SPJ now has an International Journalism Community!

SPJ_International-Committee_LogoI am excited to announce that SPJ has added a new community – the International Journalism Community - our third community since trying the concept out last year. The International Journalism Community joins the Freelance and Digital Communities as a new way to reach out to and connect our members.

The International Journalism community is being lead by Carlos Restrepo, a member of the St. Louis Pro Chapter, who has agreed to get things started. We’ve already heard from 15 or so interested volunteers, including SPJ members who were involved with the International Journalism Committee previously. We welcome their expertise, ideas and enthusiasm for this topic which seems to grow in importance each day.

Next steps:  Restrepo will email members who have indicated their interest and ask for their ideas and goals. Together the community will choose goals and draft a master plan for achieving those goals. If you’d like to be involved, contact Carlos directly. As things ramp up, follow the community on Twitter.

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Don’t forget the tilde: New Mexican president is Enrique Peña Nieto

By Robert Buckman

Because Mexico’s new president-elect, who will be sworn in on Dec. 1, is destined to be in our news for the next 6½ years, we should at least spell his name correctly. It’s Enrique Peña Nieto, not Enrique Pena Nieto.

I’ve conducted a two-day check of major news websites, with interestingly mixed results.  The AP, Reuters, USA Today and presumably other Gannett papers, ABC, CBS, NBC/MSNBC, Fox News, NPR, the Houston Chronicle, the Chicago Tribune, The Washington Times and The Huffington Post are all doing it wrong.

But The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, CNN, Time, Newsweek/The Daily Beast and The Economist are doing it right.

Incredibly, The Miami Herald, which publishes a Spanish-language edition, El Nuevo Herald, and is supposed to know better, is doing it both ways! Its published reports from the AP have it wrong, while those from the McClatchy News Service spell it correctly. In one story alone, it was correct in the subhead and the lede, but wrong in the cutline and the teasers.

An interesting finding of this unscientific content analysis is that the same AP stories in which it is spelled without the tilde are published in The Washington Post and The Dallas Morning News with the tilde, which means the desk people can get it right if they choose to do so. So can the AP and Reuters people, for that matter, because each has a Spanish-language service in which they have to spell it correctly, so obviously they know how.

The Houston Chronicle’s website also has Spanish translations that spell it correctly.

So what’s the big deal over that tilde, ethnocentrists may snort. The big deal is that without it, the name “Pena” is as inaccurately spelled as Obana. In both cases, the misspelling also change the pronunciation. And we’re supposed to spell and pronounce names correctly in journalism, aren’t we?

About 15 years ago, I instructed the desks at the Mac-using Advocate in Baton Rouge and Daily Advertiser in Lafayette how to write El Niño instead of El Nino. They’ve been doing it right ever since. So it can be done. But their websites both have “Pena Nieto” because they defaulted to the AP for world news.

It’s really easy to make the “ñ” on a Mac. Hold down the option key, hit the N key, let go of both, hit the N again and voila, ñ.

Different PCs seem to have different systems. The most common one for the “ñ” is alt+164. Others have a directory of foreign characters, including Greek letters for mathematical formulas and I guess fraternity newsletters, stashed somewhere in the file folder. But it’s doable if you just find it.

The difference between using the tilde or omitting it is a difference not only in pronunciation, but often in meaning.

“Peña” (pronounced PANE-ya, for you broadcast folks) is a common Hispanic surname, i.e., Tony Peña Jr. of the Boston Red Sox. The common noun “pena” (PAY-na) means emotional pain, as in Siento pena por ti (roughly, I feel your pain) or pity, as in, Que pena (what a pity).

I heard NBC’s Kate Snow and all the NPR reporters pronounce Peña Nieto correctly, even as their websites spell it wrong.

Deleting the tilde also can have embarrassing consequences. For example, the word año means year, but the word ano means anus, so if you write “Feliz Ano Nuevo” to impress Hispanic friends next Jan. 1, you are literally wishing them a happy new asshole.

And to head something else off at the pass, don’t think you can get around the tilde problem simply by referring to Peña Nieto on second reference as “Nieto.” Wrong! Nieto is the matronymic, or his mother’s maiden name; Peña is his father’s surname. In Hispanic culture, people often go by both names, as a way to honor Mamá, as well as to distinguish between people with very common names, such as Juan García, who may choose to be identified as Juan García Echinique. Not as many of those around.

It’s purely a personal choice. The incumbent Mexican president chose to go by Felipe Calderón, and his predecessor by Vicente Fox. But their formal names are Vicente Fox Quesada and Felipe Calderón Hinojosa.

I won’t even get into accent marks now, which Time and The Economist do correctly, because the new president doesn’t have one. But the candidate who ran second, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has two. Just as well he lost!

I may be tilde-ing at windmills, but the above-listed media that are doing it correctly are proof that it can and should be done right. Unfortunately, I’ll bet this plea falls on a lot of blind eyes and stubborn minds.

Que pena.

Robert Buckman, Ph.D., is a journalism professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the author of a reference book on Latin America.


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Texas photojournalist missing in Mexico

SPJ’s International Journalism Committee has recently learned of the disappearance of photojournalist Zane Plemmons.

