Buenos Aires Times

opinion and analysis JORGE FONTEVECCHIA ON PERFIL’S NEW PROJECT

A tribute to the Buenos Aires Herald

Just one month after the 141-year-old English newspaper disappeared, Perfil is launching what aspires to be its successor.

Wednesday 4 October, 2017
Buenos Aires Times' first front page.
Buenos Aires Times' first front page. Foto:Cedoc.

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Just one month since the disappearance of the Buenos Aires Herald, Perfil is launching what aspires to be its successor: the Buenos Aires Times.

There has been a joke in the editorial department: the destiny of every former editor of the Buenos Aires Herald newspaper upon retirement was to write for Editorial Perfil. As had happened with James Neilson, assessing the political panorama for the magazine Noticias since its foundation; with Andrew Graham-Yooll, the distinguished ombudsman of the newspaper PERFIL; and with the mythical Robert Cox, who has for decades been a sporadic columnist for Noticias and PERFIL, as well as a postgraduate professor of investigative journalism for Editorial Perfil.

It’s that we were united by an ideology that was strange for Argentina: liberals of the left, yet absolutely normal and in most cases a majority – as with in the United States with the Democratic Party and in England with the Labour Party. It’s a position sometimes translated into Argentine political categories as “rightist in the economical, moderate in the political, and leftist in the cultural,” although within the United States and England it would also be considered as “leftist” in the economical sense.

But even beyond our political, economic and social positions, we were drawn to the Buenos Aires Herald by an idea of journalism that is also normal in United States but that in Argentina, with our “delegative democracies,” has resulted in something almost anarchical. Probably also there is a certain degree of detachment from conventions that at times seem eccentric – James Neilson has lived for decades, with almost no contact with urban life, in the woods of Pinamar – and sometimes even reckless: Robert Cox risked his life like no-one did during the military dictatorship.

And it was the dictatorship that brought our lives together forever. The Buenos Aires Herald was the first ­– and for a long time, the only – press outlet that reported on the illegal detention of people who became desaparecidos. For disregarding the prohibitions of doing so, Robert Cox himself was kidnapped in 1977, though the administration of former US president Jimmy Carter managed to set him free. In 1979 it was my turn to be illegally detained under the orders of the same man who had detained him: the head of the First Army Corps, the brutal general Guillermo Suarez Mason, dubbed “the Butcher of El Olimpo,” a reference to the detention and extermination camp (700 of the camps’ 750 prisoners died there). And Cox saved my life because he published news of my disappearance immediately in the Buenos Aires Herald, causing the American news agencies Associated Press and United Press to reproduce in their English wires the news that could then be published in many newspapers in the United States, generating the same wave of international pressure that had already saved Cox himself two years earlier.

A few months later, in 1979, Cox had to exile himself and went to conduct the Daily News and Courier, from Charleston in South Carolina. Around the same time, he received the Maria Moors Cabot Prize from Columbia University. Twenty years later, in 1997, it was Cox himself who announced to me ­­­– I suppose in part due to his own initiative – that Columbia University had decided to award me with the same prize.

And again Robert Cox stood up for me when during the Kirchnerite years, when in the media outlets financed by that government, a rumour was spread that I had never been detained and that, on the contrary, I had supported the dictatorship. It cannot be more paradoxical that the main accumulator of Kirchnerite media, Sergio Szpolski, was the same serial killer who had destroyed most of these outlets, among them the Buenos Aires Herald, which he emptied by selling its building, in addition to Veintitres magazine, the Tiempo Argentino newspaper and the radio station América.  

Szpolski later sold the Buenos Aires Herald and its last owner was Grupo Indalo, led by Cristobal Lopez and Fabian de Sousa. The Herald published its last weekly edition (it had been released every Friday since ending its run as a daily) last July 31. The Buenos Aires Herald was founded in 1876 and was the longest-running local newspaper along with La Prensa (founded in 1869) and La Nación (1870).

Just one month on since the disappearance of the Buenos Aires Herald, Editorial Perfil has what aspires to be its successor, the Buenos Aires Times, a tribute to the Herald and its valiant directors: Cox, Nielson and Graham-Yooll, who have returned to write their columns its first issue, so that history does not end but continue.

Another romantic touch of the close Herald-Perfil decades-long relationship is that the first job my son Agustino had as a journalist was working in the editorial department of the Buenos Aires Herald some 10 years ago, during three months of vacation time he had during his time at university. The following year, again during his vacation time, he also worked for three months at the La Nacion newspaper, but he remembers his times at the Herald with greater nostalgia because, being a very small newspaper, they would even let him write on the front page.

Since Agustino has attended North American schools since kindergarten (along with his brother Alan, who was born in United States during my exile at the end of the military dictatorship) and graduated in Economics and Philosophy from New York University and in Sociology from Columbia University, and considering that after graduation he worked for five years as a journalist for Forbes magazine in New York, it is natural that he should be in charge of a publication in the English language. For me, it is of great personal satisfaction to give some continuity to this legendary newspaper in English that contributed so much to the return of democracy in Argentina.

Beyond the nostalgia, the Buenos Aires Times that was born September 2, 2017, on paper aspires to be the Argentine journalism website in the English-language, both for expatriates living in the country and for the international diplomatic and business community from abroad that needs informed about this country in a universal language. And soon, the columnists of Perfil who write in Spanish will also begin to be translated into that language too.

A new newspaper is always good news.

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