Lessons China Needs To Learn From Hong Kong

As usual, journalist Frank Ching is spot on in his analysis.

When Hong Kong was handed over to China, people were saying Beijing could learn from Hong Kong how to enter the modern world of finance and politics. But there are lessons Beijing just does not seem to want to learn.

For example, when a major issue dominates the public’s concern, the Hong Kong government sets up commissions to investigate and report back to the people.

Such commissions are part of Hong Kong’s tradition. The British colonial government, between 1966 and the handover to China in 1997, set up commissions of inquiry 12 times to look into such issues as the cause of riots, a fire on a floating restaurant that claimed 34 lives, and the flight from Hong Kong of a police chief superintendent wanted on corruption charges. The strength of such inquiries is that they are conducted by individuals of standing in the community who, while appointed by the government, act independently. Often, such inquiries are headed by judges.

The latest issue is the discovery of lead in the Hong Kong drinking water. The pro-Beijing government in Hong Kong reacted in a way that does credit to the recent history of Hong Kong. They set up a commission.

[T]he commission is headed by Justice Andrew Chan, a high court judge. The commission’s terms of reference are to ascertain the causes of excess lead found in drinking water in public rental-housing developments; to review and evaluate the adequacy of the present regulatory and monitory system in respect of drinking-water supply in Hong Kong; and to make recommendations with regard to the safety of drinking water in Hong Kong.

Frank also points out that the people of Hong Kong know what the local standard is and how it compares to the World Health Organization standard. BTW, 10 micrograms per liter for both.

Now take the explosion at Tianjin — as Frank did — as an example of how not to investigate a major incident that have people concerned for their health and safety.

Premier Li Keqiang promised to “release information to society in an open and transparent manner.” But the Communist Party’s propaganda apparatus has moved in as usual and demanded: “Use only copy from Xinhua and authoritative departments and media…. Do not make live broadcasts.”

Cyanide has been detected in the soil near the blast sites, but a Chinese official, Tian Weiyong, director of the environmental emergency centre of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, was quoted as saying that the level does not exceed the national standard. However, we are not told what the Chinese standard is and how it compares with WHO guidelines.

And just as a side note, Frank points out that even if China revealed the “Chinese standard,” it would probably not be of much comfort to the people. In the case of the Hong Kong lead-in-the-water situation, it would never come up as an issue in China. While the readings in Hong Kong exceeded WHO standards by four times, they would have been within Chinese standards of 50 micrograms of lead per liter of water, or five times that of the WHO.

Frank’s bottom line is something a lot of us have argued for years. When the Chinese people know the information they are getting has been carefully sifted and purified, they reject the official statements and turn to rumors for information. Rumors cause panic. And yet, the Chinese leadership says controlling information is necessary to preserve social stability. They really don’t seem to see how their actions are actually adding to instability. (Or at least they are acting as if they don’t see the connection between media control and social instability.)

Independent commissions to investigate disasters and access to the commission reports have provided stability to Hong Kong society. People may not like the results of the studies, but at least the process is public and the public knows how and why the conclusions were reached.

Frank points out

China can learn from the outside world is the creation of an independent body, such as a commission of inquiry, to show its determination to uncover the truth, regardless of where it leads. Such commissions are used around the world, including by the United Nations.

Setting up such a commission lifts a huge burden from the government’s shoulders. The trouble is that, in China, the Communist Party won’t let anyone else investigate.

He adds another problem finding individuals trusted by the people to serve on the commission. “After all, there is no independent judiciary,” he wrote, “no Independent Commission Against Corruption and no Office of the Ombudsman where people of integrity may flourish.”

This item originally appeared in Journalism, Journalists and the World.

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrShare on RedditPin on Pinterest

Summary of how Chinese authorities hinder Tianjin reporting

China Digital Times put together an excellent summary of how authorities are preventing Chinese and foreign media from covering the Tianjin explosions.

Tianjin: Journalism Stands as Official Line Stumbles


Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrShare on RedditPin on Pinterest

SPJ Observes World Press Freedom Day

On May 4, SPJ’s International Journalism Community hosted a panel discussion via Google Hangout to mark World Press Freedom Day. Observed on May 3 each year, World Press Freedom Day “celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom; to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession,” explains UNESCO’s website.

