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The following program is produced by the University of Florida school of journalism and communications under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. The University of Florida presents the information barrier the ninth in a series of recorded documentary reports on the contemporary revolution in Latin America. Your reporter is the distinguished American journalist and editor of The Christian Science Monitor. In today's program we intend to examine two vital questions involved in into American understanding. First is the North American press giving us
adequate meaningful news coverage of Latin America. And second are we the people of the United States getting our message across to Latin America. It certainly will come to no one's surprise particularly anybody who has done any traveling south of the border that the problems involved in United States Latin American relations stemmed primarily from a mutual misunderstanding this mutual misunderstanding is abetted. When adequate information does not reach either party. Dr. Milton Eisenhower has suggested that the people of the United States might have favored actions different from those taken by our State Department in regard to Latin America under the eyes in our administration. And these are his words. If they had been in possession of all relevant facts. Dr. Eisenhower went on to recommend in this special report to the president in one hundred fifty eight that the mass media of the United States should carry a steady flow of news and interpretation from the 20 Latin American countries in order to ensure such a news flow.
Dr. Eisenhower suggested that newspapers magazines radio and television be persuaded to maintain highly competent reporters in Central and South America. That was three years ago. What about coverage of Latin American news in the nation's press today. Here is what one recent visitor from Brazil had to say that a point Jambos is absent in the U.S. when I get back I get to the stage and there's an open Last Supper more than a lack of news about Brazil. I'm first to recognize that I'm a mom and I your work is not very much interested in happening in Brazil but they're going to give us one in the morning. More albums and then you in the face. Herbert Moses heads one of Brazil's largest news agencies. What he says about coverage of Brazilian news can be applied to the press coverage of the rest of Latin America. What's wrong with our nation's press. Why is it that with few exceptions Latin
American news is neglected except for the more sensational stories. Herbert Oh Matthew was a member of the New York Times editorial board has a theory. I feel that we're struggling with the sort of vicious circle. People will not read or listen to news about life in America because they are ignorant of the subject. Now we wouldn't listen to a broadcast or read a story about a baseball game unless we knew something about baseball and that would give us an interest. So the newspapers and the magazines and the broadcasters and the and say the public is not interested or they don't provide news. And that way the ignorance is perpetuated and so it was a lack of interest. And we keep going around in this circle and have not yet
found a way to break it. Cause it is very costly to maintain a service in Latin America for the United States. On the other hand nearly every newspaper and the magazine and radio broadcasting fields that do use the Associated Press and the United Press International and they have the news and they don't print it they don't give it over the radio or television. And may I add as editor of The Christian Science Monitor that our newspaper for a good many years has paid great attention to the coverage of events in Latin America we have on our staff several full time specialists in the area. We send staff editors and correspondents to write in America on frequent journeys. We agree totally with the spirit of criticism of this particular program that is to say that more attention must be paid by the American press in all its forms to coverage of Latin
America. And we're trying in our way to do our part. In the newspaper world there is a rigid convention and they had you know sort of a Black legend that people are not interested in that America this exists. Mainly I think on the telegraph desk we're in Brasilia now and we're talking to an American newspaper woman on assignment in Latin America for the Reader's Digest. She is the junior Pruitt the Latin American columnist for The Washington Daily News and The Bell syndicate on any newspaper where there is a man who invented Latin America. You find it. Yes he thinks people are interested in that in America this means that he knows a little bit about it. He's interested in it. My own newspaper and I've had experience with a desk editor who has been to Latin America even if you've just been for a weekend in Mexico he will run the column. Where is the day that the man who has never been to Latin
America is on the desk. If there is a big real estate deal or something like that then he will pro out the most important Latin American column. I think that the way to and I have suggested in my column that the way to break the barrier that exists in American newspaper publishing against the publishing of more news and more and tempered news that America is to get the demographic data doesn't the best get this down here to give them a chance to see it and then they don't. They don't throw the material that comes to them in the wastebasket. Both of our two major news services United Press International and The Associated Press operate a Latin American desk in New York City but not more than a fraction of the news flowing to these desks in New York from Latin America is sent to newspaper and radio TV clients throughout this country. And what about the quality of the news which is thus made available. Is this news accurate enough to
