JOUR 401: Blog 3

Spain has seen an onslaught of economic and political turmoil over the last decade, and the aura of Spanish media seems to be appropriately reflective. Themes in Spanish media seem to revolve around factors similar to those of United States media: what’s happening in politics, gossip from the royal family, more politics, and, from what I saw during my stay there, what we’re up to over here in good ol’ America (ask me about the Trump election. In one sitting, I learned several Spanish expletives from my lovely host mother).

Like many other European media outlets, Spain has mediums that blatantly support bias towards a particular political party or opinion. Media in Europe is not held to the same objective standards as it is in the United States, though after the election of Donald Trump, objectivity in the United States seems to have more than wavered. For example, Catalonia’s media supports the region’s nationalism and struggle for independence in most of its media. A study by the Global Media Journal states that Catalonians try to disguise their bias in “at least partially mystifying Catalan nationalism thought the use of expressions such as “organic community,” “core values,” and “consensus” (Miley, 2007, p. 3).” The study goes on to say that many journalists and other creators of media “ignore the social conditions under which public opinion is formed” and neglect the consideration of relevant factors, not limited to: “the dominant climate of opinion, the expectations of the Catalan people, the level of political participation of the citizenship, and the social relations of power.”

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Headlines from ElMundo.com regarding President Trump.

Bias can also be seen in other major publications regarding Spain’s main two political parties, PP and PSOE (Partido Popular and Partido Socialista Obrero Español). However, as far as this bias weaving its way into United States culture, it seems Spain isn’t the only Spanish-speaking country receiving a scolding. In fact, an article by the Daily Signal states that most Hispanic news outlets that stream in the United States are immensely biased, not only of their own politics, but of ours as well. Spanish news station Univision reaches 97% of Hispanic households in the United States, accounting for almost 17% of our entire population. Spanish citizens in the United States almost always tend to be liberal, and opinions voiced on Univision are influential deciding factors.

As far as coverage in Spain, what you get depends on who you’re listening to. After the economic crisis, many citizens sought information that didn’t come from or relate to a source of power. People wanted more organic, raw, grassroots coverage. However, traditional media outlets stuck to their safety net of institution, which created two very diverse and almost separate territories as far as coverage. On one side, you had the new-wave journalists who weren’t afraid to print the stories that tick some people off. On the other hand, you had “prepaid” coverage; a tragedy of media outlets bought out by banks, and quiet whispers from their CEOs behind closed doors dictating which stories could run, and even what could be on the front page. For example, this article by The Guardian tells of an incident by the country’s leading newspaper El País, founded fresh off of Franco’s dictatorship in the late 1970s. Struggling with debt, the owner of the paper, Prisa, drafted a deal to gain relief from creditors. The catch? Sixteen percent of shares handed over to the company’s bankers. A former journalist for the paper, Pere Rusiñol, said the result made it impossible to extricate the paper’s coverage from its financial situation, stating:

“You can’t have press freedom in a company that’s bankrupt and belongs to the bank.” 

A media landscape analysis of Spain reveals that there currently exist no professional councils with the authority to punish unethical practices, bad practices, or abuses made by journalists in Spain. The conventional courts of justice are expected solve these cases. So as far as what’s being missed, it might as well be a free-for-all. With no Spanish Associated Press or ethics board to answer to, bias, personal opinion, and even “alternative facts” frequently make their way into Spanish media, while important information could fall by the wayside completely.

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Jose Luis Sainz, CEO (left), and Juan Luis Cebrian, president of PRISA (right) by: GORKA LEJARCEGI

However, not all hope is lost. While the economic crisis in Spain saw many journalists laid off, this wave of misfortune brought forth an even bigger wave of almost guerrilla journalists. According to the same article from The Guardian, these new journalism start-ups are “staffed by a mix of veteran journalists laid off during the economic crisis and young journalists trying to gain a foothold in an industry where few are hiring, the startups tout themselves as willing to ask the questions that traditional Spanish media will not.”

As far as United States coverage of Spain versus Spanish coverage of the United States, a study done by Antonio V. Menéndez Alarcón states: “as expected, there were many more stories in Spanish newspapers about the United States than in US newspapers about Spain (561 versus 238)”.

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