Monday, February 1, 2010
As someone who reports on Latin America for international media outlets, I can attest to the fact that it is often a struggle to get people interested in the happenings of this region. Ask any of my colleagues and they’ll tell you the same. Thankfully, I think we succeed more than we fail in getting the good stories out there. However, I’m starting to get a bit f-ing tired of stupid stories from this region generating more headlines than ones of substance. This is a global news trend these days, as people seem to be getting stupider, and worse, reveling in their increased apathy. In my own experience, there have been several instances recently where important stories that I covered had to compete with more salacious ones for headlines.
The most recent example occurred last week when President Cristina Kirchner grossed out the world when she announced that “eating pork can make your sex life better.” I don’t really know what to say to that (and many others have already commented) but if Argentines often wonder why their country is not taken seriously in some circles, the fact that their head of state gushes publicly about bacon and boffing could be a possible explanation.
Anyway, in the same days that that pork story was making its way through the news cycle and blogosphere, there were at least two other important stories happening in Argentina that actually did have international relevance. First, the ongoing saga of the Argentine Central Bank and second, the plight of Argentine families trying to get their adopted Haitian children out of Haiti, without the assistance of the Argentine government. I reported on the latter for CNN. Did my story get good feedback and response? Yes. Did it help bring those orphans home? That remains to be seen. Did the Haiti story garner as many headlines as Cristina’s pork posturing? No, of course not. And therein lies the problem. Dumb and sex sells. And that really sucks.
The same thing happened back in December when two gay Argentine men were planning their wedding in Buenos Aires, which would have made them the first same-sex married couple in Latin America. Again, an important story. What happened? A 38-year-old former Miss Argentina, Solange Mognano (above), died from complications from ass-enhancement surgery the same week. Guess which one got more attention on Google News?
And then of course, there is South Carolina governor Mark Sanford and his tryst with Argentine Maria Belen Chapur. Yes, it was newsworthy because a state governor disappeared for several days and then admitted he was having an affair. But did it deserve the all-out media frenzy that it received (and is still receiving) in the U.S. and worldwide? Definitely not. I got more damn phone calls from American media outlets asking me to work for them on that story than any other story in years. Crazy. I did one day of work reporting on Ms. Chapur and then essentially made myself scarce as the stakeout for her continued. I’m not a paparazzi.
I think the real issue here is that many U.S. and European-centric media have a hard time distinguishing between the varied cultures and politics of Latin America, and therefore when a story breaks that eliminates the need to explain these differences (read:sex), then hey, let’s just cover that. I find it insulting and infuriating. And I’m sure it’s only gonna get worse.
Posted by Brian Byrnes at 3:43 PM