The sad demise of the Buenos Aires Herald may seem to many like a chronicle of a death foretold: a niche print publication in a foreign language in an Argentina that spent more than a decade isolating itself from the rest of the world, both politically and economically.
Add to that the fateful ownership by the likes of Sergio Szpolski and Matias Garfunkel and then Néstor Kirchner’s close friend and “business partner,” Cristóbal López, and you have a recipe for disaster.
The birth of the Buenos Aires Times, though, is a rare spectacle. Picking up where the Herald left off, our new Times is a bold bet on the power of journalism, globalisation, and technology. We are conscious that we face a perfect storm, as print circulation plummets across the globe, advertisers aggressively migrate to digital platforms where Google and Facebook take the lion’s share of the earnings, and Mauricio Macri’s economic policies fail to lift the country out of stagnation. The paradigm shift caused by the web, where the audience has unlimited access to infinite libraries of information, appears as a looming death threat in the horizon, forcing once-mighty media juggernauts to pinch pennies.
But as has been said many times, don’t let a good crisis go to waste. At Perfil, we have fully embraced the entropy caused by the new. After traversing a painful learning curve, our digital audience is rowing fast and our capacity to generate content on all platforms is getting better by the minute. Yet, we aren’t fooled by the siren calls telling us to forget the past.
Perfil is in the process of launching two open-air TV channels, a radio station, and, of course, the new print publication that you currently hold in your hands. We aim to solidify the link between analogue and digital, taking what’s best from each medium to deliver our high-quality journalism everywhere and at all times. Sink or swim.
Which brings us back to the Times. Argentina is saturated with news outlets, but few, if any, manage to go beyond a basic binary logic that is better suited to a football match than journalism. The Herald’s final readers can attest to that. The Times will follow in the tradition of Diario Perfil and Revista Noticias, delivering the news from a critical and counter-cyclical viewpoint, as Bob Cox’s Herald did during the darkest years of the last military dictatorship, a lone voice denouncing state terrorism and crimes against humanity on both sides.
If Argentina ever decides to grow up as a country and become a relevant player on the world stage it needs an Englishlanguage paper. To the obvious needs of a numerous expatriate population we should add a potential regional and global interest in the state of affairs of this far away land. Argentina is a large nation, abundant in natural resources, with an educated workforce in the southernmost part of the Western Hemisphere. We have a lot more to offer than beef and grains.
After a decade or more of dangerous populism, fuelled by a commodity super-cycle, we have reasons to be optimistic once again. With the notable exception of Venezuela, most of the continent appears to be in the early stages of a momentous change that should limit the spread of corruption. A bribery scandal involving state-owned Petrobras in Brazil has erupted into a global investigation into Latin American public-private crime. The Odebrecht case is archetypical, yet it consequences won’t be everlasting unless corruption is stripped from the courts, which seem to remember past crimes only after their perpetrators have left power.
In the same way as the Car Wash (Lava Jato) investigation has broken through Brazil’s borders, capital and people have gained mobility and speed. Globalisation, with all its vice and virtue, is an unstoppable force, despite Donald Trump’s insistence on building a border wall with Mexico, or far-right parties across Europe trying to ban headscarves.
Fortunately, Argentina and the rest of the region seem to be moving in the opposite direction of the United States, Great Britain, and Continental Europe, seeking greater ties with the rest of the world. Stronger institutions and the beginning of the end of a culture of government handouts translate into an historic opportunity for the country and the region.
Thus, the time is ripe to build a strong, English-language publication focused on lifting the veil complexity for a regional and international audience, relying on both the traditional techniques of print and the advanced tools of the digital era to inform, entertain, and explain our times. Buckle up; it’s going to be a wild ride.
* Executive director.