Archive | August, 2010

¡El periodismo! ¡Olé!

27 Aug

If you read my blog at all, you know by now that I spent time in Spain this summer, studying abroad. And if you didn’t know, now you do! One of my valiant goals was to observe and comment on  Spanish journalism and how it differs from journalism here in the United States. In newspapers, in magazines, on the radio, on TV, etc.

Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out as planned. For one, the trip was jam-packed with activities, especially during the first ten days of constant travel. Grabbing a newspaper was not high on the priority list, although I did try once or twice. When classes started up, my free time dramatically decreased. After spending four hours in class during the morning and almost the same amount on homework in the afternoon, I did not feel like analyzing journalism and writing on this blog. I also never had access to a television in Barcelona — liberating, but also frustrating.

 

Understandably, seeing sites like Barcelona's cathedral started to take priority.

However, I did manage to take away some observations from my time in Spain, in addition to bringing back two “historic” issues from leading Spanish newspapers, La Vanguardia and El País. La Vanguardia is based in Barcelona and publishes in Catalán as well as Spanish.

  1. Ledes in Spanish newspapers are long. Like really, really long. That goes for the first sentence as well as the first graph. Part of that might have to do with the language itself — sometimes it just takes more words to say the same thing. But the first graphs are often huge blocks of text, something I’ve never really seen in American papers. Why the difference? Keeping graphs short has always been a fundamental rule for me, especially in the lede.
  2. International news reigns supreme. The newspapers I brought home feature Spanish events on the front page, which is why I bought them. But the first main section in both is dedicated to international news, the second to Spain/politics. I definitely think this says a lot about what’s important to Spaniards and speaks to the more global view a lot of Europeans share.
  3. Censorship? Not so much. At least not of nudity and curse words. You can find pictures of breasts in public advertisements and fashion magazines like Vogue. Radio stations play uncensored songs. Spaniards just don’t seem to be as bothered by these things. A lot of it has to do with backlash from the repressive Franco regime, which ended in 1975, as well as the secular nature of the country — 90% are Catholic but only 30% practice.

    He didn't exactly leave the best legacy...

  4. Impartiality is important, but not  absolute. I’ll be honest, I haven’t read all of either newspaper that I brought home. My perusal has consisted of a lot of skimming and headline reading. But I have noticed some wording and comments in their stories that strongly smack of personal opinion. The search for that opinion, for those subtle clues made me realize how strongly one must master a language before one reports in it. The nuances I struggle to correct as a copy editor in English would be virtually impossible to catch if I weren’t almost fully bilingual.
  5. Quotes are the exception, not the rule. Spanish journalists obviously use quotes in their stories. But they’re few and far between — maybe three or four in a long story. And they don’t get their own graphs. In addition, any quotes originally in a foreign language are always translated into Spanish. I bet this same thing happens in American newspapers, but I’ve never really thought about it before. How does one translate a quote, that holy utterance we are (almost) never supposed to change? You get a bad translation and the entire meaning could be skewed.


What happens when Wikileaks speaks…

17 Aug

The news about Wikileaks publishing thousands of leaked army documents hit when I was overseas.  While it certainly seemed significant to me, I just didn’t have a lot of time to read more about it. Now that I’ve been back for a couple of weeks, I’ve taken the time to research the situation a little more.

This is a real life journalism ethical situation, unfolding on a massive scale. I haven’t taken any type of class yet that can help me decide what I think about this. But I have my own moral compass and common sense, which I guess count for something.

Do I think the American people, and the world for that matter, have a right to know what’s really been going on in Afghanistan? Absolutely. Do I think the government will ever tell us/them? Absolutely not. So, in a way, it seems like Julian Assange’s actions were necessary. But that doesn’t mean I completely approve of what he’s done.

Powerful? Check. Ethical? Maybe not so much...

I guess the biggest question on my mind is, Will the publishing of these documents result in unnecessary death and violence? Answer: The jury’s still out.  The Pentagon and the White House, of course, are screaming bloody murder, claiming that this leak will compromise their reputation, operations and countless lives. But how much of that is true and how much of that is embarrassment at being caught with their pants down? Part of me thinks that the latter plays more of a role than the government will ever admit.

It’s hard to get a straight answer. All of the sources in the articles that I’ve read are really biased one way or another. Some say that the harm should be quite minimal. And Wikileaks did take efforts to remove especially sensitive information from the documents it published. But another, heavily encrypted file awaits release, and it’s said to contain more significantly more damaging documents.

That brings me to another question and, in truth, the bigger implication of all this. Whether or not this leak results in more Afghani and soldier deaths — which I honestly hope and pray it doesn’t — the potential this represents is what scares, and excites, me the most. Articles say that the encrypted file likely can only be cracked if Assange releases the code. I think, but don’t quote me on this, he has actually threatened to do so if the government attempts to block his website.

That really freaks me out. Should one person, one journalist have so much power and influence? Assange doesn’t seem like an especially dangerous or malicious person to me, but if he can do something like this, someone more menacing and with far worse intentions could likely do the same. How do you stop that? Can we just shut down the Internet? If the government starts censoring like this, where will it all stop?

On the other hand, Wikileaks represents a force for good as well. It can help journalists whose voices are stifled in their native countries get some word out about what is really going on there. And I’m all about the right for freedom of expression.

So what’s my vote? I think I’m going to abstain on this one for now and see what else happens. But, truth be told, my stomach is feeling a little unsettled by the whole mess.

UPDATE: Apparently the verdict is in and the government has decided it overreacted. But it’s still scared about a coming leak.

Back in action

6 Aug

So I’ve been back home for about a week and I’ll be ready to fire up the blog again soon. I’m going to start looking around at the blogs on my blogroll and see what I’ve missed while I’ve been off galavanting around in Europe. Hope you haven’t missed me too much!

Pictured: Galavanting in Sevilla.