Splitting up my findings into two blog posts should make it a bit easier to digest. I’ll start right off with Argentina and Venezuela, two countries with complex and tense histories with the United States.
In Argentina, the ideological sympathies of each paper are relatively clear from the content and form of the coverage. In the case of Página/12, a left-leaning publication that tends to support the policies of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, their coverage is slanted in President Obama’s favor. This article details Obama’s redistributive tax policies intended to shift more of the tax burden onto wealthy Americans, for example, while this piece profiles San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, who will deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in September. This is not to say that writers for the paper are uniformly in approval of the President; many Argentine thinkers believe, as José Pablo Feinmann points out in his scathing opinion, that the US is a “country of the right,” whether Democrat or Republican. Nevertheless, he sees Obama as a much more progressive president than his predecessor and a preferable option to Latin American interests than Governor Romney.
The opposite is true for Clarín, the publication of Argentina’s largest media empire and a staunch bastion of conservative opposition to Kirchner. As might be expected, Clarín gives a lot of attention to Romney and his positions, lauding his pick of Paul Ryan as VP, contrasting his views with President Obama’s, and generally providing more coverage of his candidacy than Página/12. This note announced his July tour of Europe, and this article concerned Romney’s strong retort to Obama’s view that Hugo Chávez’ government in Venezuela does not represent a significant threat to the national security of the United States. Overall, Clarín tends to make Romney appear strong and capable, and Obama as relatively weak and unprepared for leadership.
Given the political stances of the Argentine papers, these findings are not particularly surprising. The situation in Venezuela is more complex. Últimas Noticias, a publication relatively friendly to President Hugo Chávez, has very scant substantial coverage of the US elections. Rather than reporting on poll numbers, positions on issues, or campaign errors, this paper has a number of what US editors might call “human-interest” pieces. Writers submit profiles of Michelle Obama as a key figure in her husband’s campaign, or report on Michael Jordan’s fundraising efforts for the Obama camp. And despite dozens of updates on other breaking international news items (for example, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s efforts to find asylum in Ecuador) there are no stories on Romney’s pick for VP or the Obama team’s recent sniping over Romney’s tax returns. I can only speculate on why this paper has so little coverage of the election in comparison to the Argentine papers and fellow Venezuelan publications (see below). If Últimas Noticias is indeed friendlier to Chávez, it may be an effort to reduce the often heavy focus on events in the United States that is common to other Latin American media.
The Venezuelan El Universal, not to be confused with the Mexican paper of the same name that I’ll discuss in the next post, appears to have more in common with Clarín than Últimas Noticias when it comes to political leanings. It does have more substantial coverage of the US elections, and like Clarín this coverage is favorable to Mitt Romney. El Universal did report on Ryan’s selection and his promise to restore America’s greatness, as well as the Romney campaign’s success in outraising Obama in contributions. This article describes a Romney speech where he accused Obama of fostering a “culture of dependency” and mishandling social security and programs like Medicare. As an interesting neutral piece, I was struck by an article detailing CNN correspondent Candy Crowley’s selection to moderate one of three planned presidential debates, the first time a woman has received this honor in about twenty years. It stuck out because I hadn’t seen this story even in the major American media outlets.
The major trend that emerges from the Argentine and Venezuelan cases is the importance of political bias in what stories an editorial staff chooses to write and how they choose to portray events. This is nothing new or surprising, as any reading of politically opposed media in the US will show the same thing. Página/12 publishes an opinion piece attacking Glenn Beck, while Clarín voices its agreement with Romney’s views on Hugo Chávez. Últimas Noticias voices a disapproval of US policy by covering the election as little as possible, while El Universal flaunts Chávez by highlighting the Romney campaign’s successes. Media outlets everywhere seem to have some common tactics and methods to depict different versions of events.
To be continued in Post #3…