Blogging and journalismOK, no more bold faced names. I don't really want to model my weblog on a gossip column. What I'd like it to be is more like the space Sandra Russo occupies on the back page, or contratapa, of Buenos Aires' most consistently interesting daily, Página/12. She has collected a couple of dozen of those from December 2000 to April 2003 in a book called, simply, Contratapas (Buenos Aires: Astralib,2003). In a very personal voice, she tries to make sense of the confusing events of these tumultuous years, especially since the crisis of December 2001, to unmask the the charlatans and political criminals responsible, and especially to celebrate those acts of solidarity -- some very painful and ending tragically -- that give signs that a new, healthier Argentina can still emerge.
When in Argentina, I like to read Clarín for news and Página/12 for analysis -- and if I lived there and had a little more time for reading than one can manage on a hurried trip, I'd try to read parts of both daily. That week of exposure to the Buenos Aires press made me painfully aware of the limitations of my own hometown paper, The New York Times. The picture of goofy Laura Bush dully thrilled to have her hand kissed by Chirac on that paper's frontpage today, in Página/12 would have raised editorial guffaws and cutting caricatures, but the solemn NYT remains the Gray Lady (even though she now has color tints in her photos), and refrains from hooting at the truly hootable. Montevideo's La República, a quirky but comprehensive daily representing the conservative-liberal-nationalist amalgam called the Blanco party (now in opposition to the ruling Colorados, representing pro-globalizing business interests), seemed to me to be editorially closer to the NYT.
One of the essays in Sandra Russo's book is especially focused on a case of press distortion. "Propiedad privada" (2002 June 28) analyzes the way the conservative Buenos Aires daily, La Nación, covered the deaths from police bullets of two piqueteros, who are street protesters, many from the slums, who have been organizing to demand jobs, schools, and basic services, sometimes by blocking roads. The wording of the headline and of the lead paragraphs clearly implies that the protesters were at fault, because they were attacking "private property" (some cars and store windows were smashed by angry and hungry piqueteros). The reporting is an example of "[t]he dripping of the authoritarian discourse that again drives our home-grown liberals to schizophrenia."
"Liberal" is here used in its traditional sense: pro-free trade, free markets, and against state intervention. "They [the schizophrenic liberals who read and write for La Nación] speak of the piqueteros as though of a human subspecies, they speak of blockades of streets and bridges as something inexcusable, whereas death is excusable. There were those yesterday who spoke more about the broken windows of the shops than of the deaths of the two young piqueteros. They ignore the fact that life is also a private property."