Media Center



June 28, 2005 - Washington, DC

Thank you Secretary General. The following tale occurred at a meeting of the NPI in Geneva, towards the beginning of the sixties. A young yuppie, new President of NBC, stood up in silence before the most select audience and directors of all the newspapers on the planet, he raised his arm and pointing insolently to the audience, he pointed from side to side of the room. Then, while still pointing at the journalists, he broke the silence and said, “...because all of you are going to disappear.” This is what he said. My father, director of El Comercio at that time, recalls the indignation and the surprise of the majority of those presents. One of the panelists, director of Le Monde, who chaired these séances said that everyone comes with its own space: radio informs, television shows and the press explains. Almost half a century has transpired and written press, principally as a means of reference, evidently has not disappeared. Neither do I believe it is going to disappear in any foreseeable future. It is the written text which gives strength to the message, which is better than any other means. It also provides guidance to the citizens and authorities; all of this in the pursuit of good governance, all of this shared with other means of communication. Nobody can deny this; written press is a sector that requires constant attention to continue in the struggle. In this perseverant challenge to maintain its presence, many paradigms have to be reviewed. For example, the price of cover, the cover charge, talking prices, by way of subscriptions, or in the case of newspapers which are free, they disappear. There was a meeting of the Washington Post recently and I was hearing about the technique they were using for the sale of their newspapers here. They have been very successful with it. We have to face up to reality. New generations presume that informing themselves is a practice that is satisfied or that it should be satisfied free neither can we cease considering that the television has been improving more and more its information programs. It has even gone into the field of analysis and investigation. Traditional sectors of written press. However, it becomes banal to convene massive or attract massive audiences. But even though written press has been able to maintain firmly the thrust of television with all its magic, I think that electronic papers are the ones that are going to affect the future. Further to their globalization, they all have the lasting characteristics of written press. In 2004, the Web picture increased in 32% as for one and it is foreseeable in any event that in the continued progress in the Internet in it, if it has not already done this, the predominance of information, immediate information. However, is there a better way to becoming informed than when one is comfortably installed in a sofa with a newspaper on hand, or is there a better way to read substantial articles to educate oneself or to entertain oneself, which isn’t written on a newspaper. Specifically, on the Internet, the reader goes to the news, and the written press, the news comes to the reader. We can therefore conclude that each one of us has a different way of satisfying the wish to be informed. Of course, what is negative is that every new media invented affects the written press gradually; the positive is that the written press continues finding its own spaces. However, in the written press we have a lot of presence which is even more critical and that introduced by radio, television or the Internet, and that is the loss of credibility. As for the pure research center, credibility of newspapers in the United States has dropped 13 percentage points since 1998 and 2004 and in Latin America this figure could even be higher. What worries us most about this is that the loss of credibility in the press is a problem which would derive in many cases from the press itself. This means the situation, the solution will have to come from inside. The serious written press, that which has as its mission to guide and inform and not promote scandal or gossip has for example in popular newspapers, informal papers, that is, an element which demolishes its credibility. The bad practices of these informal newspapers affect all society, which tends unwittingly to include all the press when they judge it. I am not trying to say that there shouldn’t be a popular press, which covers the market looking for this sort of product but if and when it doesn’t move away from journalistic values. That is why we have established the formal press and the popular press, one which complies with ethical standards and one which does not. During the presentation by Arthur Schulzberg, a publisher of the New York Times, some weeks back in Seoul, he said that what most affected him of Jason Blair, ex- journalist of the New York Times, was when he asked the affected family why they didn’t denounce this to the newspaper when they read the information manufactured by Blair, he answered that he understood that that was the way the press informed. And if this is what we think about the New York Times what can we think about the remainder. And in this whole complex framework, how do we see the circulation of newspapers throughout the world? The survey of the World Association of Newspapers I, submitted in May last in Seoul, indicates that in 2004, the sale of newspapers in the world increased in 2.1%. However, the global value has to be analyzed in detail. The increase in these figures is generated more than anything else by markets in expansion. For example, China, which grew 26.5% in the last five years, or India, which during 2004 increased 14% or Mongolia, which did it in 31%. In the United States during last year, the sale of newspapers, morning papers, was maintained as for one practically stable: -0, 09%. It maintained a 0,25% increase in the last five years. In Latin America, where data should be assumed only as referential because in few countries there are verification systems in place, the loss of newspapers during 2004, but as of the trend, was an increase. There were no figures for the Caribbean. To conclude, some stories provided by the WNA: in Equatorial Guinea, there are no traditional presses, printing presses. The newspapers are photocopied; in India, newspapers are published in 18 different languages; some are even trilingual. In Mozambique, papers only have four pages including publicity. Why? They are distributed by fax. In the field of publicity, newspaper publicity, WNA showed stimulating figures: an increase of 2.3% in 2004, the greatest in the last five years; and in the United States a 3.93% increase. We have then as a conclusion in this part of my presentation, that the young yuppie presiding NBC was wrong. Newspapers might have seen their spaces limited, they are facing more and more competition as time goes by, but we can assure you that we will continue defending ourselves like lions to maintain our presence. For this, newspapers continue here, and they are here to stay at least for a good period of time to come.

