November 15, 2008

Honduran newspapers

La Prensa, HondurasI can never catch up

I like San Pedro Sula, Honduras' La Prensa newspaper. It is a sister newspaper to El Heraldo based in the capital city of Tegucigalpa. I'm disappointed sometimes in thoroughness of the articles. I always have unanswered questions and wonder if they didn't think to ask or whether they were just unable to obtain answers.

Sometimes even with my limited Spanish I find spelling or grammar errors, and their math and statistical abilities definitely are lacking. But I have to give them credit for having the guts to publish some of the articles that they do, the recent investigative reports on narcotrafficking and child abuse in Honduras as examples.

All of the Honduran newspapers are said to be biased. Unfortunately, it is not only political bias, but there are rumors that reporters are actually bought off by third parties to give a story a certain slant, or to not write about it all. Some reporters have been physically threatened and others have become very rich − 'they' say.

Huge government advertising contracts also have the expected affect on the newspaper's point of view. Reporters have the disadvantage that politicians can simply refuse to speak with them, making it very difficult to give a complete and balanced story. The country's defamation laws are barbaric, where maintaining one's "honor" carries more weight by law than the truth in the courts. Truth is not a legal defense!

Right now, La Prensa is on the outs with the current government, so I feel that we are getting more of the nitty-gritty of what is really going on in this country. I suppose that if the nationalists win the next election, I should switch to another newspaper so I don't get the sugar-coated news.

I've read some good articles in La Tribuna, but not enough to even recognize what their leanings are. El Tiempo is a rag which no self-respecting person should read is owned by one of the most powerful people in Honduras and the articles don't always seem to reflect reality. Proceso Digital, an online newspaper, sometimes has some breaking stories, though usually not in-depth. is another online news source, not your typical mainstream media, but often has exposés about corruption and the plight of workers. Honduras This Week is the only English-language newspaper and doesn't cover the daily news.

Every now and then La Prensa really goofs, especially when it comes to statistics. La Prensa needs a math checker. The reporters apparently do not know how to calculate percentages. I've seen some huge errors. The problem is that often they don't print the underlying numbers so all the public has to go on is the stunning headline stating "120% increase in xxxx!" It puts doubts in my mind about other 'facts' that I've read.

One example of math errors was the electric rate increase of a few months ago. Prior to the increases, we paid the state fixed rate per kilowatt hour plus a fuel adjustment of 53% of the fixed rate. In January the fuel adjustment was adjusted upward to 75%. In May, the fuel adjustment was increased again to 120%, representing an overall increase in the cost of electricity to consumers of approximately 44% (220%/153%).

Yes, that is a lot, however, La Prensa published numerous articles in May and June stating that the cost of electricity was going to or had increased by 120%. Absolutely inaccurate. I cringed with embarrassment for them every time I read that.

Another recent article states that the minimum monthly wage for government employees was increasing from L.3,000 lempiras to L.5,500, "which signifies an adjustment of 70%." Nope. One of those numbers is wrong and apparently the newspaper doesn't think it important to check calculations.

The other day, I read an article titled "Honduras − highest fuel prices in Central America". I looked over the tables and with the exception of Panama, Honduras actually had the lowest fuel prices in Central America, not by much, but lower nonetheless. Now that is shoddy reporting or at least shoddy headlining! The point should have been that Honduras had the highest tax rates on gas, but the overall prices were right in line with all the other CA countries.

La Prensa recently redesigned their website and I'm having a lot of problems with that. I'm hoping these are temporary problems, but for now ALL of the links to their archives prior to August 2008 are broken − meaning that the Blogicito now has about 300-400 bad links for which Google will punish ME! They also are not publishing all the printed photos on the website and I can't figure out how to access their photo archives as I had been able to before.

One really interesting change is that they now have is commenting on every article, as well as a "blog" section which gets a lot of participation from readers. This I really like! It's so interesting to me to read a broad range of Honduran opinions on the articles. Also interesting is that my line of thinking is not so different from many of those Honduran readers who comment. I also see that spelling and punctuation is a country-wide issue.

Since Honduras so rarely makes any other country's newspapers unless it is a hurricane, a prison massacre, or a US murder of or by a Honduran, I have to work with what we have, so for now that is La Prensa.
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