December 6, 2013
The place where the Herald chooses to stand
It is widely recognized that journalism, as we have known it until now, is facing major changes. So many years during which we have heard false predictions about the end of journalism shouldn’t mislead anybody into denying that new ways of writing and reading information are coming, and they are coming fast.
New technologies raise obvious questions about economic sustainability for newspapers. As more options “à la carte” are available, the economic problems in countries speeds up the decision to be informed for free. In other words, the perfect crisis.
But there are more specific difficulties ahead in the Argentine market. Journalism has, in these last few years, been trapped in a framework which reminds us of the unforgettable George W. Bush’s phrase: “You are either with us, or against us.”
On no account should Argentine society fail to see the positive note emerging from the conflict between the government and Clarín Group. Since 2008, when the exchange of favours was broken, more and more readers have lost part of their innocence about the informative process. Journalists, media moguls, corporations and politicians have had to come out as never before and explain how they work, what is beyond and behind their official business.
On the other hand, the informative standards appear to be damaged by the binary journalism that reigns nationwide.
In an environment dominated by colossi who appear to be more seduced by confirming readers’ prejudice and tackling the rival than by releasing information, there seems to be little space for unbiased journalism.
What could be a unique moment to clarify positions and develop a more sincere democracy appears always to be a battle in which anything goes. It is ironic to see how both the unparalleled dominant media group and a government which frequently trivializes the idea of democratic communication are passionately focused on pointing to each other’s sins. Their methods seem pretty similar as both sides plead to be the weaker.
Not only the media but also the political eco-system have (since 2008) run through this watershed. As a matter of fact, important signs reveal that a divisive agenda gains certain public favouritism, which leads us to conclude that we may speak more about current social preferences than about strategies and styles set up by an elite.
Regarding this stage, what is the position for the Herald to stand in? The risk for a 137-year-old press organization which intends to preserve its credibility and to respect its democratic history is to navigate irrelevant waters. Pretending an equilibrium between two parts in conflict, namely, an abusive private giant and a government quite unconvinced of the benefits of pluralism is also a risk around the corner in these times.
Trying to keep the right distance from facts, sources and main actors and, at the same time, respecting them doesn’t mean always sitting on the fence.
The Herald has decided to respect its identity as the best way to keep on track. That is to promote diversity, democratic institutions, human rights and a fair economy.
Easier said than done.
The singularity of the Herald’s newsroom offers a clue that facilitates our way. Our staff, counting the paper and the dot-com, is composed of about 30 journalists and a similar number of contributors (columnists, correspondents, critics) of seven different nationalities.
It is a matter of keeping an accurate distance but also of providing key information and qualified opinions. That is why we have in our newsroom a healthy combination of experienced journalists and editors who have in-depth knowledge of the Herald’s soul and some of the best young journalists in the Argentine market. Talking of pluralism, a number of local and international columnists with contrasting opinions can be found weekly in our pages. All in all, a good balance to try to release a world of information in a few words.
Not so bad for the only Latin American daily newspaper written in English which makes the Herald an outstanding bridge to link different worlds. Even more so, it works in these times, when there are some challenges that the Internet cannot tackle by itself.