What should the newspapers do to maintain their presence and to serve the community properly and continue being a business? How to maintain in effect their message of proposing good government?

One, maintain continuous improvement of the newspaper which start out from the basis that the means of competing with the written press has specific qualities which newspapers cannot offer. They can’t be as immediate as the radio or bringing us the news in images. The written press can’t be free like in the Internet, offering a whole world, literally speaking, of information. However, it has in its favor the lasting of written text and its tradition of service to the community and concern for good governance. What should we do then? Even though it’s indisputable that newspapers have improved substantially, and hence maintained their presence, I think that we can do more, even more in this direction. On the one hand, television and radio have gone spending more and more improving their journalistic quality, the press seeks the contrary generally, reducing costs in their printing rooms. I think that only improving quality is the way that the written press can compensate its limitations because of the other media. After all, information is its core business. As to the format, another of the big subjects of the moment, we see that in general terms, compact newspapers offer friendlier reading. They are more welcome especially among young people and women. During 2004, fifty-six newspapers in the world compacted their formats, almost twice as much as those who had done it the year before. Two, generate synergy through the electronic media. A known phrase says, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” We should recover readers who have moved away from the printed press. For example, we should be using synergy to offer complementary text, further to the information. Whereas, the service through cellular phones can be updating these things minute by minute. Internal blocks should be one of the biggest allies to come closer to our readers. Three, defending democratic principles. We come into more political subjects. Less attractive, but more critical is the need of the media to decidedly support the maintenance of democratic principles. This which in developed countries is not so much in written press as in the countries in development. Despair to solve the citizens’ problems, many of them primary, lead the popular masses to prioritize short-term approaches and democratic shortcuts and they drag along much of the media. An example I have close by was the so-called “auto-golpe”, a self coup of Fujimori in 1992. It was supported in 80% by the population including a large part of the media. Some years later, it only became obvious that with the “auto-golpe” we initiated autocracy in Peru and as a result of this, Montesinos and the military increased their power. Primary needs in countries in Latin America also facilitate the work of demagogue politicians and union leaders from the left. Under the disguise of subjects of this sort, many of their leaders sell their followers anti-democratic messages of easy consumption. Facing this political ease, defending democratic institutionality is not always easy, neither is it popular for the means of communication. For example, in El Comercio in Lima, and I keep giving you these personal references, they are the ones I have closer, we have taken on the difficult task of supporting democratic continuity and for President Toledo to complete his five years in tenure. It turns out that Toledo counts with only 10% of popular acceptance. If this would be added to the bad example of the constant defenestration of our officials in Ecuador and Bolivia, our neighbors, we would understand that our mission of maintaining Toledo has become complicated. As citizens do not always understand that when a means of communications acts in defense of principles its attitude does not imply that it is taking a position in favor of the government. What it is doing is defending editorially governance in the country. Over and above party considerations, they do this to maintain democratic stability and the economic stability in the country and not to support the government in power. In other words, by supporting good government and living conditions we should guide citizens to maintain democratic principles and not facilitate things or circumstances. In the short-run or in the long run democracy will provide the benefits we all wish for. Four, support good government and consequent quality of life of the citizenry. Newspapers are usually so involved in covering what goes on daily politically and economically, but not always do we provide due priority to something which is fundamental for our readers: support their improvement in their level of reading. This mission should be understood on two levels. The first is basic, and newspapers tend to cover it. For example, provide information to readers providing satisfaction and happiness: where to go for holidays, etc. and at the second level, we have more complicated things centered on the needs to support the authorities in achieving a good government raising the living situation of the citizens or the living conditions. On the other, the press should guide the citizens in its work of demanding effective government. Once more, we shouldn’t confuse this concept with the one of supporting the government politically, that isn’t the case. It’s a matter of guiding the authorities