|Arsenio Escolar, photo by 20minutos|
HUESCA, Spain -- At first, there was timid, nervous applause from the journalists, professors, and students who were listening to harsh criticism from a respected colleague, Arsenio Escolar, the editor of 20minutos, a free distribution daily that is one of Spain's major digital outlets.
Maybe they were recognizing themselves among those who were being criticized.
In a call to arms, Escolar urged Spanish journalists to stop being so obsequious to the powerful and to call attention to growing inequality and poverty.
"We need a journalism that is fair, transparent, distant from power, ethical, and social," he concluded in the inaugural address at the XVI Digital Journalism Congress in this resort town in northeast Spain.
He commented on the conference's logo that showed a digital finger poking the eye of a politician (left) and said that it could also be applied to the press itself. "We need to stick a finger in the eye of journalism and the journalists," he said.
He criticized himself and his colleagues for not leading the charge against inequality, discrimination, and the growing gap between the rich and poor. So he proposed a new 10 commandments for journalists and the news media:
2. If you make a mistake, fix it. Be transparent and put the correction in a prominent place. Don't bury it where the public won't see it.
3. Be careful with gifts and junkets. So you take a trip to an exotic place with politicians, consider telling your readers how much your expenses were and point out that they, the taxpayers, were footing the bill.
4. We need to be transparent about who is behind our media. Who are the shareholders, and, if they are corporations or partnerships, who are the shareholders of those entities.
5. No to hidden subsidies from government entities. In Spain it is common for news organizations to receive a large percentage of their advertising from government, and this amounts to billions of euros, Escolar said. Politicians use advertising to reward friendly coverage and punish opposition news media by pulling their ads. He urged all news organizations to reveal the quantity and the source of this advertising because ultimately the taxpayers are paying the bill.
6. No to hidden subsidies that come disguised as advertising government programs for linguistic diversity, innovation, etc.
7. No to ads for escort services that are thinly disguised prostitution. Escolar criticized the hypocrisy of media that proclaim the dignity of women and defend human rights but in the back pages publish hundreds of lucrative ads behind which are criminal gangs, human traffickers, and extorsionists.
8. No to the stereotype of print journalism as outdated, obsolete, of low quality while proclaiming everything digital as modern, innovative, and excellent.
9. To young journalists, learn how to use your native language. You may be good at technology and software and social networks, but if you can't spell and write grammatically in Spanish, you are abusing the most powerful tool journalists have -- language.
10. No to obsequious, self-satisfied, complacent, opaque journalism. "We need journalism that is critical, fair, transparent, distant from power, ethical, and social."
At the end of Escolar's speech, the timid applause had become a powerful ovation.
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