14 July 2011

The Forked Estate

A sandwich shop that every 11 minutes smelled of farts. A copy of the day's El Nuevo Día (13 July 2011) adding to the moldy air. Here's a rundown of what the first 52 pages of the rag had as their version of news:

** Canceled contracts in the public health insurance program threaten to leave some 850,000 insured with reduced or no medical services. The current government debt with the insurance providers is deemed to be $60 million.
** Local police brutality, fingered by domestic and international human rights groups, is being discussed in Congress.
** A plan is floated about to clear out the residents of Puerto Rico's oldest ghetto, La Perla, but opposed by 41 community groups. (I used the word "ghetto." It's the right word.)
** An open letter to The Larva, (non)governor Luis Fortuño, concerning beef purchases totaling more than $38 million made in 2010 and 2011 by the School Cafeteria Program, purchases that were made under open violation of state and federal procedures.
** Speculation that senate president Thomas "Mad Dog" Rivera will have to testify concerning his reading in the senate (none don't deserve a capital letter) of a confidential FBI document about the Jorge "Il Castrao" De Castro case. (Me here: Mad Dog's target was not the FBI: it's secretary of state(of chaos) Kenneth "What? Me Guilty?" McClintock.)
** The forced transfer of 100 acres of prime land owned by the University of Puerto Rico in Gurabo is now conditioned to an exchange of about 100 acres of equal-value land. Gurabo mayor what's-his-name wants to build--hahahaha--a school, a hospital, a public housing project, a nursing school and low-cost housing on the UPR land, currently used for agricultural research. HAHAHAHAHAhahahahabullshit.
** An open letter by medical service providers (through their association) that medical services would be provided by their membership while the health insurance lamefest was sorted out. (They didn't say "lamefest.")
** A bill to limit malpractice damages loses one of its authors, senator Lornna "Innsannity Is Hereditary" Soto, as Insurance Commissioner representative Alex Addams (Family) was more idiot than idealogue at the hearing. The cap, suggested by the (non)administration, would be $250,000.
** Housing incentives will be extended to help raise the number of house sales from the current rate of about 340 to 500 a month. But note: there are over 10,700 new houses on the market right now.
** Scotiabank wants to participate in the Private-Public Partnerships (PPP) fund sale, scheduled to reach $1.436 billion. Which is debt. Let Me be blunt: the current hyenas take the cash and We pay the debt. Woo hoo.

Pretty massive mess, I'd say. But Let's look closer at the mess, shall We?

1) Of the 52 pages in the daily, 23 are full-page ads. And the open letters were also full pages, most likely sold as ad space.

2) Of the remaining 27 pages roughly 7.5 were truncated by ads. The total amount of news coverage was 19.5 pages at most, about 38%.

Now I know that a newspaper needs to make money to survive.  But El Nuevo Día also owns Primera Hora, the second-largest daily on My Island. They also print El Vocero, the third-largest daily. So apparently money is either flowing like a river (or a sewer) or stuck in a hole. (I'm sure that given the management talent, it's the latter.) Either way, money is not the sole consideration.

No, the consideration We have to look at is "perspective." Does Puerto Rico have a true Fourth Estate? Or is what We have a "forked estate," as in "Stick a fork in it, it's done," or "One that speaks with a forked tongue"?

I know, for editors at END and PH have told Me, that management of the papers have repeatedly spiked stories that could "discomfit" either the paper owners or their cronies. The papers have a clear business slant, covering certain industries like a jealous lover (of their own wealth) while consistently ignoring economic sectors such as start-ups, agriculture and "new-tech economy." (That END is a powerful member of the so-called """Center for the New Economy""" is like having Glenn Beck be a spokesperson for the Gay Parade.)

Bluntly, Our dailies are the mouthpieces of an old guard dying a slow death. Over the past three decades, they have inexorably choked what little power the Fourth Estate may have had and turned what should be a crusading guardian of the public trust into a sycophantic, spiteful gossipmonger. The papers have long surpassed their utility as a trusted source and force for democracy, with their only usefulness now as ad litter and puppy trainers. 

Look at the list of news again. The average story length was under 450 words. In several articles, most of the "information" presented was disorganized, with clear gaps in the presentation. Most of the stories lacked a sense of context, placement in the overall "map" of meaning. On that basis, the best contextual pieces were the open letters. By far. Makes sense, since they hired people who could actually think and write to do them.

Our media is more than Our newspapers. That should be Our consolation, only Our radio and TV news coverage is barely a little better. The dominant attitude on radio is confrontational and on TV it's sycophancy, both coming from the same basic emotion: fear. A fearful guardian is an oxymoron, like honest politician or Larva leadership. Our news sources are nothing more than comedy acts: the newspapers are ventriloquist dummies with cracked voices that move their lips and Our other news coverage is a herd of Chicken Littles disguised as Daffy Ducks...but dumber.

A forked estate serves only its pathetic handlers: a Fourth Estate can build a nation. Our only option is to make Our own Fourth Estate, to forge links with the disparate resources on Our Island that can brick by brick build a true news platform. It won't happen overnight, but for Our sake, it has to happen. 

The Jenius Has Spoken.

P.S. -- Global Voices Online now has a podcast. The first one has an interview with Firuzeh Shokooh Valle, Puerto Rican with Iranian ancestry, who grew up in Old San Juan, worked in local news coverage and now edits the GVO webpages for the Caribbean, with strong emphasis on Puerto Rico. Check the podcast out and learn more about a true news professional that is one of Our own.

P.P.S. -- The Guardian takes on its own industry to reveal the depths of unethical behavior that ended with the closing of the 168-year old News of the World.


Fran and Steve said...

Last week we spent most of the day at Centro Medico (we barely survived). All anyone wanted to talk about was the news story of the 16 pound newborn. The media plays to the interest of the population and keeps a lot of them "dumbed down". I never get a "who, when, what, where, and how" out of local newspaper stories. Just enough to get people repeating misinformation. So sad. -- Fran

Davsot said...

I always love your sarcasm.

GCSchmidt said...

Fran and Steve, your experience at the Medical Center are repeated too often as the "standard" for health care here. It's humiliating, not to mention deadly. As for their interest in a (healthy) 16-pound baby, We are gossipmongers more than consumers of information. Sad.

And Davsot, good to have you back! You might have been around, but you hadn't commented in a while. And yes, I friended you, whatever that means. Is that like going steady? I have to point out that I'm married now, okay? Glad to clear that up.