with ideas, third-party contributions or criticism so that they can better serve their communities. For example, promoting on their pages a debate on a future law, clarifying things, criticizing the errors in the economic leadership in the country or analyzing the projection of foreign relationships of the country and applaud them or criticize them, as the case may be. Five, denounce corruption. In many cases, the mission of defending democracy or good government leads us to the need to criticize negative actions or to denounce crime. In Latin America, and in the Caribbean to some extent, this controlling mission of the written press becomes a priority to society because lacking solid institutions, then the written press, in many cases, must replace them. However, research of this sort needs rigor and not taking on the position of judge. We should also be willing to face our bad envy to powers of all sort, politically, economically in mafia and on the other hand recognize errors and correct itself properly. Six, practice proactive journalism. As the written press should denounce irregularities, it should also practice proactive journalism: a journalism which seeks to solve problems and not create them, which specifically strives to improve the living standards of its citizens. Proactive journalism should be transparent and just, based on solid ethics and visiting elements such as plurality, opening the pages of the media to all the positions and trends, on the point under debate. This is complex to handle. Sometimes there are readers who are disconcerted given the publication of different points of view to the traditional one of the media. Veracity, truth, complex subjects. It is part of the fact that the truth is subjective. There is often my own truth and that of my opponent. That is why journalism doctrine calls for printing only those things that journalists are convinced are true. So this is the hub of the subject. Internal conviction is based on the introspection of the journalist who must self-sustain it by way of his own ethical principles. For me, as difficult a subject as it may be, it is one of the pillars of proactive journalism. Equity or fairness: be discreet in criticism and applause. And that should point to a better reading on discerning the veracity of the topic. Independence. The media should be outside of our field of other interests that are not those of the readers. Thought about that way, independence should imply having the obligation of not having any influence that are tied to politicians, economic or religious people or any of the mafia people. And that is why they have to step forward now. It should be understood that the concept of power should be understood in the proper meaning of the word because the judge is there to offer rulings. The cause of independence also includes any individual being independent in it of themselves. In other words, before writing, the journalist should leave aside any emotions, emotional ties, hatreds or any other personal feelings. This kind of independence is of course the hardest to deal with. This ethical structure is solid and complemented by the application by the rule of rule of thumb by Jack Fuller. Deal with your interview the same way that the people deal with you or treat you. Seven, the importance of maintaining ethical principles. I have been in the profession for forty years already and every year I am more convinced that the importance of journalistic values to achieve strength in the media and this is also a priority which is one of the concerns of the IPA. And that is an ethical principle of the cement on which we build the entire theory of press freedom. Well, let’s take a look at those. Press freedom is sustained among other principles based on self-regulation and that is the audience that controls him and thus ethical norms regulate the press and when they are not complied with, the audience punishes them. Of course, many will say that things don’t work that way, but I would like to ask you to remember what happened in Peru. The Montesinos videos were made public when different owners of the media received hoards of money in exchange for “selling” the government and the sanction of the press was immediate. The television channels included, practically broke things and that is where the awareness came in. Under the sales of thousands of newspapers, things were known and almost overnight things shut down with more or less or looking at things more or less that way. That is how the system works. Now if we take a look at the journalistic values, it’s not just an ethical obligation but a pre-requisite to have financial success. Ethics generates credibility and that attracts readers, which in turn increase the sale of editions and this leads to publicity which leads to having incomes which allows us having good journalists, which in turn leads to credibility and that is virtuous cycle of good journalism. But for the written press, complying with ethical principles is a harder burden to bear than for the media. And I think that with regards to a point of reference, there is a level of social responsibility which is greater than in other media. And this calls for more rigor, more quality. Now perhaps the reasons at the written press taking on exclusively as an informative means, while television is seen more as entertainment as opposed to information. Another consideration that is important to bear in mind is that responsibility of what is in the written