One journalist's musings about the beautiful, bizarre world in which we live
The cold white glow of fluorescent lights and computer screens brighten the room. The clickety-clacking of fingers on keys echos through the air. When the door to a stairway opens, the scent of ink wafts into the office.
Welcome to ABC Color, one of Paraguay’s most powerful dailies.
Distributed across the country, people have been flipping through its pages since 1967.
On Monday – three days after the Paraguay president, Fernando Lugo, was impeached – my partner, another family member and I took a tour of the office with Pedro Gómez Silgueira, a journalist who has been working with ABC for 18 years.
“We are starting really early in the morning, and for most of the day we’re in the streets,” he said. “The journalists go to the streets and look for the information, in places where there are protests, sessions, meetings, trying to follow the information.”
He said the team has been working really late into the nights, waiting for the last bits of news so they can put them into print stories.
And in situations like the Paraguayan impeachment, where the information and discourse is changing so quickly that it is hard to keep up, keeping up can be difficult.
“Always, there’s a lot of confusion; one person tells you one thing, the other tells you another,” Gómez Silgueira said. “So what you try to do is balance […] And also, it’s a kind of a question of feeling, as a daily cannot publish just anything. You have to make sure that what a person is saying is not absurd, or ridiculous. One has to make sure that there is logic.”
He also said there is no censorship coming from the government, noting a law in the constitution which blocks officials from doing so. He noted that the previous government tried to put laws in place that could have censored journalists, but the attempts failed.
* * *
In general, ABC Color has had quite the history of conflict, both with society and governments.
Also, from March 22, 1984 to March 22, 1989, the newspaper was closed for criticizing Alfredo Stroessner’s dictatorship.
Hanging on a wall near the pagination room’s door is a picture from February 3, 1989 – the day Alfredo Stroessner‘s dictatorship fell. The photo shows a tank rolling down a street, while an ABC station wagon waits on the corner. Gómez Silgueira pointed out that the newspaper couldn’t publish the picture, as it was not printing at the time.
Framed and hanging on another wall are two t-shirts that say “ABC Lies” in Paraguay’s two official languages, Spanish and Guaraní. A citizens’ group of the same name started up a few years ago, and according to their website they believe the daily spreads lies and manipulates the truth.
More recently, Atilio Borón published an article on his blog and with TeleSUR this week, with allegations of heavy corruption in the newspaper’s upper echelons.
* * *
Whatever your opinion, it is impossible to deny the impact ABC Color – the first tabloid-style paper and first daily in colour in Paraguay – has had on its country.
The print edition is delivered from border to border. Its website is one of Paraguay’s most popular ones. And at a time when Paraguay was hitting front pages around the world, it became one of the prime fountains of information about the landlocked nation and its government.