According to the Knight Center’s Journalism in the Americas blog, Plemmons is a freelance photographer who was working for the Mexican newspaper El Debate when he disappeared in Nuevo Laredo a month ago.

The Knight Center describes Mexico as the most dangerous place in the Americas for journalists. It has created a map of recent attacks against members of the news media there.

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Honduran Radio Journalist Killed

Honduran radio journalist Alfredo Villatoro was kidnapped and killed this past week. His body was discovered Tuesday night. CNN reports he was the 22 journalist killed in the country since 2010.

The English language website Honduras News reports President Porfirio Lobo Sosa has offered a financial reward for anyone who has information concerning Villatoro’s murder. He worked for National Radio Honduras.

Carlos Lauría, the Committee to Protect Journalists‘ senior program coordinator for the Americas, said the flow of news in Honduras is being restricted by “a climate of unrelenting hostility toward Honduran journalists.”

SPJ’s International Journalism Committee joins its professional colleagues worldwide in condemning Villatoro’s kidnapping and murder.

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Al Jazeera English Forced to Leave China

Al Jazeera English reported on May 8 that China has refused to renew its correspondent’s press credentials and visa.

Melissa Chan has been AJE’s China correspondent since 2007, but the news organization has been forced to close its bureau in Beijing.

Salah Negm, director of news at Al Jazeera English, said AJE is “committed to our coverage of China. Just as China news services cover the world freely we would expect that same freedom in China for any Al Jazeera journalist.”

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French Journalist held by Colombian guerrillas

A 35-year-old French journalist is being held by Colombian guerrillas as local and international demands for his release grow.

The Colombian and French governments said Romeo Langlois was out with government  troops in a remote area of southern Colombia when they were attacked by the rebels leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.  According to reports, Langlois took a bullet in the arm, then ran toward the rebels, shouting that he was a journalist. He apparently feared being taken for a soldier. Four Colombian soldiers died in the attack.

An alleged FARC member said Langlois is being held as “a prisoner of war.”

The Colombian and French governments, the European Union and the Committee to Protect Journalists say journalists are non-combatants and under international law.

Colombia’s Foundation for Press Freedom or FLIP says Langlois’ capture is another demonstration of “the difficult conditions and the danger faced by journalists covering the armed conflict” in the country.

The FARC announced in February that it would no longer kidnap people and hold them for ransom. Last month, the FARC released 10 soldiers and police officers, some of whom had been held as long as 14 years.



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Gangs, Government and Journalism in El Salvador

An online newspaper in El Salvador is facing threats because of its stories about alleged negotiations between the government and criminal gangs.

The publication, El Faro, ran an article last week detailing a government deal to give certain benefits to jailed gang leaders like transfers to better prison facilities or even money if they would cut back on the violence.
El Salvador has the second highest homicide rate in the world (after Honduras) at 66 per 100,000 people and much of the killing is attributed to gangs.
In its stories, El Faro reported that after the alleged agreement was reached, only three murders were reported, down from an average of 14 per day.
In its article, El Faro reporters gave details of their conversation with a gang leader still on the streets. The gang member said murders planned for the very day that got the order to “calm down” were cancelled.
Imprisoned gang leaders did get transferred to another prison, but government officials deny striking any deal.
El Faro editor and founder Carlos Dada said in an email published by Spain’s El Pais newspaper that government sources have said that by publishing the article “El Faro’s risk level has greatly increased.”
Gangs have targeted journalists. In 2009, French documentary filmmaker Christian Poveda was killed in El Salvador after finishing an award-winning documentary, “La Vida Loca” on gang life in El Salvador.

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Ecuador’s President Promises to Pardon Journalists

This happened earlier in the week, but it’s worth mentioning briefly.

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa said on Monday he would pardon the four newspapermen who were convicted of libeling him. The New York Times reported the president also plans to forgive $42 million in fines against the men and El Universo.

Correa said he never planned to bankrupt anyone but was simply seeking the truth. But one of the convicted men, Emilio Palacio, said Correa was forced to respond to mounting pressure from other governments and free press organizations.

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SPJ President on Journalist Deaths in Syria

The president of the Society of Professional Journalists, John Ensslin, has expressed his sorrow over the recent journalist deaths in Syria.

He did so on his SPJ blog, Freedom of the Prez, to which the International Journalism Committee is pleased to provide this link.

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When War Reporters are the Targets

David Carr of The New York Times has taken an interesting look at what happens when journalists are the ones targeted in a war zone.

“The last thing wanted by lawless regimes who govern through might is transparency and the free flow of information,” he wrote in Thursday’s (2/23) Media Decoder column. “Journalists, in this context, are no longer neutrals, but targets unto themselves.”

Carr says Syria is dangerous — and much thought should go into any decision to go there — but journalists are a vital component in explaining what is happening and providing appropriate context.

“The video coming out of Syria is important, but without the lens of journalism, it is not sufficient,” he wrote. “War requires witness that goes beyond clicking on a YouTube video.”


Follow stories about journalism from across the globe on Twitter at @SPJ_IJC

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