inform the electorate so they may properly influence the officials who make Latin American policy. Again Herbert Matthews. I don't think the quality of the news is high by academic standards. My what I would call professional standards. I do not think we are getting a coverage that shows understanding adequate anyway namely complete and has to be based on. The news of the day and then went on sensational stories of car the overthrow of government and the fascination and political crises and quakes. You do not get a running coverage broad historic
event of course that has a fault which you can say applies to pretty well every section of the world and there's a weakness in our journalistic coverage in general but in Latin America especially that because there are so few specialists. As I said before you really know the area who studied it and can give an understanding picture in Latin America to the American public. One of the results of understaffing and lack of specialists is the emphasis placed on so-called hard spot news spotty coverage and the emphasis on sensational aspects of Latin American news can do more harm than just failing to inform the average American they can contribute to the instability of Latin American countries and governments. This is that you're a former American newspaper woman who now it's a magazine in Mexico City. Anita Brenner explains this
process for us. Process goes something like this. There is a student right. There can be student riots anywhere and sometimes they're over nothing and sometimes they're over a real cause. If this is lifted out of context into violence in terms of front page New You then began to get a deformed picture at the other end of the deformed picture then creates uneasiness and lack of confidence and fear. This then creates confidence and their capital which can bring about something like an economic crisis something like a bank that is created by nothing but a rumor can begin. And when you begin to get and freezing of money and the freezing of Kahn and the slowing
down of the interchange on an economic level you begin to get a country that gets pushed into real money trouble then you begin to have a real problem which if again something violent. I've heard rumors within days and he's then reported and built up into something bigger than he actually is. Can snowball the whole process to the point where you can create an actually seriously dangerous situation and I think this is this is what goes on. The blind spot in American journalism Latin American news was dramatically brought home during the last days of the but the still regime in Cuba the one man Havana bureau of The Associated Press reported a government victory over Castro only a scant few hours before the hated but was forced to flee the island. In my opinion our coverage of the Cuban story during the
writing period of the revolution and send it triumphed in January 1959 has been very poor Herbert L. Matthews. I said at the annual conference of the American Society of Newspaper and it is that in my 38 years on the New York Times I have never seen a big story so mis understood so badly handled and so misinterpreted as the Cuban revolution that there is certainly a need for journalists of high professional caliber to report the news for a lot of America is more than evident. Where are these young newsman going to come from and how should they be trained. Well we have suggested on the times and I know the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University for instance is working on it that they are
budding journalists who are going to study this subject be to learn Spanish and if possible point to geese. Because then they would have to be a study of course of the. History of Latin America 20 countries each one different from the other. It is a subject that requires high professional skill and qualifications and unhappily a young man going into it is unlikely to feel that he would have a career ahead of him with great press the kind of money to be made. So far there is very little and prestige attached to professional journalism in an American field and it is a fatiguing job. And
for that reason too it doesn't that crack a young man going into the profession. The job of telling the official story to Latin America the story of what the United States stands for and what we are doing as a government falls on the shoulders of the United States Information Agency. As a nation we have come rather late to the practice of persuasion by mass media the word propaganda. A word considered perfectly respectable by various other countries somehow makes most of us Americans a little uneasy. The Soviet bloc certainly has no qualms when it comes to doing battle psychologically in this hemisphere. But let me just present perhaps one illustration. All of the attention the painstaking attention to detail that goes into this the obvious recognition by the Soviets that here in Latin America lies a major opportunity for CBS newsman Richard C. Hartman lecturing at the University of Florida in the mountains of the Andes in Peru
the Andean Indians live completely outside the the economy. They don't they might just as well not exist economically they don't produce anything they don't consume anything they they live their lives on up on a flat subsystems self-sufficient Katar economy. They account for nothing except as bodies and the. The fear among those who look around them and in Lima and elsewhere is what would happen if one day these Indians who outnumber the other the Spanish speaking population the Indians Incidentally don't even speak Spanish. If they do outnumber the Spanish speaking population by some two to one wherever one data becomes organized to be galvanized to be given a direction by someone inside or outside. Well the Soviets have for some time been broadcasting in the language of the Andean Indians and catches the language of most people outside the Andean country never been heard of that one might say well
