Bartolomé Mitre, the director of the newspaper La Nación, died on Wednesday, missing his 80th birthday this coming Thursday by one week and the bicentenary of the birth of the original Bartolomé Mitre – his great-grandfather, president of Argentina from 1862 to 1868 and the founder of the newspaper in 1870 – by one year.
He had suffered health complications for some years, after receiving a kidney transplant in 2011, and had been hospitalised a few days before his passing.
From his entry into the family newspaper in 1966, two years after graduating in law from UBA Buenos Aires University. Mitre always showed more interest in the administrative side than in the newsroom, which he left to others. He steadily climbed managerial echelons until becoming director in 1982 upon the death of his namesake father, thus heading the newspaper throughout the entirety of this current democratic era.
Once at the helm, his interests extended further afield, being highly active in the ADEPA grouping of Argentine media and sitting on the board of directors of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA). In these forums he joined his voice to the defence of the freedom of the press and expression, receiving numerous international awards.
“We’ve lost a soldier but gained a legacy,” commented IAPA president Christopher Barnes on hearing of Mitre’s passing.
Mitre inherited a downtown cut-and-paste newsroom with Underwood typewriters in 1982, buying its first computer a few years later, and now leaves a Vicente López-based multimedia holding whose television channel is arguably overtaking the newspaper in importance.
The news line has also shifted from the conservative and Catholic leanings dominant in the last century to a more generally liberal approach.
But there have been throwbacks – of all the possible consequences of the upset win of the centre-right, pro-market Mauricio Macri in 2015, La Nación’s editorial the day after (November 23) opted to single out the increased hopes that military officers accused of human rights violations during the 1976-1983 juntas might leave prison. What has been more consistent has been a generally hostile attitude towards the Peronist governments ruling Argentina during 25 of the 38 Mitre years (perhaps only relaxed during the Carlos Menem presidency, although more due to his economy minister).
Yet Mitre remained above the day-to-day newsroom, spending much of his time abroad and in the country (he was a keen polo player until late in life). He leaves a widow Nequi Galotti and five children (three daughters and two sons, the elder of whom is inevitably named Bartolomé).
The late publisher represented the fourth generation of the Mitre family to lead the newspaper, but it unlikely another will follow in his place, local reports said Wednesday. As Infobae observed Wednesday, La Nación will continue but its next director will no longer bear the name and surname of its founder.