Newsprint-geddon Comes to My Hometown

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For the people of Barquisimeto (yours truly very much included), 2016 had one last nasty surprise up its sleeve. Last week, the city’s main newspaper, El Impulso, announced it would shut down its print edition until further notice because the state refuses to sell it enough newsprint.

The December 31st edition was the paper’s last, por ahora. Disappointment and uncertainty now surrounds both the 113-year-old paper and its staff.

As staff and readers adjust to the news, El Impulso still refuses to back down on its editorial line and its commitment to the people of Barquisimeto and Lara State.

Yes, it’s true, we’re bewildered, sad, dejected, for more than through the last decade we had feared reaching such an unwanted situation, which is so far removed from our own nature: having to use these pages, meant to register news, to say goodbye to our readers instead, because there’s no newsprint. This threat of closure has shown us its cunning and stinking muzzle before. We perceived its bloody breath and cold imminence, not only in this particular situation that El Impulso has lived through as a print media outlet that decided to not sacrifice its editorial line at the altar of a failed, for not say ruinous, vicious and decadent revolution; but above all, for something that the government, the same in its ideological succession of 18 years, has not even bother to hide.

This one hits especially close to home. I’m a Guaro, “El Impulso” has been part of my life for years and years, there staring back at me from the breakfast table since I can remember. The hegemony continues with its effort to take down any media that refuse to toe the line, replacing each with a propaganda-driven knockoff, in our case a thing called Ciudad Barquisimeto.

El Impulso has faced similar crises before, but this time it feels like this forced stoppage could be for the long haul. The paper’s chairman, Carlos Eduardo Carmona, said he was hopeful that, like on previous occasions, the government’s newsprint company CEAM would back down at the last minute and give them another lifeline.

It didn’t happen.

El Impulso has no set timetable to return to physical circulation, though the paper is still running through its website.

Since the government began to manipulate access to newsprint to silence its critics, at least 15 newspapers  have stopped printing at some point (temporary in most cases) and 50 report difficulties in sourcing newsprint.

“El Impulso” hopes to come back right before January 14th, the day of the yearly procession to Barquisimeto of our patron saint, la Divina Pastora. The paper’s front page for this special date has become an important annual tradition in itself. But the truth is that there’s no telling when El Impulso will be back, and there’s a good chance that if and when it does, it won’t be as a daily paper.

As happened to TalCual and Correo del Caroni before it, El Impulso could come back transformed into a weekly, which would limit its agenda-setting role in Lara, and imply many job losses. Take the case of Valencia’s El Caraboneño, which stopped publishing in March 2016 and then returned in a new format six months later. The paper slimmed its staff from more than 400 to just 86, according to the specialized NGO Instituto Prensa y Sociedad Venezuela.

This holiday season was tough for many newspapers across Venezuela, which suspended their editions (anything from four days to a month in some cases) in order to save newsprint. Even a couple of HegemonCorp.-dominated papers (El Universal and Valencia’s Notitarde) made minor cuts to their editions. Since the government began to manipulate access to newsprint to silence its critics, at least 15 newspapers  havestopped printing at some point (temporary in most cases) and 50 report difficulties in sourcing newsprint from the State monopoly provider: the Alfredo Maneiro Editorial Complex (CEAM).

Like I said, this one’s been hard for me. But even in this darkest hour, I know for sure El Impulso will not go down without a fight. I’ll leave the last word of this article to  the paper’s staff, and their message to the government.

 

8 COMMENTS

  1. It isn’t just hegemony, it’s: the increasing difficulty to subsidize newsprint with fewer/fewer $ (although, Govt. mouthpieces “Ultimas Noticias”/”Correo Del Orinoco” don’t seem to be suffering much); the virtually-prohibitive escalating newsstand price/copy for the vast majority of minimum-wage earner Venezuelans; fewer/fewer advertisers left/capable/willing to place increasingly costly ads for an increasingly-impoverished population; and a diminishing readership base, as the fewer/fewer better-educated readers emigrate.

    • It IS the hegemony, this has nothing to do with “subsidies” or “chavista-government-gifts”, the monpoly of dollars and in this case of paper was made with two strict gols in mind: Silence any dissenting voice, and to steal as much as possible.

      When is people going to realize that chavismo isn’t incompetent nor stupid, but they’ve been doing all of this with the most explicit intent?

  2. The end goal of controlling the news that gets printed or broadcast thru the mass media is to manipulate the news so printed or broadcast so that the masses develop a favourable impression of what the regime has to offer , a bad impression of their political enemies and the silencing any adverse news which might hurt the regimes reputation .

