The flag of a country: On Spanish journalism


Let us not be naïve and say that the Spanish political scene is ever an easy one, particularly at the moment. The Spanish Congress of Deputies will not have had an elected Prime Minister for a year in December. Although anyone who is familiarised in the slightest with the record-breaking government-free Belgium run knows that political impasse is not the end of the world. However, our media agencies seem to have taken the bait lately, joining this national ice age that is but compounding the journalistic crisis that has long haunted us.

New press agencies have enshrined its bases in the appealingly free world of online multimedia platforms. Although for the past few years, a large part of the audiences have migrated to this new home for the plural press, traditional news agencies have still greater importance in certain age and education strata, remaining most popular amongst the Spanish population. That is the case for, says Miguel Mora in an article for CTXT, women and men over 40 who were born during Franco’s dictatorial Spain and have forgotten that “the main job of the press is regulating the many branches of power”. Some examples of freshly founded news organisations are CTXT, InfoLibre, Diario Público, etc. The publishment of identical front pages in two allegedly ideologically opposed newspapers attracted the attention of this organisations and caused outrage, leading to the release of an article that denounced the haemorrhaging of principles in modern times’ press, and the subordination of news agencies to political sponsors.

True press in Spain died when plurality became the black sheep to the public eye. “Inquisitive”, “unapologetic” and “maverick” were once sought-after attributes, praised when found in aspiring journalists. But that was back during the 20th century, and particularly throughout and immediately after Spanish transition to democracy in the 80’s, when citizen engagement was still a thing, and people knew a critical eye was required to break through the many layers of opacity that surrounded – and still today surround – our political, economic and military spheres. Instead, those traits have now been demonised and are believed to obstruct the correct performance of a job that is but a misunderstanding of all that journalism stands for. A clumsily impersonal, objective paradigm of journalism that refuses to take sides is currently on the rise. Impartiality, however, is not free, since it belongs to the dominant, hegemonic ideologies: it is the most distinctive feature of the mainstream. For instance, in a country where the mainstream is socialism, an impartial discourse will be a socialist discourse, where racism is the mainstream, a mainstream discourse will be a racist one, and so on. Making a change means breaking away from conventions – either side – and consequently, from the impartial.  The media management feels under pressure since most media organisations are dependent on regional government funding. As a result, a culture of fear and discrimination against opinionated professionals exists. This was reflected last week in the sacking of radio broadcaster Francisco Berlín from CadenaSER, the most listened-to radio channel in Spain. Inside sources have revealed that the reason for the sacking is fundamentally the incompatibility of his job with occasional collaborations with leftist media organisation LaSexta. Described as disciplinary dismissals by the executive of the radio station, the procession of redundancies that have been taking place during the past few years looks more like an ideological purge. CadenaSER has a history of sackings that have affected primarily some of the most experienced critical reporters and analysts in the organisation, such as Ignacio Escobar, Paloma Delgado or Ana Guantes

The only values that seem to prevail are ambition in the shape of a greedy appetite for competition between news agencies and the conscientious delivery of whatever the people want to get: Sensationalist headlines, morbid features, moral wars and a rolling-heads parade to quench our thirst for politician blood. The new press’s playtoy is the story of 18-year-old Diana Quer. Since her disappearance on the 22nd of August, we have seen an unprecedented deployment of state resources taking place alongside an impressive media spectacle. What begun as a reasonable follow-up of the investigation, quickly turned into excessive coverage, a flood of unnecessary details, the release of intimate letters and sentimental press statements. Diana Quer’s family has become the Spanish version of The Kardashians. But their popularity, instead of rising from a one-off cameo in the pornography industry, does so from a girl’s tragic fate. Albert Camus once said, “a country is worth what its press is worth”. A country whose newspapers  can turn the disappearance of a person into a reality show only to keep a tasteless audience satisfied must not be worth much.

In a country’s anatomy, the lungs are thought’s flesh appendix. The voice, a country’s press. When the throat is obstructed, or ill, when the ardent, alveolar roar is denied its way out, when the tongue’s swing is choreographed by some self-interested discourse… a country then functional is never again but a mute sponsor of the hegemonic ideology:

A dawn of political patronage of what was once the art of telling truths.

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