Ernestina Herrera de Nobles. (Clarín)

Ernestina Herrera de Noble, the head of Clarín since 1969 and the first woman to lead a mass-selling newspaper in Latin America, has died. She was 92.

Known to childhood friends as “La Piti,” Ernestina began her career far from journalism. In her youth, she was a flamenco dancer. It was in El Tronío, a theater where she performed regularly, where she met Roberto Noble in 1946. Noble, the head of Clarín at the time, had propelled the newspaper to first place in sales due to his political pluralism and knack for sports and photography.

They married in 1967. When Roberto died in 1969, Ernestina had a choice to make. She could sell Clarín, or she could realize her husband’s dreams of expanding it further. She chose the latter. Under her guide through the rest of the century, Clarín became one of the largest Spanish-language newspapers, and the eighth largest print paper, in the world. She also gave rise to Grupo Clarín, one of Latin America’s leading multimedia companies.

Herrera de Nobles exacted journalistic integrity and maintained it even against national governments that cracked down on free press. On the eve of Argentina’s return to democracy, when the Peronist Héctor J. Cámpora was elected president in 1973, she wrote in an editorial: “Clarín is an independent, objective and impartial journalistic organ, and is not subject to anything or anyone. It ratifies through these values its undeniable commitment to the interests of the Nation.”

Herrera de Nobles nonetheless spent much of her life under public scrutiny. In 2002, a federal judge from San Isidro took up the case of Carlos Miranda and Estelo Gualdero, who believed that the two adopted children of Herrera de Nobles, Marcela and Felipe, could be the children of their sisters, who were forcibly disappeared during Argentina’s last military dictatorship. The judge detained Herrera de Nobles for three days on charges of abducting a minor. The case regained steam in 2009, when Kirchner’s government chose Grupo Clarín as its primary media nemesis and tried to wipe it off the map. For Kirchneristas, “Clarín, Magnetto, return the grandchildren,” became a habitual chant. But in 2010, DNA tests performed on Marcela and Felipe proved the accusations to be false.

Through all such attacks, Herrera de Nobles stood strong. “Governments will not stop us from doing journalism,” she said in 2010, on the 65th anniversary of Clarín. “We will stand firm, even in the face of the most arrogant attacks and the grossest lies. We are Argentines. We’ll stay here even if they want to throw us out. For 65 years we have done this — working in fields of communication to defend democracy, freedom, and development of our society.” 

Her legacy lives on.