Organized and hosted by IJC member Jennifer Karchmer, the community’s hour-long discussion included such topics as mounting threats to journalists worldwide; the lack of public understanding of the work and resources required to produce quality reporting; U.S. government policy regarding American hostages; SPJ’s role in supporting international journalists and fighting for press freedom; and best practices for safety while covering stories in difficult locations.

Panelists included four members of the International Journalism Community in addition to two other journalists doing important work on behalf of imprisoned reporters:

  • Benjamin Bathke, journalist, mediapreneur, and IJC member in St. Louis
  • Jennifer Karchmer, independent journalist and IJC member in Montpellier, France
  • Dana Priest, author, veteran investigative reporter with the Washington Post, academic at the University of Maryland and team leader of Press Uncuffed
  • Kami Rice, freelance journalist and IJC member in Marseille, France
  • Lejla Sarcevic, campaign director of Press Uncuffed and investigative and political reporter in Washington, DC
  • Elle Toussi, freelance journalist covering the Middle East, founder of In One Minute, and IJC member in Southern California

The event was reported using these social media hashtags: #SPJWPFD #PressFreedom #WPFD2015.


Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrShare on RedditPin on Pinterest

We Are Still Charlie

French political cartoonist Jean-Marc Héran displays his work inside a bookstore in the French city of Aix-en-Provence. Courtesy of Kami Rice

French political cartoonist Jean-Marc Héran displays his work inside a bookstore in the French city of Aix-en-Provence.
Courtesy of Kami Rice.

I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to be watching, but it was too intriguing not to. Tucked away yesterday in a corner of the front terrace of the Librarie Goulard, one of the bookstores lining Aix-en-Provence’s storied Cours Mirabeau, Jean-Marc Héran was drawing. And I was watching over his shoulder from a few feet away.

I could only see the side of his face, so I can’t be certain, but it certainly looked like he was smiling and amusing himself as the idea emerged and he drew, hand covered in a drawing glove and moving over the tablet computer on the desk while the image appeared on the larger monitor in front of him.

He was an artist, and a journalist, at work.

It was a rare window into one spoke of the wheel of the journalism world I’m a part of too – and it was a particularly poignant window. Here I was, freely watching a French political cartoonist at work just months after others of his ilk were murdered because of what their drawings said.

Both Héran and I were there on this southern France bookstore’s terrace because of World Press Freedom Day, a day proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993. Between Héran’s tucked-away desk and the street, the space underneath the large plane tree in the center of the terrace was filled with a crew broadcasting the day’s 15 hours of programming. It was all slated to run live on DailyMotion.com and partner channels, but technical difficulties rendered the interviews to availability online, during World Press Freedom Day.

Passing before the cameras and microphones were various stripes of journalists, including Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist François Mitten, and others with something to say about press freedom. The event included evening concerts and two artists painting new canvases.

An artist works on a press freedom painting during World Press Freedom Day celebrations in Aix-en-Provence, France. Courtesy of Kami Rice.

For most of the day, the crew members outnumbered the handfuls of spectators who paused in their wanderings along the wide boulevard that is a center of all that happens in Aix. But for Bernard Beka, a veteran war reporter who organized the event in partnership with Reporters Without Borders, if even just eight people listened and were touched by what they heard, then that would suffice.

He noted the presence of a budding 12-year-old journalist and the importance of getting these messages to the next generation.

Jean-Jacques Lumbroso, another of the broadcast’s organizers, echoed Beka in noting that a day like this is for the citizens more than for journalists.

And Héran, the political cartoonist, said that, while in his line of work it is always freedom-of-the-press day, a special day for calling everyone’s attention to the essentialness of a free press is important if we are to get people to listen and take notice. We can’t forget, he said, that there are journalists imprisoned around the world, people who are killed, and people who can’t express themselves.

Kami L. Rice is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists International Community. Previously based in Nashville, Tenn., she has been living in southern France since 2012, continuing her work as a freelance journalist and editor. Her work has appeared in more than 50 online and print publications, and she has reported from more than 15 different countries. You can follow her on twitter (@KamiTheWriter) or visit her website (www.kamirice.com) for more info.


Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrShare on RedditPin on Pinterest

Press freedom orgs react to massacre of journalists in Paris

The Society of Professional Journalists International Community joins the worldwide outcry against the murder of 12 journalists in Paris Tuesday.

