Photo: Listin Diario, retrieved.

After 75 years of history, Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional just released its last print edition.

Even if the paper calls it a “temporary” measure and pledges to keep going on the web, the news, announced by El Nacional’s chairman, Miguel Henrique Otero, caused a huge impact after it went public.

“In the end, we couldn’t resist,” Otero said.

Four and a half months ago, Otero told Reuters that El Nacional would “try to maintain the print edition until the end, even if it’s just a page, because it’s politically symbolic.” That same dispatch showed a paper barely hanging by a thread, with a limited number of personnel and resources, far from the times when it was one of the main papers of national relevance.

With the other two major nationwide papers (Últimas Noticias and El Universal) bought and turned into the government’s mouthpieces, El Nacional stood alone. Already in decline, it faced both the effects of our economic turmoil and the menace of a hostile takeover by Diosdado Cabello.

But even if El Nacional becomes just another number into the larger statistic of neutered papers, its significance cannot be dismissed.

The biggest casualties are those papers servicing mid-size cities and smaller towns, those places where the internet has not yet settled in.

I started covering the shortage of newsprint here at CC around mid-2013. In early 2014,  I coined the term “Newsprint-geddon” to describe, perhaps dramatically, a troubling issue that kept on rolling over months and years later, confirming fears that this was not a trend, but a planned strategy to suffocate non-loyal newspapers.

The biggest casualties are those papers servicing mid-size cities and smaller towns, those places where the internet has not yet settled in and the already muzzled free-to-air radio and TV are the only options to get information and entertainment. Those papers were the last resort to have another outlook of reality, different than the one promoted by the hegemony.

My main local paper, El Impulso, has been off the streets for more than ten months now. Yes, there are others still available, but their fate still depends on the government’s whims anyway. At any moment, their time can come, if the government decides to stop giving them newsprint (through the Alfredo Maneiro Editorial Complex, or CEAM).

Newsprint-geddon alone didn’t bring those outlets down: The consequences of the crisis, which got exacerbated by the Red Friday announcements, has accelerated in recent weeks the fall of local media, especially among newspapers, and the open repression against press workers to stop any coverage that didn’t suit the official narrative has made their work even harder.

Witnessing El Nacional folding its print edition is the moment where Newsprint-geddon has won.

Like the shutdown of RCTV, like the decision to censor CNN en Español, it marks a precedent. Therefore, Newsprint-geddon as a term has fulfilled its purpose.

There still is a silver lining: Newsprint-geddon has brought a big shift of the Venezuelan media landscape. New digital outlets born out of the remains of some newspapers have been for quite some time resisting the hegemony. And the government is aware of that.

That this is happening just in a time when free press worldwide is facing a siege, when its work is questioned and threatened, is simply no coincidence. Now, like their fellow outlets at home and abroad before them, El Nacional has to show resilience in the face of the challenge ahead.

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45 COMMENTS

  1. This is definitely a “story,” but not as big as one would imagine:

    Newspapers around the world, especially in the states, are a dying breed. Not only are they ridiculously expensive because of paper costs, half the pages are ads. You can’t have a successful publication, newspaper or magazine, without 50% of those pages covered with paid ads.

    That’s the basic math of publishing. (It was much lower than 50% decades ago.)

    Enter the web with its superior depth of coverage…more timely delivery of news…ions higher potential “cirvulayiom”…and radically lower production costs…

    And it’s bye bye newspapers.

    • The reason for the decline in North American newspapers is that advertising revenue for newspapers has dropped dramatically. Those ads that bothered you were actually a sign of health. Now, that revenue goes to Craigslist, Facebook and Google, and many North American towns and cities are news deserts.

      • You have a reading comprehension issue.

        It’s pretty much implied in my post that you need 50% of ad pages, and they’re not getting that. Which is why the rise in purchase price.

        But the rise in paper costs has been catastrophic as well…which means they have to charge more for ad space…furthering diminishing ad revenue. It’s called killing trees.

        Regarding ad revenue going to CL (huh!?), FB and Google, wrong. Newspapers are 50% or more funded by LOCAL advertisers, so a newspaper’ print edition revenue is basically transferred to their online editions. The loss of ad revenue from TV to Internet is one thing. Newspapers are another.

