Who defends the reader?
[Leer en español.]
WHO DEFENDS THE READER? One of the best examples of being on the reader's side is that of Spain's El País. And here in Chile the daily La Tercera, one of the oldest and most important papers in the country, follows its lead.
In the editorial page of the paper you'll find the "Reader's Representative" section, a space dedicated to receiving and processing the complaints of anyone who reads the newspaper. La Tercera is not the first paper to do this. In fact, the oldest case seems to be Japan's The Yomiuri Shimbun, which opened a portion of its pages to its readers in 1951. But in Chile, no one edits these reader complaints.
Of course, today readers can vent their frustrations via social media, and that goes on constantly. Any error, omission, or bald-faced lie is confronted by immediate denunciations on Twitter and Facebook, including denunciations by genuine media watchdogs. Blogs and sites that record and decry media mistakes are proliferating, in fact. But very few media outlets dare to place in their own pages or give their precious space over to these unpleasant reader grievances and announcements.
Let's take a look at three recent cases in the "Reader's Representative" section of La Tercera in recent weeks:
1. Evangelicals: The paper recognized that it had committed a major editorial injustice by giving miniscule coverage - just one photo and a caption - to the evangelical Te Deum, in comparison to the two full pages given to the Catholic Te Deum, one week after the event. The Reader's Representative admitted the paper had discriminated against one of the country's minorities (Catholics represent approximately 70% of the population; evangelicals about 18%).
2. Students: The father of high school student who has been part of the 5-month-old education strike complained about erroneous coverage on both the front page and in the main report. The paper reported that as police left the school building, there was an altercation between students and security forces. The reader pointed out that there was ample evidence, including video broadcast on television news and even in other dailies, that not only was there no clash, there was in fact a very careful lack of force in the process. The Reader's Representative admitted that there could have been a factual error in their reporting of the event.
3. City Residents: A group of neighbors in the Italia neighborhood, in the center of Santiago, went public with their disagreement over how La Tercera characterized the renovations they were planning for their neighborhood. The paper favorably reported that, following the renovations, the new neighborhood would be a "Little Bronx". The readers complained because none of their objections were included in the report. Not a single reporter had bothered to speak with them, given that they objected to the project.