An article in Spanish daily newspaper El Pais about the ongoing problems with gangs in Medellin has caused great indignation at El Colombiano, the local rag that has dedicated thousands of dead trees to intentionally misinforming its city’s people.
Back in the good old days when there was no interwebs, El Colombiano was able to freely distort and deform the truth without any local being able to verify the paper’s false claims and intentional concealing of newsworthy facts and realities.
Now, with locals increasingly using alternative and foreign news sources like El Pais to get local news, it has also become evident to what extent the newspaper is and has been dishonest to its readership.
According to the newspaper itself, foreign media have regularly been guilty of publishing reports about the city that contain “imprecise information and generalize in an irresponsible way about the violence in Medellin.”
They would say that, wouldn’t they?
The paper has been so busy confirming the self-deception that Medellin has undergone an unprecedented transition since Pablo Escobar that by 2009, when this proved to be a bubble that had long burst and war had broken out in large parts of the city, the newspaper was still busy trying to confirm to its declining readership that Medellin is heaven (but with metro) on earth.
The newspaper also failed to report on the 2,300 Medellin residents who were forcibly disappeared (and thus conveniently kept out of the homicide statistics) between January 2009 and November 2011, while other news outlets did report the grim facts.
And all the while the newspaper was trying to hide the truth about the failing security policy of the local and national authorities — El Colombiano director Ana Mercedes Gomez Martinez was illegally receiving state subsidies from Bogota, for which ex-minister and, coincidentally, El Colombiano columnist Andres Felipe Arias has gone to jail.
With El Pais’ attempts to penetrate the Latin American online news market, El Colombiano’s lies and corruption have become increasingly apparent, not only to those who consume news from other sources, but also to those who (still and despite everything) get their news from the local rag.
The reaction of El Colombiano to the Spanish report was typically dishonest, arrogant and snobbish. Instead of appreciating the journalistic attempt to capture fragments of our society’s sometimes harsh reality, the newspaper went on a populist tirade about how we, residents of Medellin, are unjustly portrayed abroad as assassins, literally fueling the local popular misconception that paisas are victims of a stigma abroad.
The truth is that this stigma does not exist. Not once have I heard a foreigner speak negatively about the people of Medellin.
Instead, inventing this self-imposed and non-existent stigma serves to unite us against honest foreign attempts to report on our city and instead turn to El Colombiano’s absurdist portrayal of the city that just appeals to our wishful thinking and denies the reality the majority of us residents live in.
Reports like that of El Pais are valuable because they give Medellin’s reality an international perspective and help us identify the challenges we face and should focus on. Moreover, they force the local newspapers to get their ass in gear and start reporting on what really is going on in Medellin and Colombia.
But, being the most blatantly dishonest newspaper I have seen in my life, El Colombiano prefers to close its eyes to reality and continue to think they can make money with dishonest reporting and a disdain for its own potential readership.
But this time it backfired.
The numerous articles and op-eds published to discredit one of the world’s best newspapers led to cynical reaction from readers.
“Stop crying and start creating jobs and conditions to remove these kids from the trouble,” said one reader. “Enough of what? Of telling us the truth? … You better leave your desks and suffer Medellin like 80% of the people that live in it do,” another said.
I, like these particular fellow residents, care more about the well-being of Medellin and its people than the city’s public relations issues or the newspaper’s deteriorating credibility.
Unless El Colombiano turns around and actually starts reporting on its own city for its own people, it may as well leave that reporting to us foreigners. We will happily attempt to tell the truth and bring the glorified toilet paper roll to its grave and dance a porro on its tombstone.
There is no room for backward, conceited, dishonest newspapers in modern-day journalism. It’s about keeping it real or die lying.