word is obviously greater than something which is fleeting, such as an image or a sound. That is why the written press is more seriously monitored by citizens and a proof of that is the number of letters that are written in and in which things are criticized. Now to uphold these kinds of thoughts, during my term as president of the IPA, means that I supported preparation of a hemispheric conference on journalistic values which will be held next year. People like Jack Fuller, the former president of the IPA, at present involved with the publishing company in Chicago but we have to use criteria that journalists have to bear in mind to properly serve the community and to promote good governance. We believe that it is high time to consider having a creed kind of document in which we have requirements that call for quality in the 21st century. We want an increase in the quality and this should be one of the main tools to win the presence of the electronic media as well. One of the points in this presentation that I want to underscore is that the problem of credibility should be dealt with by the press itself. The topics that have to be looked at in the conference are not yet engraved in the granite but there are still a lot of things on the table. For example, journalists should be accountable for the responsibility and journalists should report on corrupt behavior and do it with authority. As far as concerns companies, this is fundamental that we have to have an internal policy that guarantees true autonomy of the newspaper directors and their writing rooms, and the media should be independent even in terms of the general interests of their own groups. I believe in the principle that a director should owe his readers something and should deal with the interests of its shareholders At any rate, the contribution of the director in favor of the commercial management is to provide sufficient and good readers, know them. The director should also exercise some autonomy within the framework of the guiding principles, that the press has enshrined and this includes editorials, etc. They should go along with administrative procedures for the entire company and comply with their obligations and goals in keeping with their jobs. If not, the management or the board that appointed the director might denounce him or get rid of him. Now, a few weeks ago in Santiago de Chile, during a Forum of the IPA, one member of the Parliament spoke about the concentration of the media. And we said that first, the IPA is against monopolies. Second, any consolidation that is taking place generally in various areas of the economy and thirdly, the most important of writing laws on concentration is that they be reported on and that there be some editorial autonomy. In practicing this kind of autonomy, the media should act together so that they can all pool their own viewpoint. In other words, they should not lose sight of the informed pluralism which is what the society requires. Now then, it is not easy to grant autonomy, but today there is an economic reason to do so. That is that editorial autonomy plays into the income of the press and this is a fundamental factor to gain some credibility and this in turn leads to editorial independence which leads to commercial success. Now the previous thought has a lot to do with the motives to create a media: a topic which is part of the theory on journalism and its goals. There are theories that point to these reasons and the first is that journalism in itself is traditional and this can be done with a view to serve the community. They also wish to use the means which will allow the press to be free of financial tensions and can act as such independently. According to this motivation, the press is seen as a link to serve the interests of the investors. In other words, the income would not just be in terms of a trust but there would be greater political power as well as more trust in belief as well as more income-producing means. Nonetheless, these media are not necessarily legitimate, ethically speaking, and that is why we have to defend with honesty different viewpoints. but this is an affront against the principles of legitimate journalism when the reader is shielded from the true intentions of the publication. These topics perhaps can be discussed at a hemispheric meeting. We are not going to try to create some sort of code of conduct or ethics with which the IPA doesn’t believe because they don’t share or don’t wish to impose anything on its journalists. Rather, nonetheless, we will try to express the host of different aspirations that can serve as an inspiration for journalists and newspapers of the hemisphere. Ladies and gentlemen, the IPA recognized in the hemisphere its struggle to defend the freedom of the press. It has to do with the right of all citizens to receive information and the press to provide it today I have wanted to show you the other side of the coin which looks inwards and that has to do with the duties of journalists and their means. At the same time that I truly appreciate an invitation to this young and very prestigious forum organized by the OAS as supported by the University of San Martín de Porres, the Peruvian press is grateful for this, but I should also like to wish you ambassadors that each and everyone of you in your countries support the work of the IPA and freedom of the press in the continent. Freedom that will lead to all the other freedoms that we so cherish. Thank you very much.