sneer or sneer. How many radio sets are there in the Andes Mountains. This is not only not the material. It is not so much there is only there are very few radio sets in the Andean not. But there are enough to get the word to various places and for the word then to be spread by the grapevine that is wrote since time immemorial. Word to mouth in the mountains. When I was in Lima a year or so ago there was a rumor going around that a great road building operation was going to be proposed by the Soviet Union and that the Soviets were going to provide the road building in the grading equipment. Where should they have got this idea. The successes of communist insinuation and suggestion are to be seen all through Latin America. The Russians broadcast to the NDAA Indian in his own dialect
in startling contrast it has been less than two years since the broadcast division of us i.e. the Voice of America began regularly scheduled Spanish language broadcasts in this hemisphere during much of this time. We had little or no service in Portuguese. Yet that is the language of nearly one third the population of South America. Why this neglect of our southern neighbors. We asked the former director of the United States Information Agency George Allen. It's true that we have not given nearly enough attention to Latin America Ian Lee Voice of America they are all explanations if you wish. Reasons why actually happened but they are not excuses because we have neglected Latin America in our information activities in the same way that we've neglected them. You know economic and political activities in my opinion. But it doesn't have to be stated by all the record that the Voice of America's original idea has. Day
intended by Congress was clearly to give its principal attention to Europe and to the Iron Curtain and activities towards in this hemisphere were not the primary objective. During the period we were without a shortwave Spanish language service the VOA continued to broadcast to Latin America in English. You know it's Information Agency Director Edward R. Murrow comments. The reason as I understand it in the past was a belief that a great many of the so-called opinion makers in Latin America would understand English most people and many members of Congress don't understand that situation. I began to realize more and more in my service abroad that when one country sends out a radio program and enjoy it way to another country in the other country's language the program is not very well received not as well received as it as it is if it's in the English language. The United States is doing.
We are now broadcasting six hours a day in Spanish. We will be broadcasting 18 hours a day in Spanish and we will be broadcasting four hours a day. And Portuguese. But as Mr. Morrow and Mr. Allen caution us not to expect miracles from our information agency as it goes about the job of explaining our policies and our way of life to the underdeveloped areas of the world such as Latin America and Mr. Nixon went to Latin America about three years ago and I guess of course everybody recall that he was stoned and Mrs. Nixon was treated very badly. And after that I was called before a committee of Congress and there are several members of Congress said this is evident that the Voice of America is doing no good because if you were doing the job you should the people of Latin America would of course understand our policies and would be plainly and it would have a friendly attitude toward this instead of stoning our vice president.
Well that's typical of the. The question which most people get that all we've got to do to foreign peoples is to give them a good talk to explain what we Americans are like and they will automatically be very friendly towards us. That doesn't necessarily follow. People in Latin America are going to judge us like people every Well primarily according to our policies or what they can say they consider they are on how they influence thought backed by our policies not what we say but what we do. Consequently often times too much is expected of the Voice of America are their whole information and cultural activities. It is my view at least that this is not only a battle for men's minds but to a considerable extent it's also about where their bellies and the below a certain calorie intake it
is not reasonable to expect people to be interested in words like freedom and dignity and justice under the law and so forth. And I think all that we can do in this agency is to try to give them information that is understandable not to expect. That they will imitate us in all particulars of our economic social or political structure. To conclude our program we have invited members of the Graduate faculty of the University of Florida school of into American studies to summarize what we have heard so far and if they will to try to come to some definite conclusions about the information barrier here to introduce the panel is the school's director Dr. A could this world. Thank you Mr. Cannon. Today we depart slightly from our regular format to participate as panelists. We have invited two newspaper men deeply interested in Latin America. These are used Latin American correspondent for The Chicago Tribune and William Pepper Jr. editor and publisher of the
Gainesville Florida Daily Sun has been reporting Latin American Affairs for some 30 years now. Mr. DuBois What is your opinion of Latin American news is covered in the press the United States. Sometimes I'm appalled by the like of it because the stories do not come up from Latin American simply because the editors do not publish them. I think more there's room for more reporting on Latin America than we do say in the U.S. press. I have some particular ideas on the negative. I'm for this emphasis that is given to reporting from Latin America that theirs and some of our national magazines and all over our TV stations there has not been a balanced job done. The negative side has been given emphasis on for the positive accomplishments. And while it is well and good to be present a negative aspect I do think that there have been many
