In the battle against the coronavirus pandemic, where the first effect has been the forced confinement of millions of citizens, the traditional printed press has barely survived on paid subscriptions and decimated advertising revenues.
In three months of total or partial quarantines that have led to the ruin or severe state of collapse of the productive activity of many companies, the only alternative that the newspapers have is to starve or survive at the cost of the greatest financial sacrifices, but without high hopes.
Many have stopped printing and circulating. For this, they’ve had to resort to the digital platform, their salvation feet and best trench so far, waiting for a future that certainly will tell whether the suspensions of physical editions were final or temporary.
This reality seems similar to the context of another war, although in practice it’s different from the current one where what we face is a health threat that suddenly altered the rhythm of our society, but in which the independent press was also forced to keep a long silence for months.
I am referring to the war conflict of April 1965 in our country, which unexpectedly caused the three main traditional Dominican newspapers (the LISTIN DIARIO, La Informacion and El Caribe) to collapse for six months.
The hard combat between revolutionary constitutional forces and invading foreign troops that came to the aid of the army, the navy and aviation, made it impossible for the Listin and El Caribe to release their normal editions, because of the strong militarized mindset and armed civilians.
There were no objective conditions to operate, as the lives of the personnel were at risk. Like it happens now the case, in a sense. By not producing income, contractual obligations to workers, banks, and suppliers were exacerbated to the extreme. There was no other route for the newspapers other than to “disappear” from the streets.
From April 29th to November 2nd of 1965, these companies were closed, though the warring sides edited at least four publications with minimal paging to extend their confrontation onto the media world. There was no independent press. Therefore, our society was no longer adequately informed.
There were no internet or digital platforms back then, unlike now, that helped prevent or cushion the downfall of the traditional media. By that time, 55 years ago today, the beaming light of the free press dried out. But there was once again that gleam that brought back society, with more energy and determination. Under this legacy of struggle and determination is where lies the precedent we’re now admiring, which encourages us to continue subsisting, no matter how hard the circumstances become. In this case, it’s against the infamous and unexpected novel coronavirus we’re ought to defeat.
– Translated from Spanish by Randy Rodriguez.