Masked gunmen entered the offices of the French weekly satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo the morning of Jan. 7, opening fire with semiautomatic weapons on staff, including prominent editors and cartoonists of the publication, according to a New York Times article.

Media outlets report the attack came from Muslim extremists as a result of the paper’s satirical depictions of Prophet Muhammad.

“Extremists feel emboldened to attack and kill journalists anywhere in the world for lampooning religion or reporting on political and governmental activities,” said SPJ President Dana Neuts. “Such outrageous attempts to silence journalists will not be tolerated or successful.” (Read full SPJ statement here)

French President Francois Hollande described the attack as an act of terrorism and vowed to protect freedom of speech in the nation.

“No barbaric act will ever extinguish freedom of the press,” Hollande said in a statement on his official Facebook page. “We are a country which will unite and stand together.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists described the shooting as “the worst attack on the media since the 2009 Maguindanao massacre in the Philippines,” where 57 people, most of them journalists, were killed by gunmen while en route to cover a local election.

“An attack of this nature in Paris shows that threats against freedom of expression are global, no region is safe from it,” CPJ posted on twitter, while also changing its profile picture to a black background with the words “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) printed across.

Since 2011, the offices of Charlie Hebdo have been under police protection after the paper was fire-bombed shortly after publishing a cartoon depicting Prophet Muhammad, according to the French-based agency Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontiers).

“This terrorist attack marks a black day in the history of France,” said Reporters Without Borders Secretary General Christophe Deloire, who was at the scene of the shooting.

SPJ member Jennifer Karchmer, who lives in Montpellier, France, and happens to be visiting a fellow journalist in Paris, shared her account of the day’s events:

“We’ve learned the city is under high alert but are considering attending a public demonstration being held at Place de la Republique,” Karchmer said. “We are watching CNN international news and monitoring social media.

“I am in touch with friends in the south of France where I live in Montpellier and they are attending demonstrations to condemn the attacks. The entire country is worried, shocked and responding. The French do not miss a beat. A list of cities with planned demonstrations was published soon after the attacks.”

Karchmer, who has worked as a correspondent for Reporters Without Borders, said today’s shootings are “an egregious attack on freedom of speech and freedom of information.”

“Working in France would seem a safe place to publish and print, yet after today, we realize we are living under new pressures to censor information,” she said.

More comments on the attack from press freedom organizations around the world:

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrShare on RedditPin on Pinterest

Open season on journalists in Paraguay

Impunity for the murder of journalists is hardly a new phenomenon in Latin America, but the ambush-style killings of four Paraguayan journalists in a year and a half has stirred domestic and international outrage and plunged an already beleaguered government into crisis.

Pablo Medina. Photo courtesy of ABC Color

Pablo Medina. Photo courtesy of ABC Color

The most recent killing was that of Pablo Medina, 53, an investigative reporter for the country’s leading daily, ABC Color, who was gunned down on the afternoon of Oct. 16 while returning from an assignment in Canindeyu department near the Brazilian border, a hotbed of marijuana cultivation and drug smuggling. He was shot four times in the chest and face with a 9-mm pistol and once with a shotgun by two men on motorcycle wearing camouflage fatigues.

One of his passengers, Antonia Almada, 19, also was hit and died en route to a hospital. Her younger sister, Juana, escaped unhurt.

Suspicion focused immediately on the mayor of the town of Ypehu, Vilmar “Neneco” Acosta, scion of a politically connected family suspected of large-scale marijuana cultivation and trafficking, as the intellectual author of the ambush. Juana Almada identified one of the gunmen as Acosta’s brother, Wilson. The two brothers are subjects of an Interpol warrant and are believed hiding in Brazil, where Vilmar Acosta has dual nationality and, reportedly, political friends.

Medina, who had worked for ABC since 1998, had received numerous death threats for his reporting on drug trafficking in Curuguaty department and had been under police protection for a time. His brother Salvador, a radio journalist, was murdered there in 2001, apparently by drug traffickers. His murder remains unsolved.

President Horacio Cartes, elected in 2013, decried the murders of Medina and Almada and told journalists, “I feel like we’ve all been killed.”

His government came under intense domestic and international pressure to bring the killers to justice. The Paraguayan Journalists Union, Catholic Church, Inter American Press Association, Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and the director of UNESCO all demanded action.