positive accomplishments that deserve reporting together. I don't longside the negative accomplishments. There are quite a few horrible examples the ones of the slums in Latin America I think. And a TV crew can go up to the slums and some of our large urban cities and find similar living conditions for those that have been detected of the fatherless of Rio de Janeiro in the hilltop shacks and Caracas Venezuela. But the fact that they do exist is deserves reporting but also unbalanced. There should be reported what has been done to try to correct those situations. And what is being done not only by the government and power but also by American businesses and corporations throughout Latin America which have done a yeoman's job to improve the standard of living of the people and also by our own government. Those things have been carefully overlooked. Possibly because of
time and also largely I believe because of design by those who have prepared the programs. For example I have in mind one one particular documentary that was prepared by a team that was headed by a member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee whose motive appeared to be to present the United States in the worst possible light in order to promote and justify for Del Castro's communist revolution. Both Mr. Pepper and Mr. DuBois are active members of the American Press Association. Mr. Pepper under American Press Association has been cited for its work in creating more interest among United States publishers in covering Latin America for its readers as in American Press Association had the reverse effect that is has the Association helped in creating a favorable attitude toward the United States in the Latin American press. Very definitely. I think the IPA has probably been the greatest factor of all in creating in Latin America
and understanding of the United States. Actually they are Latin American Press Association they're you know connected with no government of any kind. So I'd say it's been a man to man contact and all of the important publishers are members of the IPA in this country we have quite a number of very important members of the IPA. When I first began attending the IPA meetings which was in 1952 I felt a feeling of distrust an undercurrent of distrust on the part of the American public has certain elements of that and I think publishes important elements of the Latin American public. The general feeling I think was at that time well one of the Yankees in this thing for what do they want what are they going what are they trying to get out of it. And I think there's been a general understanding that actually they're not trying to get anything out of it
except understanding and goodwill on the part of Latin America. There's no we're not trying to extract anything from them and we're not trying there's no imperialist atmosphere at all in this thing it's it's a it's a mutual understanding thing. And I believe that these publishers by and large now realize that we are there for that purpose that personal friend of ours. And while they're not in any way. You might say subservient to the United States or American interests that set me on the standing of American interests. There is criticism in their papers but I think in many cases in all cases most cases it's very oppressive. By and large you will find in the press of Latin America more than any other segment of the of the
economy are they in a literary world in Latin America and the press there is an understanding of the United States and I think this is largely been created through a close contact working with the Indian American Press Association. Thank you General for the past half hour. We've been reporting on the information barrier a product of the contemporary revolution in Latin America. The information barrier is the ninth in a series of weekly documentary reports on the contemporary revolutions in Latin America. The program is now rated by the distinguished American journalist and editor of The Christian Science Monitor there when
the series is produced in collaboration with the University of Florida school of enter American studies. You may receive without charge the text of today's program by writing this station. Today's report was based in part on material appearing in the publication the United States and Latin America published by the American assembly. Columbia University. We wish to thank the producers of Meet the Press for the interview with Edward R. Murrow. This program was prepared and recorded by us for Radio Center school of journalism and communications University of Florida Gainesville under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center and is being distributed by the
Contemporary revolution in Latin America
Information barrier
Producing Organization
University of Florida
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program examines if the North American press provides enough coverage of Latin American affairs and if the United States makes enough of an effort to communicate directly to Latin America.
Other Description
A documentary series on problems facing Latin America, including panel discussions at program conclusion. The series is hosted by Erwin Canham, editor at the Christian Science Monitor.
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Global Affairs
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Host: Canham, Erwin D. (Erwin Dain), 1904-1982
Interviewee: Hottelet, Richard C.
Interviewee: Moses, Herbert
Interviewee: Allen, George V. (George Venable), 1903-1970
Interviewee: Matthews, Herbert Lionel, 1900-
Interviewee: Pruitt, Virginia
Interviewee: Brenner, Anita, 1905-1974
Producing Organization: University of Florida
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-54-9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:09
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Chicago: “Contemporary revolution in Latin America; Information barrier,” 1961-11-14, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 11, 2022,
MLA: “Contemporary revolution in Latin America; Information barrier.” 1961-11-14. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 11, 2022. <>.
APA: Contemporary revolution in Latin America; Information barrier. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from