Local Media Outlets Face Economic Demise

As the hegemony’s restrictions increase, local media in Venezuela face an existential threat thanks to the latest economic measures. And all over the country, some of them are closing shop for now… How do we know it’s not for good?

Photo: The Conversation retrieved 

On the weekend of August 25, three Venezuelan newspapers made the same announcement: they’re ceasing operations, including websites and social networks.

Javier Oropeza, owner of Barquisimeto’s El Diario de Lara and Carora’s El Caroreño, explained the reasons for the hiatus (which he expects to be as brief as possible):

“…as much as I fought to keep afloat both media outlets, the economic measures dictated by the national government on August 17, 2018, make it impossible to sustain them, even if we’ve tried to remain with you, stretching the newspapers’ quality to the limit…”

For Portuguesa’s Última Hora, the situation was dire, with the devastating effects of Newsprint-geddon, forcing the paper to go digital-only. That’s no longer a viable option.

Another llanero paper, Visión Apureña, informed readers that it would cease functioning, thus Apure becomes the second Venezuelan State with no newspapers in the streets, after Sucre. Days later, Bolívar’s El Expreso told readers it was entering a “technical closure.”

The consequences of Red Friday are forcing many outlets to make serious adjustments to their workforce and operations. According to the latest info from SNTP, the National Press Workers’ Union, at least ten media outlets are directly affected.

For local papers across the country, making their print editions go full digital was a last resort to save jobs and keep informing audiences, but the government’s recent decisions regarding the economy could shut down that option as well.

The consequences of Red Friday are forcing many outlets to make serious adjustments to their workforce and operations.

Even El Universal, one of the few nationwide papers, is really struggling and, after the news of the new pay raises broke, it allegedly asked its journalists to get the carnet de la patria. Since its mysterious-but-not-quite takeover years ago, the paper became aligned with the State’s communicational hegemony, but that didn’t help to escape the crisis.

El Universal denied such reports, calling them “fake news,” but one of its journalists (Lorena Evelyn Arraiz) confirmed them on Twitter. She quit in response, as also did Pableysa Ostos, correspondent for the Guayana Region.

But our media landscape was coping with lots of problems before Red Friday: The latest survey over the current state of journalism in Venezuela, by specialized NGO Medianálisis, presents how issues like low wages, scarce tools and insufficient preparation (besides censorship) make the work a constant, uphill battle.  

If local media outlets start closing down, people will find less options to find reliable news about their communities, as State media is mostly interested in promoting its political agenda. Those holding up do so against great odds.

After all, it’s already hard to cover news in Venezuela, with threats by authorities on the streets and formal letters from the broadcasting regulator.