Newsprint-geddon reaches Valencia

Commmunicational hegenomy is real, and Valencia's El Carabobeño is the latest of many victims killed along the way.

Yesterday’s edition of El Carabobeño is making history for all the wrong reasons: It’s the last print edition of this Valencia newspaper until further notice. After a long and slow agony, El Carabobeño has been forced to say goodbye for now, without knowing when or even if they’ll return to newsstands.

But they also made this strong pledge to their readers:

We will be back, we know it. A 82-year old legacy will not be stopped due the whims of arrogant, undemocratic rulers. El Diario del Centro is the heart of Carabobeños and it cannot be removed from this place, not through censorship, or through the arrogance imposed by ill-managed power.

This shutdown evidence that this publishing house has delivered truthful and objective journalism, which is disliked by a government that has made all efforts to impose a communicational hegemony that, in Carabobo State, is a fact.

Ours is a tough but careful kind of journalism, concerned with the truth and the contrast of sources, regardless of how hard this task may be during these times where the famous phrase “I am not allowed to comment” is commonplace.

We say goodbye, for now. We will return to contnue doing honest journalism with the freedoms and liberties this country deserves. We will see you again soon.

Hours before this edition hit the streets, workers and citizens held a vigil in El Carabobeño’s main offices to mark this really sad occasion. 260 jobs are now in jeopardy.

As I wrote earlier, this didn’t happen overnight. To prove it, let’s turn back back the clock to last year: El Carabobeño already alerted its readers then of their dire situation and the lack of goodwill from the Alfredo Maneiro Corporation (the State’s publisher which manages all newsprint in Venezuela) and its head, newsprint czar Hugo Cabezas.

El Carabobeño isn’t the only Venezuelan newspaper facing a forced shutdown.

El Carabobeño tried everything to keep itself afloat: Cutting the number of pages, shutting down its Sunday magazine and its children’s section, even changing its format in order to save paper. Nothing worked. Neither CEAM nor Carabobo State Governor Francisco Ameliach show any concern whatsoever. And even if there’s a brand new breed of newsprint “bachaqueros”, El Carabobeño’s fate has been sealed.

The saddest part is that El Carabobeño isn’t the only Venezuelan newspaper facing a forced shutdown. On March 11th, Coro’s La Mañana published for the last time and only keeps functioning online. Funny that days later, the Maneiro Corporation came to La Mañana with an offer to sell a little bit of newsprint.  One week earlier, El Diario de Sucre shut down indefinetely as well. And back in January, Puerto Cabello’s La Costa ran out of paper as well.

According to National Assembly Deputy Biagio Pilleri (MUD-Yaracuy), member of the AN’s Media Commission, many print media outlets around the country “…are facing a very extreme situation”. Carlos Eduardo Carmona, the chairman of Barquisimeto’s El Impulso has accused the Maneiro Corporation of political discriminatination and warned that his paper’s own reserves will only last until the end of this month. In his view, the government wants to dissapear all critical press in Venezuela. He knows from experience, as the second-oldest paper in the nation has been in the same situation before.

I started to cover this story in 2013. Months later, I coined the term “Newsprint-geddon” to identify it. During these times, this trend has had its share of highs and lows, along with many changes along the way. But its primal intention remains intact: To try to control newspapers or getting rid of those who dare to resist. I can say without any doubt that Newsprint-geddon has now reached a critical stage and as troubling as that sounds, some Venezuelan newspapers could face extinction in the next few months.