¡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.


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