        Don’t talk about things you don’t know about. But what else is new.

        • Ah yes, the Trump administration’s illegal tariff on newsprint. Yes, it did have a significant impact, particularly on on local newspapers. The precedent was set by the Chavez regime.

          • You don’t know anything about publishing at all, do you? Yet you’re trying to come across like you know.

            But what else is new?

            Try to learn something, for once in your life:

            Historically, the purchase price of a newspaper covered most of the production costs, which included materials, facilities and labor/pressmen/others, including reporters. The advertising was the profit.

            In the 80s, the price of paper went through the roof, as did the burden of union salaries and benefits. This dramatically cut into the bottom line, with publications needing more and more ad revenue just to break even. The formula became 50% news pages, 50% ad pages.

            This, at a time when the web and cable TV were fighting for that same piece of the media dollars pie.

            Newspapers lost, and the only ones which survive do so because their online presence supports them to be able to even PRINT a hard copy, at a ridiculously higher purchase and ridiculously lower circulation numbers.

            Expect many more newspapers, all over the world, both “good and bad ones,” to stop printing hard copies in the coming years.

          • Ira, your career experience in the art of subtle persuasion is appreciated, and may not be completely lost with retirement. The charm shines through. But the fact is, the market for hard news- journalism- is both smaller for the industry being under attack, and for loss of interest. Changes in platform have not mitigated this erosion much. The pie is shrinking.

            And cable news is largely not news…it is infotainment, at best.

    • Attended a commencement where the guest speaker was a past CEO of the Boston Globe. He claims the loss in revenue from the classifieds is what hurt newspapers the most. I would wager none of the millennials graduating had ever had the experience of searching the Help Wanted section of the Classifieds.

  2. We stopped getting the local weekly newspaper years ago. They folded this last week. The other larger, daily local newspaper is in the process of selling their prime downtown location and (I imagine) using that windfall to fund their continued publication. I certainly could afford to buy them, but I didn’t want to support a newspaper whose publishers world view (Marxist) wasn’t the same as mine. Which is why my political views have ZERO place in my business. Its one of the first things you are warned about in business. My customers would be hard pressed to know my political bias.**

    The paradigm is changing. I am always reminded of the scene from the movie, “Other People’s Money” where Danny DeVito is going on about buggy whips.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62kxPyNZF3Q

    ~~~~~~~~~~

    **I routinely pull the plug on supporting anything that doesn’t reflect my world view. Why support Marxism, a philosophical/economic worldview that hates everything I hold dear?

    • The demise of newspapers in the US or worldwide due to lack of advertising, or cost of paper, etc etc is rather missing the point. Those newspapers are crumbling due to market changes…the newspapers in Vzla (and the news there in general) are crumbling because the governemnt is strangling them.

  3. Gustavo, your work on covering the regime’s attack on the press has been excellent. There are two ways good newspapers die. One is through the machinations of autocratic regimes. The other is through the indifference of a population to facts reported by trained and experienced professionals. In either case, they are a sign of the end of democracy.

    I worry that the habit of reading the news will die with El Nacional. The physical existence of a newspaper compels the reader to read things he or she is not necessarily looking for. It is a bulwark not only of democracy, but of a way of thinking that is not narrow and narcissistic. Without it, we view the world in silos and solipsistic bubbles fostered online, and are more easily manipulated by the habit of daily self flattery that social media and specialized cable and streaming outlets provide.

    I miss reading El Nacional over a good coffee every morning. In my view, while it had its faults and biases, it was always good reading. Very sad news.

    • Did you forget that newspapers also die simply because it’s a business, and business sometimes go bad?

      With a straight face I assume, you just claimed that newspapers shut down only because of autocratic regimes, or public apathy.

      Your further categorization of “GOOD” newspapers is valueless.

      • I see newspapers as a business, albeit different from producing widgets. The business has declined in North America due to a decline in demand and an unwillingness to pay for professionals to report on the news. You can look at it narrowly as a decline in interest in buying widgets. Or you can see it as a shift in the mindset of consumers of news. Who wants facts when we can all be experts in our little Internet domains?

