Managua, Day 9: Notes on La Prensa

In my last post, I mentioned that La Prensa is a “pretty explicitly partisan” paper, but that turns out to be an understatement. I realized a little while later that the paper is owned, published, and edited by the Chamorro family, probably the most prominent political opponents of the current Ortega regime. So despite its wide circulation, that makes La Prensa the functional equivalent of a party-line newspaper.

One often hears (at least I´ve often heard) the claim that American newspapers differ from European (and I suppose, Central American) newspapers by cultivating a sort of fake objectivity—a pretense at political neutrality, and at a separation between the newsroom and the editorial pages, that—to their detriment–they never pull off. The result is a deceptive form of neutrality that fails to take stock of its own normative presuppositions, and refuses to see the need to justify them. Non-American (i.e., non-US) papers, by contrast, dispense with the pretense, and offer an integrated but explicitly selective take on current events. Exposed as I typically am to the fake objectivity of US papers, I was inclined to be receptive to the non-US journalistic model, but I now find myself skeptical. I had to read La Prensa for about a week fully to grasp the false alternative involved in the ´fake objectivity´versus `explicitly partisan´ journalistic models. There has to be a rationally justifiable mean between the two extremes, but I don´t think I´ve ever encountered it anywhere myself.

In any case, I find La Prensa´s take on things interesting. The news section is typically about 12 pages long, and 10-11 of those pages are devoted to Nicaraguan news, almost all of it critical of the Ortega regime. The last page is devoted to world news, and that in turn tends nowadays to be focusing on Gaza and Iraq. Judging from the editorials on the subject, La Prensa seems to be fairly pro-Israel: over the last week, I´ve seen two op-eds on the the Israel-Palestine dispute, both favorable to Israel. Call me cynical, but I have to wonder whether that´s a case of the paper´s posturing toward a pro-US position for US consumption. On the other hand, I´m told that the evangelical Christian population here tends to a pro-Israel perspective, and I´ve certainly seen my share of bumper stickers to that effect (`Dios benditto a la tierra de Israel´: God bless the land of Israel). A rather odd predicament for a one-time redoubt of the PLO–the PLO famously had an office in the Sandinista´s Managua–but I guess times change.

PS, August 11: For a good general discussion of journalistic objectivity, take a look at this 2007 piece by David Kelley.

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