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Comunicacin y Opinin Pblica
Marcelo J. Garca, en Buenos Aires Herald
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18/01/2013 | La culpa de casi todo lo que pasa en la Argentina poltica de hoy la tienen los editores, argumenta Marcelo J. Garca. Y recomienda dejar de leer titulares. Darn, Randazzo, Clarn y el New York Times. La necesidad de que el gremio periodstico se una en torno a la aprobacin de una clusula de conciencia para la profesin.

Philip Roth confessed in an interview with the Financial Times not long ago that he had stopped reading fiction. I wised up, he said. What if it were the time for news-junkie Argentines to wise up too and stop reading newspaper headlines?

The vast majority of the public is in(ill)formed by headlines. True, this has traditionally been the case. Headline writing is one of the most difficult tasks of modern journalism. Headlines need to be informative and clever, short and substantial, poetical and concrete all at once. Headline writing is the prime job of editors. And it is the editors who are getting the blame (they sometimes deserve) for twisting the often contextualized, balanced and complete pieces of information that most journalist here and elsewhere produce for the news-hungry public every day. Who has time to read the entire piece anyway? Headlines can do the trick right or wrong.

You can ask Ricardo Darn, the Oscar laureate actor whose words unleashed a Twitter outburst two weeks ago by President Cristina Fernndez de Kirchner. Darn gave a 3,000-word interview to the variety magazine Brando, but mainstream press editors focused on just a handful of those words for their headline: Somebody should explain the Kirchners wealth. That was not even the interviews original headline (which however also attracted the Presidents attention): We are a childish country.

Darn, who has been in hot water after the Presidents rebuttal, said this week he was not happy with the editors job. I felt used, he said. I understand the editorial needs, but I dont agree with them. The President is right to have taken the entire thing personal, added Darn, because the headline carried by the press did not reflect the spirit of what he had said in the original interview: that all public servants should be clear about their wealth, not just the President. They had their own editorial reasons to include that line, somebody turned that into a headline and then it all snowballed. Darn went on, in a media frenzy that coincided with the premier of his new movie: I am not the one who writes the headlines. But when you choose a headline, you need to explain where the headline comes from. Otherwise it is a fabrication.

The marvel of the heated debate about media, press and politics in Argentina over the last few years is that everyone, from celebrities like Darn to the viewers of the pro-government primetime show 6,7,8 and the critics of the governments political communications policy, seems to have something to say about the way journalism is practiced.

If you are just a consumer of headlines, there was another clarification this week you should hear. There will be no revolution of Argentinas urban railway system within 60 days, as Interior and Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo was quoted as saying this week. Randazzo gave a beachside interview to Tiempo Argentino whose headline as virtually every second headline in the staunchly pro-government daily took a swipe at the governments main media foe Grupo Clarn: If Grupo Clarn picks a (presidential) candidate, Argentina will go back in 2001.

But the editors of the dailies Clarn and La Nacin did not agree with their Tiempo colleagues pick and instead surfaced a line about the governments public transport policy, which is under scrutiny after a train crash at the Once train station killed 52 people a year ago. Randazzo promises a revolution in the railway system in 60 days, the papers flagged. Randazzo rushed to deny having promised anything that big at all: What I said is that there will be noticeable changes in 60 days. The press, said the minister, has a right to criticize, but not to tweak information.

The tweaking is sometimes simple mistakes. Via Twitter this week, the President exposed one of those in the daily Clarn. Her picture with the Castro brothers in Cuba last weekend included a woman, who the paper said in a caption was Argentinas Foreign Trade Secretary Beatriz Paglieri. She was actually Fidel Castros wife. Hatred blurs their eyes and their minds, tweeted the President.

But it is not only the press. TV news editors also engaged this week in some sloppiness. Grupo Clarns cable news channel Todo Noticias aired a breaking news piece about a kidnap followed by the murder of a businessman in the Greater Buenos Aires district of Lans that had actually happened in 2007! After the news recycling was exposed, the channel aired an apology and said it had been an involuntary mistake. The mayor of Lans, Daro Daz Prez, a national government ally, did not buy the mistake line and complained about a campaign by the media giant against him.

The way things are going, Argentina publishers might want to follow the steps of the New York Times, whose corrections editor Greg Brock has said the paper will soon launch an online corrections form for readers to report possible errors in the stories. Meanwhile journalists, who are often victims of their own trigger-happy headline-slapping editors, should be advised to push for the approval in Congress of a bill to introduce a conscience clause for journalists so that they can take out their bylines when they disagree with editors treatment of their copy.


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