And that’s it. The Buenos Aires Herald‘s run as the only daily English-language newspaper printed in Latin America is officially over, less than a week after news broke that it would be shutting down.
The 140-year-old newspaper is abandoning the daily format and as of November 4 will begin appearing on newsstands every Friday.
To mark the occasion the paper’s editors did something extremely unusual and dedicated the entire above-the-fold space in the front page to an editorial. Under the headline “At The End of The Day,” the Herald says goodbye to its readers with a poignant message where it analyzes the challenging media landscape, especially in Argentina. It also briefly mentions the outlet’s future as a weekly publication and also thanks its staff for their work throughout the years, not without taking a slight jab at the government first.
“The Herald has been facing difficulties for a while now and though our future incarnation has been painted as a new challenge and an exciting offering to the market, it would be foolish to deny that such a dramatic change comes at a huge cost, or that it also reflects a media industry in crisis,” begins the editorial.
The Herald points to the dying print media and free access to news online as two important factors for the financial woes it has experienced over the past years. And the paper goes on to say these problems were especially “exacerbated” in the country by “modifications to government-paid advertising, its distribution and the recession.”
The Herald also laments the firing of the vast majority of its staff, and says it’s part of a larger trend in the country’s media landscape. “Unions estimate as many as 2,000 journalists may lose their jobs in the country in 2016, a staggering number that will damage the profession greatly,” notes the editorial.
The workers of Tiempo Argentino — now turned a cooperative after its former owners fled with the company’s money, the workers’ salaries included — cable news channel CN 23, Infonews — also turned into a cooperative this year — and Rosario’s El Ciudadano are the most emblematic cases that confirm of the past few months that confirms this has not been a good year for Argentine media.
But these outlets also share a common denominator: they were owned by business executives with ties to the former administration, and they all heavily relied on government-paid advertising to operate. Earlier this year, Clarín reported that Indalo Media, the current owner of the Herald, wanted to shut down the English-language daily’s print edition because it was bleeding cash at the tune of AR$2 million per month.
In addition to its editorial, the Herald also publishes a piece by its media columnist, Marcelo García, who delves into the ties of media owners and the previous government to note that “it would be a mistake to attribute the Herald’s ill fortunes solely to the digital revolution of the highly politicized Argentine media jungle.”
“While it is true journalism is not financially sustainable anywhere in the world, it is also true that in Argentina many publications have gotten used to making an easy living out of state advertising funds that were — and continued to be — distributed arbitrarily,” García writes.
This was all the result of “Argentina’s irrational media war,” notes García. “The Herald became a pawn in a larger game that exceeded the energies of its dwindling newsroom found to keep on doing decent and honest journalism.”
The political tides have turned and the money stopped flowing, and while the Herald doesn’t pin the government as the one that is solely to blame it does warn that the decimation of media outlets has consequences. “The concentration of the media into the hands of the few, ones with an axe to grind, always conspires against the right to information,” notes the paper. That is why the government should be “willing and able to protect voices and ensure that pluralism is reflected in the media landscape.”
But the Herald is not over. It will begin its weekly edition next Friday and in his column, García wonders if its owners “will have a vision to try to turn weakness into strength.”
We At The Bubble hope the answer is yes.It is undoubtedly bad news that 14 Herald staffers are losing their jobs. But we are also looking forward to see what the future will bring for the Herald. As García wrote, “it is hard to believe the only English-language newspaper in Latin America, one that reported on Argentina for almost a century and a half, with a reputation of honest, unbiased journalism, could not have a place in the cornucopia of digital noise around us.”