    Have these goals been accomplished ?? to judge from the polls the militant opposition has grown in numbers and now commands a much larger following than the regime , and the great mayority of Venezuelans have a highly adverse view of the govt and would want to change it (whatever their view of the opposition), thus even if the regime has been successful in silencing oppo media or neutralizing much of the mass media they have failed in their ultimate goal of making people uncritically support them…!!

    Why is this ?? because the govts corruption and misgovernment has a direct negative people in peoples daily life and a ‘resonance’ in informal informational networks that even the most controlled of mass media cannot counter !!

    The govts hegemon policy has in fact backfired in many ways , official media is the least believed of all, its credibility is close to zero, both inside the country and abroad ….its difficult to find a journalist of any note that supports the govt , some neutralized media aren’t so neutral any more (vide Globovision) and somehow all the bad news still gets out ….!!

    The regimes apparent success in silencing an oppo media is very relative in that it has not been able to use that success to impact the opinion of people the way they intended ……which was their final goal !!

  3. The success of the hegemony lies in its inhibiting a groundswell of public opinion strong enough to snowball into a major Govt.-tumbling popular uprising (April 11/Caracazo-delayed/23 de Enero-type). And, yes, many newspapers that died would have died anyway, given the Chavista economic disaster, hegemony or no, as per my comment above.

    • “Chavista economic disaster, Hegemony or no”

      It was the hegemony, the goal of chavismo was to destroy everything else that is, to enslave the country’s population so they can steal the rest, and for that they destroyed the economy first.

  4. Mass demonstrations did not topple MPJ , this tender legend is oft repeated but the history of how this happened is well known to me and the army toppled MPJ or rather abandoned him so that he knew the game was up ……. When MPJ abandoned the country the top brass met in miraflores and decided who would be appointed to the Junta , Larrazabal was made president quite simply because he was the most senior officer in the meeting for no other reason , initially all junta members were military and when some civilians showed up they were thrown out , later they reconsidered and allowed some civilians to be included……..

    The Caracazo made things scary but it had no chance of toppling the govt , it had no military backing , people were fed up and just wanted to vandalize and pillage , but CAPS regime was never in danger of falling ….

    There is this romantic notion that mass protests on their own can topple a govt , maybe in other countries but thats never been the case in Venezuela , what they can do is encourage army elements who arent happy with the govt to act and start a movement inside the army that brings the govt down ….!!

    The army which toppled other regimes in Venezuelan history no longer exists as an united body, its been fragmented to bits , so launching a cup will be more difficult than its been in the past but still it can happen , if there is enough of a mass discontent prodding a army group to act ….!!

    No one can predict exactly how that may happen …..!!

  5. The disappearance of independent media institutions, of the kind that have a broad readership and can fund and hire the talent to engage in challenging reporting, is an incalculable loss to Venezuelan society. Censorship has worked- we should not be deceived by the regime’s low poll numbers in that regard. The amount of disinformation and crazy ideas circulating in the absence of an authoritative press makes change harder to accomplish and accountability even more distant. Rumor and speculation are so frequently what we who are not making policy decisions in Venezuela primarily rely on. Tweets from Miami, et cetera. That puts people seeking to take the initiative and set the agenda at a huge disadvantage. That puts forces within the regime that might break away at a huge disadvantage. Venezuelans live in a lethal puppet show with no press there to identify the puppeteers, except in the most general outlines.

    People see themselves as isolated and helpless under these conditions, and without proper information will be tempted by contradictory and counterproductive measures which only strengthen the status quo. In contrast the much anticipated crack up of oficialismo has not happened: the party line, however ridiculous, holds. People dismiss it but they have little solid information to rely on in its place.

  6. The dissapearance of independent media is always to be lamented as well as the weakening that implies in the amount of well organized aggresive reporting , but the effect has not been as traumatic to the oppo cause as is sometimes mentioned, information does get out , it simply cant be concealed or contained , and people’s view of the govt is not improved by disinformation , the anti govt animus is strong and very nearly universal,

    Rumor and speculation have always thrived in our culture , as much now as was the case in the past because people just love it and enjoy glossing gossip with lurid made up details , the better to stoke their anger and indignation against a regime they love to hate …..

    in any event the govt is not sustained by a swell of favourable popular opinion but by the fraudulent use of institutions under their control and selective gestures of coercion and force ……., were that not the case they would no longer be in power…… !!

    The credibility of govt sourced news is close to nill , despite all the efforts by the regime to silence oppo messages and substitute it with fabled fabrications ……!!

    We cant be happy at the regimes control of media outlets but neither must we exagerate its effect on peoples opinion or capacity to organize their views on what is happening to the country !!

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