Paraguay is a landlocked country of 6.7 million people with an area the size of California. Courtesy of the CIA's World Factbook

Paraguay is a landlocked country of 6.7 million people with an area the size of California. Courtesy of the CIA’s World Factbook

A major break in the case came with the arrest on Dec. 8 of Arnaldo Cabrera, Vilmar Acosta’s driver. Reportedly embittered that he had been abandoned in a remote area without money or weapons and fearing for his own life, Cabrera confirmed that Wilson Acosta was one of the gunmen and that the other was the two brothers’ nephew, Flavio Acosta.

Cabrera said Vilmar Acosta planned Medina’s death in July, at his birthday party, surrounded by family. He claimed Acosta wanted revenge because Medina’s reporting had led to Vilmar Acosta and his father, Vidal, being convicted and imprisoned in 2011. Medina had reported that human remains were buried on the Acostas’ ranch. Investigators unearthed three skeletons.

Ironically, when Medina was gunned down, he was working on a story about pesticide contamination in local soybean plantations, not marijuana trafficking.

“It was a tragic event that has affected us very much,” said ABC reporter Natalia Daporta in an email. The paper carries daily updates on developments—or lack of them—in the investigation.

Public protests, a rarity in Paraguay until the recent advent of social media, erupted after Medina’s death, prompting the Congress in November to launch a 45-day investigation, which has been shrouded in secrecy. The lower house also impeached two Supreme Court justices on suspicion of having been overly lenient toward drug traffickers, and forced the resignation of a third. The justices had been instrumental in overturning a ban on Vilmar Acosta’s running for mayor because of his dual citizenship, and they released him from prison two days before he was elected mayor!

 "WANTED," declares this poster published by ABC Color of Vilmar Acosta, the accused intellectual author of the Oct. 16 ambush murder of ABC investigative reporter Pablo Medina. Acosta's brother and nephew were identified as the triggermen. All three are subjects of an Interpol warrant and are believed to be hiding in Brazil.

“WANTED,” declares this poster published by ABC Color of Vilmar Acosta, the accused intellectual author of the Oct. 16 ambush murder of ABC investigative reporter Pablo Medina. Acosta’s brother and nephew were identified as the triggermen. All three are subjects of an Interpol warrant and are believed to be hiding in Brazil.

Medina had dubbed Congresswoman Cristina Villalba the drug dealers’ “godmother” and alleged she was Vilmar Acosta’s protector. Villalba admitted Acosta had telephoned her after Medina’s death to proclaim his innocence. She volunteered to acquiesce her legislative immunity to be investigated if requested by a judge; no judge has yet requested it.

Paraguayans, and international journalism organizations, are now watching to see how seriously the government seeks to extradite the Acostas from Brazil, whether the investigation will uncover their collusion with governmental officials and, if so, whether anything will be done.

“CPJ is encouraged by the initial progress made by Paraguayan authorities in the murder of Pablo Medina and Antonia Almada,” commented Carlos Lauria, Americas program coordinator for CPJ. “But authorities must now ensure that all those involved in the crime, including the mastermind, are brought to justice.”

Brazilian Attorney General Rodrigo Janot pledged on Dec. 16 to make every effort to capture the suspects.

Paraguay, a landlocked country of 6.7 million people with an area the size of California, has a long history of dictatorship and corruption. The country was ruled by the autocratic Gen. Alfredo Stroessner from 1954 until he was overthrown in 1989. Its nascent democracy has been unstable, and two presidents have been impeached and removed. Transparency International ranks Paraguay the third most corrupt country in Latin America after Haiti and Venezuela. It has long been notorious for smuggling operations, first of stolen automobiles and contraband cigarettes, and in recent years of guns and drugs.

ABC Color newspaper offices in Asunción, Paraguay (Photo by Robert Buckman)

ABC Color newspaper offices in Asunción, Paraguay. Photo courtesy of Robert Buckman

ABC Color, founded in 1967 by businessman Aldo Zucolillo, is the dean of the country’s press. It was closed during the last five year’s of Stroessner’s regime for its overly aggressive reporting of public wrongdoing. It sells about 29,000 copies daily through street-corner kiosks.

There are now only two other dailies: Ultima Hora, which was closed for its aggressive reporting and biting editorials and cartoons for 30 days in 1979, and the younger, business-oriented La Nación. All are published in the capital, Asunción.

