Venezuela's Last Nationally Circulated Anti-Government Newspaper Closes
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
In Venezuela today, for the first time in 75 years, newstands will not be selling copies of El Nacional. El Nacional is the country's last independent newspaper. The last print run was this past Friday. Now the paper has moved to online only after years of government restrictions and lawsuits and even trouble accessing newsprint. El Nacional joins a couple dozen other newspapers in Venezuela that have gone out of print since 2013.
Jorge Makriniotis is the general manager of El Nacional. He's run the paper just these last eight months. And we have reached him in Caracas. Welcome.
JORGE MAKRINIOTIS: Hi, Mary Louise. Thanks for...
MAKRINIOTIS: ...Inviting me.
KELLY: It's good to speak to you. I wonder if you can sum up what the mood has been like in the newsroom this past Friday, when y'all saw the last print edition go out, and then today, first day it's not on newsstands.
MAKRINIOTIS: The mood's - is really sad. For us, it's like someone died. So it's really sad that that the paper is not going out anymore. But at the same time, we are seeing it like a great opportunity here in Venezuela.
KELLY: How so? Why is it a great opportunity?
MAKRINIOTIS: Any change can be good. We are doing 75 years the same business model, so we have to change. We have to adapt. We have to make it better. Our essence is making news. The paper is a delivery. We'll have to change.
KELLY: What were the factors that led to this decision to stop going out every day as a print newspaper?
MAKRINIOTIS: Oh, that's very simple, actually. Over the course of the past 20 years, every other media outlet including newspapers has been bought by the government. We have resisted, and so we have been able to remain as the last independent newspaper.
KELLY: And describe to me what are the efforts, as you see it, that the government has made to try to force you out of the print newspaper business?
MAKRINIOTIS: Economical. They have take out all the paper needed. So we have to go to the black market.
KELLY: And just - I just want to make sure I understand you correctly. You said this is paper that you've had a hard time getting hold of, actual paper to print the newspaper on?
MAKRINIOTIS: Yeah. The thing with the paper is that the government make a company only to sell papers for the media. By obvious reasons, (laughter) they don't sell paper to us.
KELLY: And for people listening who don't follow every twist and turn of Venezuelan politics, connect for me why it would be in the government's interest for you not to be able to print a newspaper.
MAKRINIOTIS: The regime don't like the people to hear the truth. El Nacional speaks for the Venezuelans. It doesn't speak for the government.
KELLY: You describe this as an opportunity. And I know the plan is to continue publishing a robust newspaper online. But Venezuela has some of the worst internet in Latin America, right? You may be posting content online. Are you confident that your readers will be able to access it?
MAKRINIOTIS: No. Actually, most of my readers are not able to access our website. That's part of the censorship the government is making on us. So we are being - we're coming with different tactics as well.
KELLY: Can you describe them?
MAKRINIOTIS: I can tell you that we're going to use a lot of text message (laughter) just to inform.
KELLY: So using text messages, social media, different ways of getting information out even if people...
KELLY: ...Can't make it to your home page online.
KELLY: I mean, it must be a bittersweet day for you. I hear you describing the - how hungry you are...
MAKRINIOTIS: It is.
KELLY: ...For embracing the challenge in a new way. And yet, it's - it had to be a little sad walking past your neighborhood newsstand this morning.
MAKRINIOTIS: No, it's not sad. It's different. My business is the content. The paper is the delivery. It's sad that I'm not able to see the paper print, yes. But if you're going to the website, you're going to see El Nacional. El Nacional is alive. So it's OK. I'm going to keep it alive.
KELLY: Jorge Makriniotis, thank you so much.
MAKRINIOTIS: Thanks to you, Mary Louise.
KELLY: He's the general manager of El Nacional in Venezuela.
(SOUNDBITE OF GABRIEL GARZON-MONTANO'S "FRUITFLIES")
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