Friday, September 22, 2017

[Editorial] A Vigil for Democracy: A New Look for the Same Truth



By on June 29, 2017

This edition of Caribbean Business that you are holding in your hands has undergone an overhaul—call it CB 3.0; it is decidedly not your grandfather’s Caribbean Business. A team led by Editor in Chief Heiko Faass and Art Director Sebastián Romero, together with graphic artists Dennis Chaparro, Iván Ramírez and Annie Maldonado, and a production team headed by Carlos Laboy and Blanca Santiago, worked together to bring this publication to the next level. Expect further transformations over the coming weeks.

Underpinning the new look is a tradition of excellence in journalism that has been a hallmark of this newspaper dating back to its founding nearly 45 years ago.

We remain committed to the tenets of journalism that are contained in the “Elements of Journalism” by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, a book that gathers the findings of the Project for Excellence in Journalism that drew upon hundreds of interviews with editors that resulted in 12 content studies. In essence, they affirmed the role of journalists in the face of the pressure that arose from market forces at the turn of this century that persist to this day.

In their exploratory tome, Kovach and Rosenstiel laid out a list of overriding principles that journalists agree upon and which citizens have a right to expect.

To fulfill this task, they vowed: “Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth; its first loyalty is to the citizens; journalism’s essence is an intense discipline of verification; its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover; it must serve as an independent monitor of power; it must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise; it must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant; it must keep the news comprehensive and proportional; and journalists must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.”

Those are principles we continue to hold dear. Those tenets are of the utmost importance at this critical juncture in Puerto Rico’s history because there is no way out from the depths of depression without a beacon to show the way. “The first element of journalism is to provide the people with information they need to be free and self-governing.” It will take hard reporting and an intense discipline of verification to discern the truth when it undergoes radical hyper-mitosis exacted by hundreds of competing interests.

Perhaps former Emergency Manager for Detroit Kevyn Orr put it best during a conference in Washington, D.C., when he said: “There are, however, common elements that are present in the [debt-]restructuring process.” The first stage, which Orr called initiation, is “characterized by fast and furious news, most of which will be inaccurate—information will not be accurate because parts of the discussions being held will not be shared with the general public or with the press.”

Orr was right. As this newspaper was going to press, the Financial Oversight & Management Board created by the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management & Economic Stability Act (Promesa) to oversee the island’s financial affairs, admitted to the inevitability of the furlough of government employees that Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares said could be avoided. Thus, the doublespeak in the oversight board’s letter to Gov. Rosselló—we will allow you to avoid the furlough if you can demonstrate that the fiscal plan generates the $200 million reserve—brought to the forefront the truth that they knew all along, but had to keep it under wraps as it would have dire political consequences in the run-up to a status plebiscite.

The Puerto Rico Coliseum (File photo)

What will we discover next?—that El Choliseo is gift wrapped for bond insurer Assured or that the toll revenues from Highway 66 might go into the coffers of bond insurer Ambac? It happened in Detroit—it could happen in Puerto Rico. “Entre broma y broma la verdad se asoma.” We will keep a watchful eye.

A letter to this journal from the Association of Financial Guaranty Institutions touted the reporting and editorial writing in this newspaper as “essential reading that keeps the financial community and those beyond Puerto Rico’s shores well-informed.” We make a solemn promise to continue working for our readers in this newspaper’s new stage and vow to report the truth as best we know it at such a critical juncture in Puerto Rico’s history.

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