13 April 2007

Media is the plural of mediocre

I've often spoken, in passage, about the appalling quality of the media in Argentina, especially TV news coverage. The floods in Santa Fe were only one glaring example; ironically, you didn't get much from me regarding the media coverage because dealing with it would've been as frivolous as the way the topic itself was dealt with on TV.

All the big media are based in Buenos Aires, which can be considered a self-sufficient city-state for all practical purposes except for the generation of primary products, which anyway is usually invisible to the residents of large urban centers (porteño kids probably think eggs are manufactured right there in the back of the supermarket). As such, the media are myopic and extremely parochial. A multiple suicide bombing in Baghdad, an earthquake in Chile, a devastating flood in Córdoba, a minor traffic accident in Palermo and a stray cat in Villa Lugano are treated more or less equally (and the cat will most likely get more air time).

Not that our local Rosario media are better. Worse, they practically don't have a local content production; one of the channels is basically a branch of Telefé (Gran Hermano, cheesy and barely differentiable Colombian/Venezuelan/Mexican telenovelas). They both have news shows, which draw heavily from Buenos Aires channels (Canal 3 gets content from TN's Telenoche; Canal 5 gets Telefé's news). We also get TN, Crónica TV, Canal 9 and América TV by cable.

I usually have breakfast around 6 AM, watching the only moderately ridiculous early morning news on TN. There's just an anchor speaking at that time, who varies from day to day, though none of them seems to have received proper training regarding modulation and pronunciation. They repeat what they're told and do not editorialize. It gets worse after that, as a round table of wannabe journalists gathers to greet those just waking up for their 9-to-5 jobs with all sorts of supposedly funny skits, jokes and puns, before going on to the actual news.

I don't watch Telefé, ever, for my health. I mean, this is the source of such horrors as Susana Giménez, Marcelo Tinelli, Gran Hermano, and some of the worst soap operas ever to defile the small screen. I don't usually watch Canal 9 (too fascist for my taste) and I tend to skip América TV (makes you dumb just by watching). Crónica TV I do sometimes, as it's not only sensationalistically yellow but does also, surprisingly, have a much better coverage of national and international news than multi-awarded TN.

The news today (carried over from the weekend) is that the icebreaker ARA Almirante Irízar (the only icebreaker we, proud, if contested, rulers of a huge chunk of Antarctica, have in stock) is still on fire, its captain still on board waiting for his ship to be towed back to port, some 120 nautical miles south of Puerto Madryn; and that Diego Maradona was again hospitalized due to severe abdominal pains — he had hepatitis some time ago, was released, and now they suspect a pancreatitis. The smoke rising from the Irízar, the rescue of its crew and their safe arrival to port, with the ensuing family reunions, were played and replayed again and again until the whole episode turned into a foul, mushy mass of sentimentaloid infodramatic crap. Maradona, of whom one doctor said he's in trouble because "he thinks he's God", is being worshipped non-stop by followers and media alike, as if it wasn't his fault at all that he's an overweight drug-addicted alcoholic with an ego the size of La Bombonera and the Maracanã put together.

Some of us are tired of this... but hey, whatcha gonna do? Tomorrow another cat will climb a tree it can't get down from, or a cute baby elephant will be born somewhere, or an abandoned storehouse will burn in a suburbs of a suburb of Buenos Aires, and they'll grab the full attention of the cameras again. Let's hope.


  1. One of the channels -- I wish I could remember which -- did a halfway decent report from outside Sanatorio Güemes . . . stepping outside the spectacle a bit to interview both the fanatics keeping vigil and the people who thought the fanatics were ridiculous (passersby and family members of the other people in the hospital).

    Great blog.

  2. Anonymous19:03

    Oh so sorry Pablo, you're going to be so ashamed of me - I subscribe to extra cable channels in Miami specifically so I can get ultilissima and telefe (admittedly to help me with lunfardo inflected espanol) but I have become a bit addicted to Gran Hermano (a sudden sigh of shame and self-analytical schadenfreude escapes my lips) and where would I be without such enlightening novelas on life in Buenos Aires such as frecuencia 04. or Kachorra?! Laugh all you want - I am too (at myself). Roberto desde Miami

  3. Media is the plural of mediocre

    Nice wordplay :-) Of course your parents displayed an enormous degree of perspicacity in naming you! And an anagram in English to boot –

    ID: A verbal spoof lad

    Well, back to the regularly scheduled programming. The network and cable TV news in the US is basically appalling too, I really only watch it when there is some major world event in which the video might be interesting. Otherwise, I rely on the internet and the major San Francisco newspaper for my local news. The only “news” show I watch regularly is the popular satirical Daily Show hosted by Jon Stewart on the Comedy Central network

    My roommate in BsAs loved to watch Susana Giménez, but even he became jaded when we watched her interviewing a paleontologist who had found a dinosaur in Patagonia, and Susana asked: ¿Vivo? … But he still continued to watch the telenovelas every day.

    Now whatcha gonna do? As the song says:
    “Remain calm, it ain't no reason to drop the ball”


  4. Actually, the title of the post is paraphrase of a quote by Jimmy Breslin. (I didn't know who the author was, only the quote, but I just checked.)

    Susana's "¿Vivo?" is famous. It was years ago but many people still remember it whenever someone mentions dinosaurs.

  5. There was one time when i was watching TN when i was quite surprised by the newscaster as she went beyond the normal boundaries of newscasting not just in argentina but pretty much anywhere. i don't know her name but she's the attractive 40-something woman who used to have dark brown curly hair but straightened it a couple of months ago...

    anyway, there was an 'in-depth' report about the vote rigging that went on during the last senate elections in, i think, tucuman-how votes were bought with tvs and washing machines or how DNIs were confiscated until after the election so the senator's cronies could vote on the electorate's 'behalf'.

    So after the report finished, the newscaster looked absolutely disgusted and on the verge of tears and she spat out, almost venomously, words along the lines of: 'This has happened again and absolutely *nothing* has been done about and i doubt it ever will'.

    It was the first and last time i saw any displays of real emotion on argentine news and pretty much the first time i'd seen any argentine go beyond the usual 'well what can we do?' when confronted by the reality of argentine politics.

  6. The part you said about the news anchors being told what to say is absolutely true. This is true in the States as well. They put a pretty, yet brainless talking head in front of a camera and people will believe anything they say.

    I don't mean to sound sexist but I have no doubt some of those bleach blond girls talking about Iraq on the news couldn't find the place on a map!


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