      • When you get old, you start thinking about retirement and the Swiss Alps instead of a doomed ” El Nacional” in KleptoCubazuela
        Can’t blame the dude to take his money and run.

  4. Simply the final nails in the coffin. The complete Cubanization of Klepto-Cubazazuela in its final stages. As predicted by yours truly years ago. Enjoy!

  5. On a serious note, all of the Nacional people left Kleptozuela long ago. Of course the paper would eventually shut down. That costs money. Might as enjoy apartmemts and fresh pizza in Miami or Madrid. Vzla is history.

  6. @GordonRives: I can only guess you were an expat in Venezuela years ago, well before the ”hecatomb” started. They disappeared just after the current Venezuela Constitution was approved. That was the only paper you could read that was impartial. And you had gratuitously in most business friendly hotels.

    • Lived in Caracas 1977 – 1983. Attended Escuela Campo Alegre in Las Mercedes. Father took the Daily Journal. NFL football scores were published in the DJ on Wednesday.

      • Right on!

        It’s great to remember the good old days.

        But the virus was there already. MOS was a communist poet. El Nacional almost went into bankruptcy when I started reading newspapers daily right after MPJ.

        My father had then alerted me to carefully read the news as they were mostly made-up.

        BTW. My self-taught English started with the reading of the Daily News, the only news we could read in Caracas. It reached industrial areas like Valencia or Maracaibo but not beyond that. Most people said in those days that if you read the DN, you were an imperialist or a traitor or both.

  7. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-bonds-exclusive/exclusive-venezuela-creditors-demand-payment-on-defaulted-15-billion-bond-lawyer-idUSKBN1OG1ZG

    The wolves are starting to circle. Been going on for awhile but now they are poised to force Maduro’s hand, or lose CITGO and a hell of a lot more. Maduro’s play has to always defer payment, pledge futures, or beg from China and Russia. I’m told what makes this situation different than when Argentina defaulted is that much of Venezuela’s ready cash goes to the military to keep the Chavista’s in office. Another chunk goes to subsidize Cuba. Both are not likely to be loyal once their vig is cut or greatly reduced, and the socialismo experiment will be on tenderhooks. No promise of the beloved pernile this year.

    • Oh, I did read about this year’s pernil promise somewhere, as well as I think 10,000 or 100,000 (don’t remember) toys.

      More of those historic action figures that the kids went just CRAZY over (sarcasm) under Chavez?

    • Another difference with Argentina, the Argentine default was ”transparent” to investors from the get going, while the Venezuelan one is still not officially in default according to the World Bank, IMF, and similar corrupts entities.

      I want to see that news title in the WSJ in big bold cap letters. Meanwhile, all these governments since 1982 have managed to negotiate a last-minute payment to service the debt, and therefore never been in default.

      I hope God is listening to @JuanLargo.

        • Thanks once again. I missed that today and I hope this time around it makes it up to the first page. I lighted a candle, just in case. To f/u.

          • Ha ha! Does lighting a candle for the purpose of f/u work?!? If so then I’ve been missing out on some serious retribution, my friend!
            I learn something new here everyday!

          • I must said, my grandmother had an oil lamp for her saints of devotion. Too bad I miss her.

            I know the candle will remember me to lookup that section of the paper I scanned too quickly yesterday.

            Old mnemonic techniques of old people. If you don’t burn the house, no matter what, that candle will be melted tomorrow and for me to do something about it.

            I can’t forget those bastards that destroyed Venezuela, dates and places, but I will forget to lookup the page. 😂 haha 😄

        • FYI: I think you live closer to NYC. The printed edition in Texas is definitely, different. I’ve found the famous article in today’s print. Very hidden yet.

    • Interesting that PDVSA continues to service CITGO debt while screwing everyone else. It suggests to me that they see CITGO as a captured-customer, cash-cow, that they can count on to keep the Generals happy. If they lose CITGO, game over.

      BTW, anyone heard from VennyTrader lately? (Heh, heh)

  8. Good points by Pepe and Lorenzo.

    Note the quote from Reuters:

    “The group has not yet taken their claim to courts in New York which govern the terms of the dispute related the bond in question, according to Stancil.

