Recently there was an interesting, sudden and short rise in objections to Colombia Reports’ bias. This is completely fair. A bias is impossible to eradicate when working with human beings and can only be countered if the audience itself imposes checks.
I am going to focus on CR’s bias in two columns.
In this one I will explain CR’s commercial bias and interest. In the next one (due “soonish”) I will tackle the subconcious political bias. In both cases it is important for me to receive feedback, because in both cases it is important that the website caters your interest and your interest only.
Colombia Reports’ economic interests
Colombia Reports never really started as a website to make money. It just started off as a hobby-weblog that hoped to show things about Colombia that wasn’t being portrayed in the newswires, newspaper or television reports or by human rights organizations (basically what you find in Google News).
When this really picked up and I found out that looking for a regular job in Colombia isn’t as easy as I thought, I decided to invest and come up with a commercial format that would allow the website to be self sufficient.
With that decision, Colombia Reports needed to come up with a format that would make it a financially sustainable enterprise and not just a hobby or some ideological platform.
This decision also immediately provided an economic bias as you will find in any media; In order to avoid bankruptcy, CR must now find the largest and commercially most interesting audience or niche, because through the size of its audience, income can be generated through advertisement.
The format I came up with looked like this:
- The website must cater a foreign audience (abroad) in order to be able to create a platform where Colombian industries can find their potential foreign customers or investors.
- Only by guarding and defending the interest of the foreign readership and not the interest of local governments or industries, Colombia Reports will be able to generate a sustainable readership and can contribute to sustainable relationships between (on one side) foreign governments, tourists, clients and investors and (on the other side) domestic industries and governments.
- The website must cater a steady audience to maximize its daily number of visitors and bring off-beat news or fast translations to attract the occasional link on popular U.S. websites to maximize its monthly visitors.
The weakness of this format is not a political or ideological bias, because every too obvious tilt would mean a decrease in audience and thus a commercial lapse. We are targeting a niche and do not have the luxurious position like MSNBC or FOX to move left or right or promote (boring) political agendas.
The real weakness is the fact that in the end Colombia Reports must pay the bills provided by advertisers and advertisers can demand compromises in content when this content can harm their interest. That’s where you need to watch out that CR or any other self-proclaimed impartial news outlet doesn’t sell out your interests.
Especially in Colombia, where there is little money and the little money there is is poorly distributed because of absurdly powerful business cartels, it is hard to maintain a publishing business without the involvement of one of them.
In Colombia, those most active in advertising and deciding who gets the money are:
- The Colombian State (a large buyer of advertising space on radio and television and sole financier of (Colombia is passion) ProExport, the company that promotes Colombian interests abroad)
- The Sindicato Antioqueño (owning Bancolombia and half the construction and food industry)
- Grupo Santo Domingo (owning Caracol TV, newspaper El Espectador, Bavaria which owns 98% of the Colombian beer market and until 2004 Avianca)
- Grupo Ardila Lulle (owning RCN TV and Radio, Postobon, the soccer league, agriculture companies, the country’s largest textile producer and an investment bank)
- Grupo Aval (owning virtually all banks except for Bancolombia)
So if you are really worried about whose interests are protected look at who finances the news you are reading, hearing or watching. This has nothing to do with liberal or conservative or left or right, this is about the providing of correct and complete information for economic reasons.
The pressure to incompletely or incorrectly inform lies with the big guys like Caracol and RCN.
Colombia Reports was born from the same need for honest information as you have. CR consists of tourists, foreign investors, ex-pats and news consumers. We can’t afford advising you to come to Colombia just to get ripped off, in trouble or losing an investment. We’re not a promotional website for domestic products and services, because they are not paying us. We are here to inform you on what you need to know. That’s why we write about corruption, violence, investment rip-offs and what not.
You have all the tools you need to let us know what you want to know, what we should focus on, what your opinion is. Comment, write emails, come over for a coffee or contribute.
Only through interaction with us you can make sure that CR does its job correctly and defends your interests.