Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Can an English-Language Paper Survive?


It's not easy starting a newspaper these days, especially when it's a real one - printed on dead trees.

As a veteran of several newspapers - several of them sadly deceased - I'm a real believer in the printed word, as well as the role newspapers play in uncovering graft, telling truth to power, bringing new perspectives on old topics. Other media, such as video, just can't do the job with the same agility and detail.

But, as everybody knows, the traditional newspaper industry is in crisis, mostly due to the Internet, which places limitless information at our fingertips, instantly. Several big papers in the U.S. have folded, others slashed their staff (including stringers like myself). It's not so much because people are reading less, but because the advertising, which is historically the media's main income, has shifted to the Internet. At the same time, the Internet has filled with parasitical publications (read: Huffington Post), which take information generated by others, rework it and republish it as their own.

So, it's admirable to see someone launch The Bogotá Post, a new newspaper that's actually printed on paper.

I've got to hand it to this group. The Post contains real news and real stories by real writers. They evidently interviewed an Irish deputy minister visiting Colombia about Colombia's peace process. (He's optimistic, altho the two countries' conflicts have fundamental differences. And, was the IRA as corrupted as are Colombia's guerrillas by drug trafficking and human rights violations?) Jenny Boyle (it'd be nice to know who she is and how long she's lived in Bogotá and how she commutes) writes an opinion column criticizing the women-only cars in TransMilenio, which for her represent the city's resignation to an ugly element of human nature - men's sexual predation. (Unfortunately, human nature - and particularly male nature - is often ugly, and Bogotá can't easily change that.) The inaugural edition also includes a nice opinion piece by Briton Oli Pritchard about the wonders of bicycling in Bogotá. I'm afraid that Pritchard forgot to mention Bogotá's aggressive drivers and clouds of pollution, but it's still nice to see urban cycling praised - especially in an article that's not surrounded by auto ads.

Then there are some somewhat dated news articles about Gustavo Petro and a few predictable features about Usaquen and the monuments of San Agustin. (I couldn't tell whether the Post is meant to be a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly publication.)

What the Post's inaugural issue conspicuously lacks is much advertising - its only income, since the paper is free. Hopefully, that will come in future editions. But it'll be a challenge in the Internet age.

Sadly, my journalistic career is a trail of deceased and agonizing publications. I started out journalistically with the Florida Flambeau, a spirited, independent daily paper covering Tallahassee, Florida's universities. We published exposés and hard news, as well as sports. But the Flambeau died - beaten by a more commercial paper catering to the sororities and fraternities, according to this Wikipedia article. Several years and newpaper jobs later, I worked for the Bolivian Times, a weekly published in La Paz, Bolivia. The BT struggled along with a colorful and hard-working, but sometimes incompetent and occassionally drugged-out staff, an owner often more interested in flattering his elite friends than doing serious reporting, and Bolivia's dysfunctional economy. Nevertheless, we managed to do some interesting reporting. The BT finally died - perhaps deservedly - after many of us were stiffed of our salaries.

Recent years have not been easy for English language publications across Latin America, as English-language papers have folded not only in Bolivia, but also in Caracas and Mexico City, where the surviving Mexico City News saw its staff slashed a few years ago. Besides the Internet, such newspapers have also fallen victim to changing hiring policies. Foreign companies used to bring down foreign staff, but now tend to hire locals.

The Bogotá Post joins the Colombian capital's only other English-language print publication, The City Paper. I'm not sure how The City Paper, a monthly, has managed to survive the tough times for newspapers despite little advertising. I've enjoyed The City Paper's talented, sometimes magazine-quality photographs and features (detracted, unfortunately, by irregular editing). Both are in competition with the Internet-only, Medellin-based Colombia Reports, which publishes interesting articles, many of which however are recycled from the Spanish-language press.

Good luck to the Post. A new voice is always important. Let's hope this one lasts. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

2 comments:

Área de Mercadeo said...

Buenas tardes, mi nombre es Alexandra Solano soy encargada del área de Mercadeo del Museo de Trajes, recientemente conocí su sitio web y nos gustaría como entidad cultural hacer parte de las noticias que presentan en él.

También los invitamos a conocer el Museo de Trajes queda en la Calle 10 No. 6 - 18 pueden acercarse a la recepción y así les daremos gratis una visita comentada.

Realmente nos interesa mucho el método que usan para dar a conocer las noticias, por eso seria bueno saber que precios manejan o concretar una cita.


Muchas gracias y estaré atenta a su pronta respuesta.

Área de Mercadeo said...
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