Predictable Journalism

Alfredo Fernandez

Walter Martinez on TeleSur. Photo:

Walter Martinez is journalist with the Venezuelan “Tele Sur” television network, where he has a prime-time program called “Dosier.”  I began observing his work after my father and the mother of a friend recommended him as an excellent communicator and journalist.

My father and Daysi, like many people in Cuba, have not had access to other non-state information sources for years.  It is to the point that when they hear a rumor about some event outside or inside the country, if it isn’t confirmed to them by the government, they’ll never accept it as the truth.

And if we add to this the fact that neither my father nor Daysi have ever put their hands on a computer keyboard, then what we have are two people faced with a veritable situation of disinformation in terms of what is happening in the world and in their own country.

Nonetheless, when my father and Daysi (who don’t know each other) almost in unison suggested Walter Martinez’ program as an excellent news source that is presented in the unique journalistic style that Tele Sur broadcasts every Monday to Friday night, I decided to give it a watch – admittedly with low expectations as to its quality.

At first sight, the program seems interesting to anyone.  Wearing a black patch to cover a missing eye, like a 17th century pirate, Martinez speaks with an Argentinean-Uruguayan accent.

In an almost ceremonial fashion, every night he moves around a television set exclusively designed by him.  As he walks, in his right hand he holds an enormous pointer that he unsheathes precisely in front of a map.  With the device he points first to Latin America and then shows the rest of the world to us.  He’ll later stop to direct his planetary pointer to the place that is prominent on the front pages of the world news.

Once Walter Martinez has geographically located this for us, then — like in some magic art — a natural-sized video screen opens up to make it seem to the television viewer that Walter Martinez is in the very place where the event is taking place.

In this way, this analyst speaks to us from the strict canon of a type of journalism that had its origin in Cuba fifty years ago and that today is extending to the other ALBA-member countries: journalism that is so predictable as to be dis-informational.

As could be expected in these cases, not a single word will ever be heard from Walter Martinez questioning the socialist make-up of ALBA, the anachronistic North Korea or about those who see anything praiseworthy in the countries of the region with neoliberal governments.

This is the manner in which this “brilliant” program always moves my father, Daysi and so many other people who — being in Cuba — have never assessed the Internet.

For those with little interest to learn about the narcotic they consume; they won’t know if using it will be harmful or even lethal in the long run or that other things exist as sources of pleasure and that are not so dangerous. The momentary effect is so exhilarating for the addict that its consumption seems worthwhile even at the expense of shortening their life.

My father, Daysi and an entire generation of older Cubans have in the journalism of Walter Martinez the exact dose of (dis)information they need to hear without caring that there exist more versions of the news than what this gentleman is presenting to them.  While on occasion he doesn’t misinform them completely, he does in fact limit reality to that precise portion that the government wants…one that they’ll think is the sole account possible.