    He said the group filed the acceleration request to Bank of New York Mellon Corp (BK.N), the fiscal agent for the bond, on Dec. 6. It also notified David Syed of law firm Dentons, which is representing Venezuela, he added.”

    My sense of it they are threatening talking the Chavistas to court, and are poised to do so unless Maduro pays up immediately, as he recently serviced the CITGO debt. The inside talk is that he can’t muster or borrow the cash on short notice so expect a showdown soon.

    To Pepino’s punto, my understanding is that once attorneys DO file in court, Venezuela will officially be held in default, then acceleration, then big ass problemas for the Chavistas and you can color CITGO gone. Once CITGO is lost (what happens to Russia’s 49% share??), the military and Cuba be feel it immediately, which could forment a very unstable situation.

    Both Cuba and the military’s loyalty is bought – of that everyone is certain. But the Chavistas have an uncanny ability to survive and maintain power, but it will be interesting how it will play out where these is little to no ready cash to fuel the “revolution.”

    On a psychological level, this will be high theater because the Chavista’s have shown themselves constitutionally incapable of being honest and to negotiate on anything but their own terms. Now they will have to – the Wall Street (and other) wolves are not going to go away. Ever. And the terms of servicing the debt are ironclad.

    My real concern is that while everyone knew this tin horned circus was unsustainable, the Chavistas have show they are willing to subject their beloved pueblo to any injustice, indignity and suffering so long as they can stay in power. When that power begins to slip away, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Chavista’s tried to take it out on the country itself. That is, if they have to go down, everyone and everything goes down with them. At that point, and God forbid it ever came to that, some kind of peace keeping force would be required to avoid a total meltdown. By their own admission, they will never simply step down, and with many of the highest ranking among them under federal indictment in the US, there is no place for them to run save Russia, Cuba, Bolivia, and a few other nooks and crannies not in keeping with the life they’ve grown accustomed to.

    High theater soon.

  9. My mother very sprightly and sharp in her early 90’s tells me about how even in her childhood (mostly in the family hacienda) she awoke real early in the morning to be the first to browse the papers before anyone got to them , she loved their feel , their touch, the excitment of the news , followed sports , read the comic strips of course, even got to enjoy current events ……a whole world brought to her door by the papers …….My dad was very orderly in how he read his papers , because to him someone who didnt read papers was uncivilized , he read them meticulously at the same hour of the day every day (until very old age) , my parent kept their paper suscription almost as a religious ritual (they were the only ones in the block recieving them) , when El Universal was purchased by govt supporters that was the end …..Now the news comes via comments sent via internet from dozens of friends or from talking to friends and neighbors , she keeps abreast of most news even if newsprint is no longer part of her reading diet ….., reading habits change but the taste for newsprint is undying….!!

    • After my father had taught me how to read the newsprint, I always opened it first. At least one of my boys read the print version of the FT. That paper has a unique look and feel. Too bad it’s too left for my taste.

    • I never read the New York Times when I lived in NYC, but there was a real art to reading it on the subway. Took years of practice to properly fold to your section, to your article, turn to the jump pages (continued on…), etc.

      It required like three folds to do it right without slapping the paper in your fellow subway rider’s face.

    • Back in the day we would have the paper (and milk and fresh bread!) delivered by the same guy working out of a station wagon by 5 am.

      It is possible, perhaps, that after a night out on the town, a newspaper from one, a liter of milk here and a canilla or two there may have gone missing from certain houses we passed by on the way to our beds, but that is just a rumor……

  10. MHO initially was a big supporter of HCF, even lending him his private plane to campaign around the Country in 1998; just another example how the Left eats its own….

  11. n Venezuela, Yet Another Socialist Government Crushes Dissent

    El Nacional, one of the few remaining independent media outlets in Venezuela, ceased print publication last week after the government choked off access to paper. The newspaper earned official ire with its long opposition to socialist strongman, Hugo Chavez, and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, as their rule became increasingly totalitarian. While El Nacional plans to continue to publish online, the end of its print edition is bad news for Venezuelans who value dissenting voices and truthful information.

    More at the link.

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