There are a handful of privately owned television stations with news operations, which are more reactive than proactive. The country’s most influential medium remains radio.

Thus, it is no surprise that the other three journalists slain since 2013 were all radio journalists.

Marcelino Vásquez, director of the radio station Sin Fronteras (Without Borders) in Pedro Juan Caballero on the Brazilian border, was gunned down by two men on a motorcycle on Feb. 6, 2013.

Fausto Gabriel Alcaraz, a reporter for Radio Amambay in Pedro Juan Caballero, was shot 11 times, also by two men on a motorcycle, on May 16, 2014.

Three weeks later, on June 9, Edgar Fernández Fleitas, an attorney who hosted a radio program called Ciudad de la Furia (City of Fury) for Radio Belén in the southern city of Concepción, was shot to death at his office. A suspect was arrested later that month, but the motive was unclear.

For decades, the so-called Tri-Border area where Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet has long been a lawless zone frequented by smugglers, Nazi fugitives and Islamic terrorists. Its subtropical climate, fecund soil and porous borders have made Paraguay Latin America’s second-largest marijuana producer after Mexico.

Robert Buckman, Ph.D., is an associate professor of communication and SPJ chapter adviser at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Buckman worked at the U.S. Embassy in Paraguay from 1977-79, when Stroessner was cracking down on the press’ attempts to report on corruption. He visited the offices of ABC Color during a trip to Paraguay in 2013.

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrShare on RedditPin on Pinterest

Help us improve and protect journalism abroad

Dear supporters of international journalism,

The world of journalism continues to change rapidly. But while many in the industry debate business models, the latest data-mining software or the impact of the Facebook news feed, the threats and dangers faced by colleagues across the world remains the same.

Virtually no country remains untouched in its attacks to journalists and freedom of the press. As we witnessed during the events in Ferguson, Mo., even in our own back yard there is a long way to go in protecting journalists’ right to tell stories to the world, uncensored.

A group of more than 30 professionals have come together this year to revive the cause of the SPJ International Committee. Under a new structure, the SPJ International Community hopes to bring to light the ethical, political and social issues affecting reporters abroad. Our members are located and/or represent countries from the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe and beyond.

Our new community structure will allow members more freedom and flexibility in the scope and goals of the group. We have divided the community into four subcommittees, which will focus on outreach, international SPJ chapters, freedom of the press/ethics issues and education. Given our community spirit, however, we may restructure or add more subcommittees according to the needs and feedback of the group.

Although the SPJ International Community may grow, change and adapt with time, our goals remain the same:

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 44 journalists have been killed in 2014 while performing their jobs; more than 200 were imprisoned in 2013; and hundreds have left their countries in exile due to threats to their lives.

We, the Society of Professional Journalists International Community, will put our hands, minds, hearts, contacts and skills together to ensure SPJ can become a beacon of light and hope to those aforementioned journalists who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in honor of the truth.

We are no longer an isolated profession. We live in a globalized society. We, the SPJ International Community, are committed to improve and protect journalism beyond the boundaries of our nations.

Our goals are global and our reach is wide.

Come join us.

Interested in taking part in the SPJ International Community? Email us at spjinternational@spj.org.

Connect with us on Twitter: @SPJ_IJC
Follow us on Facebook: facebook.com/SPJInternational


Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrShare on RedditPin on Pinterest

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.

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrShare on RedditPin on Pinterest

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.


Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrShare on RedditPin on Pinterest

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.

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on TumblrShare on RedditPin on Pinterest

Newest Posts

Memorial Funds for WDBJ’s Alison Parker and Adam Ward August 28, 2015, 7:50 pm
Thank You, WDBJ-7 August 26, 2015, 10:58 pm
Lessons China Needs To Learn From Hong Kong August 25, 2015, 12:00 pm
Journalists Can Responsibly Use Hacked Data August 21, 2015, 8:45 pm
Summary of how Chinese authorities hinder Tianjin reporting August 21, 2015, 10:28 am
Making the Best Use of Your Time at EIJ (Which Isn’t Easy to Do!) August 19, 2015, 2:00 pm
Congratulations to Bob Roberts, SPJ volunteer of the month August 18, 2015, 8:22 pm

Copyright © 2007-2015 Society of Professional Journalists. All Rights Reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789 | Contact SPJ Headquarters | Employment Opportunities | Advertise with SPJ