The Buenos Aires Herald, Latin America’s oldest English-language daily newspaper, is transitioning to a weekly publication. Its last daily print edition was published on Oct. 26.
Like many around the world, the Herald’s print edition appears to be another victim of changes in news offerings and consumption, mainly among young people who want free, digital news.
In an editorial printed in the final edition, the paper wrote: “The Herald has been facing difficulties for a while now and though our future incarnation has been painted as a new challenge and an exciting offering to the market, it would be foolish to deny that such a dramatic change comes at a huge cost, or that it also reflects a media industry in crisis.”
The paper highlighted the uniqueness of this problem in Argentina, “where modifications to government-paid advertising, its distribution and the recession are exacerbating the changes at a rapid pace.” They cited union estimates that about 2,000 journalists in Argentina could lose jobs this year.
The editorial said that employees learned of the final decision, made by majority-owner Grupo Indalo, to become a weekly publication on Oct. 19. Subsequently, a majority of the employees at the paper were notified they would lose their jobs, it added.
Media columnist Marcelo J. García wrote in the Oct. 26 edition, that in addition to being affected by the digital transformation of news, “The Herald was also a victim of Argentina’s irrational media war.”
He commented, “Argentina’s press corps…has been too busy with its own fratricidal battle of factions over the last few years rather than concentrating on the larger war of guild survival.” He also highlighted reliance on official advertising that is “distributed arbitrarily.”
In analysis of changing ownership of the paper in the last decade, García noted that once Grupo Indalo took over in February 2015 it took a “year and a half to fold the paper’s daily newsroom tradition without putting up a real fight to save it.” Grupo Indalo is an Argentine corporation whose businesses include media, petroleum and food companies, among others.
The paper’s weekly edition will begin on Nov. 4, but there is not much more information about the newspaper’s future, García said.
Workers from the Herald, as well as Indalo-owned magazine Ámbito Financiero and newspaper El Argentino, released a statement expressing solidarity with the 14 colleagues dismissed from the once-daily newspaper.
The employees criticized recent ads run to explain the cessation of the daily edition that had the message “Good News, it’s Friday.” As noted by The Bubble, some employees photo-shopped the images to read “Good news, you’re fired” and posted them in the office.
The group asked for layoffs to stop at the media companies and for its “full enjoyment of freedom of association.”
The Herald was founded in 1876 by Scottish immigrant William Cathcart and began as a single-sheet, weekly paper, according to the paper’s website. It started publishing on a semi-daily basis the following year after being purchased by D.W. Lowe of the United States. It then adhered to a more strict daily schedule starting in 1913. The paper went through various changes in owners and editors over the years who played roles in political negotiations and were targets of government repression, the site explained.
Journalist Robert Cox was editor of the Herald during the years of the country’s “Dirty War” (1976-1983), and is now regarded for his criticism of the regime and work to uncover human rights abuses, including forced disappearances. Cox was forced into exile due to this coverage. The paper was awarded the prestigious Maria Moors Cabot Prize for outstanding reporting on Latin America in 1976.
According to Grupo Ámbito, 60 percent of which is owned by Grupo Indalo, the Herald has more than 160,000 unique users and 1 million page views per month. The daily circulation is 29,000 from Monday to Saturday and 35,000 on Sunday.
Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.