Unsurprisingly, the conflict has gripped the media themselves. Clarín’s towering presence generates a range of opinions and emotions. Hardly anyone in an Argentine newsroom feels indifferent about the company. Scores of journalists, including many influential columnists, have worked in its newsrooms. Journalists have not simply been spectators in a gritty fistfight between two giants; they have been drawn in. The world of Argentine journalism is divided between “journalists K” (for the Kirchners) and “journalists anti-K.” Old friends and colleagues on different sides of that fence no longer talk to each other. Some reporters with pro-Kirchner sympathies have left Clarín for news organizations identified with the administration. Name-calling often replaces reporting. News shows in state-run media regularly ambush columnists who criticize the government. Anti-Kirchner pundits frequently blast journalists who toe the official line. Old debates about “professional” versus “activist” journalism have been reopened.

As a result, the middle ground for journalism with nuance, distance, equanimity, evenhandedness, and even accuracy has narrowed. The lines are so firmly drawn that journalists couldn’t even cross them for an issue that ought to unite them. When President Fernandez de Kirchner sent a bill to decriminalize injurious calumny against public officials in September 2009—a longtime demand of press organizations—K and anti-K journalists could not come together to support the measure. A divided journalism undermines dialogue and consensus building, two urgent needs in a democracy on a march toward polarized politics.

 

Silvio Waisbord
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