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The Plane Crash and Cuba’s Local Journalism

By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant, Images, media, News and Views Add comments

My FBfr Tersites D. called our attention to the Granma paper’s front page, the morning after the plane crash of the Santiago-Havana AeroCaribbean flight that killed sixty-eight people. Where is the news?  This was one more instance of the Communist Party’s opacity. It is well known that rarely a news brief on someone’s death will detail the actual cause (e.g. dying after “a long and troublesome illness” is typically an euphemism for cancer). But this seems to top it all, and Tersites’ FBfrs rightfully shook their heads. The callousness of reducing such a catastrophe into an administrative technicality, removing any hint of human emotion, caused not so much surprise as sorrow; and sorrow not only for the victims of the plane but also for those of the paper (its readers).

Contrast that with the local Escambray paper of Sancti Spirtius, the nearest city to the crash. Like the Granma, it is also the voice of the Communist Party, but at the provincial level. Escambray was the first to twitter the news; by 9pm Eastern the bare information about the crash of the Santiago-Havana airliner had made it around the Twitter-world. Very soon after, the newspaper’s webpage begun to offer news as they trickled in.  Local papers of this kind typically carry local news that do not make it to the Granma, but their tone and approach is pretty much the same. In this case, the difference is dramatic, and it is not only a matter of aesthetics, which differentiate these two publications like night and day. While the national paper does not even include the news as news, Escambray paper gives it all, offering all available details, including graphic images occupying several pages.

That the Granma buries its head in the sand is not news. It is the voice of the bureaucracy, always removed from every day life. Its place seems to have been taken up by Cubadebate, which did keep web readers (therefore few Cubans) informed. The good news is that there is local reporting. That despite the crisis of journalism, particularly in printed form, this local paper, Escambray, displays a reporting that values “being there,” conveying to readers what is happening as is happening.

UPDATE (Nov. 8): For a very well narrated and very emotional account of what area residents heard and saw, including details about the activities in which various people were engaged in that very same moment and what they did immediately after, see today’s article in Escambray, “La Noche que Lloró Mayábuna,” which includes photos.

4 Responses to “The Plane Crash and Cuba’s Local Journalism”

  1. Rebecca Bodenheimer Says:

    I had the exact same reaction when I saw the online version of the Granma that morning – I expected the crash to be all over the home page, but almost nothing! And the scope of this tragedy is huge in Cuba because these things happen so infrequently. Thanks for calling people’s attention to this issue!

  2. Grete Viddal Says:

    Whew, yes, Ariana, the difference between Granma and the local paper is striking!

  3. Mabel LLevat Says:

    Bien por los Spirituanos que siempre han sido abanderados a la hora de cuestionar la historia oficial

  4. La lista de los muertos (updated) | Penúltimos Días Says:

    […] Coincido con Ariana en que este reportaje de Escambray es de lo poco aceptable que salió en la prensa cubana sobre el […]

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