Finding the story in our squalid news

One of the things that I find most disappointing about the Venezuelan press is how they frequently miss the important aspects of the stories they pretend to report.

Take, for example, this item on a recent opinion poll by respected pollster Datos. The headline is that 70% of Venezuelans reject the government’s policy of expropriating private companies.

But, here’s a newsflash for the newspaper: we knew that.

In November of 2010, Datanálisis found that 74% of the population rejected expropriations. In May of 2010, Keller Associates reported that the percentage was 80%. The percentages vary according to the pollster – presumably, according to the way the question is posed. But the rejection itself is not newsworthy. It is a longstanding fact of Venezuelan public opinion.

The prime rib of today’s story is hidden deep in the sixth paragraph. There, we learn that Datos finds that the rejection of expropriations is actually increasing: from a 59% rejection in the second quarter of 2010, to a 60% rejection rate in the third quarter, to 70% rejection in the fourth quarter.

The increasing rejection rates of the government’s prime economic policy is what is remarkable. The more the government expropriates, the more the population actually sees what happens with companies after they are expropriated, and the more they reject the concept. The trend is what is interesting about this, not the percentage itself.

Another example of missing the point is from yesterday’s soap opera involving the Banco Provincial. In case you didn’t know, Hugo Chávez basically threatened to take over the nation’s largest bank … while on a televised cell phone call to the bank’s CEO. Miguel has the depressing lowdown.

After this happened yesterday, the Banco Provincial proceeded to issue a press release. Among other platitudes about always being in compliance with the law, the bank – which, I repeat, is the nation’s largest – flaunted the fact that last year it had helped 3,256 families buy a home.

Well, that’s all nice and dandy, except when you stop to think about the fact that there are two million families without a home in the country. The Banco Provincial’s lucky few represent roughly 0.16% of the total amount of families without a home in the country.

The fact that the nation’s largest bank is basically a non-entity in the housing market should cause some sort of mini-scandal, right? I mean, if I were President, I’d be wanting to kick some ass myself!

But no, the news here is that Chávez does crazy things.

The fact that our mainstream media cannot be bothered to provide the necessary context for a healthy public debate is part of the reason why our public sphere is so … squalid. Hopefully, the rise of alternative media can help elevate the debate some more, because Lord knows we need it.

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