content relating to the cover. I felt ashamed as I reluctantly checked out this distasteful material. The actual cover story is a mishmash of pretentious junk philosophy and psychology with no intrinsic value whatsoever.
Discussing the leering, yet ludicrous cover and the packet of articles inside, including the “video hot” produced by a rock band in Miami, said to be composed of Argentine and Venezuelan expatriates, with Herald colleagues, we agreed that it fitted what might be described as Noticias “yellow streak.” The magazine has done serious, useful work during its three decades, but the editors over the years have shamelessly stooped to yellow journalism to boost sales, thus undermining the magazine’s credibility. This issue, I think, goes way beyond the pall, destroying whatever respect has been built up over the years by many outstanding journalists.
I don’t think that the fact that the editor of Noticias and the writer of the main article are one and the same and female deflects from the overall effect, which is misogynist.
I also don’t think that the scurrilous cover “video hot” and other related content justifies censorship. But I do think that the editors of Noticias deserve to be criticized. I do not think that it is clever, or creative as is claimed, to respond with a blank cover for the current issue of the magazine with the announcement: “This is the cover the government wants.” If the government wants to damage Noticias, as is suggested, the editors obliged with last week’s travesty.
I will show my disapproval of journalism that I believe defiles journalism by boycotting Noticias. In my opinion, the shameless defamation of Fontevecchia does not justify the equally shameless defamation of the President.
In my view, the behaviour of the editors of Noticias was and is indecent. They (or Fontevecchia) should have had the decency to apologize. As those female senators who defended Noticias on the grounds of freedom of expression, pointed out, the sexual overtones, abusive to all women, are inexcusable. To use one of the President’s favourite expressions, it was “too much.” The whole incident will stand as an example of unacceptable journalistic practice.