Thursday, August 3, 2017

Bye-Bye, Buenos Aires Herald

In 1979, when I first visited Argentina, my Spanish was basic, and the country was in the depths of its worst dictatorship ever—one that “disappeared” and executed many thousands of its opponents. I was also naïve, but my own experiences in a brief visit to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego unnerved me despite the country’s stunning natural landscapes.

I doubted whether I’d ever return but then, two years later in Bolivia, I met the Argentine woman who would become my wife. A couple months after we parted in Chile, where I was researching my M.A. thesis on llama/alpaca pastoralism in Parque Nacional Lauca, I made my first visit to Buenos Aires, where she was studying literature.
Robert Cox (left) with Australian filmmaker Jayson McNamara, who shot a documentary about the Herald, in Cox's Buenos Aires apartment.
By that time, my Spanish had improved considerably, but I got to know the city and country partly through its venerable English-language daily, the Buenos Aires Herald. While the Herald’s relatively small staff could not match the broader coverage of high-circulation dailies like Clarín and La Nación, it had gained an international reputation by publicly reporting on the military junta’s record of brutality and repression (the Spanish-language dailies almost ignored those atrocities). That made its staff, such as editor Robert Cox and news editor Andrew Graham-Yooll, the target of threats against themselves and their families, and both had to go into exile.
Andrew Graham-Yooll, outside the Herald's old offices on Calle Azopardo
Even after the dictatorship ended, I continued to rely on the Herald as an essential digest of Argentine news. On visits to my wife’s provincial hometown of Olavarría, in the Pampas, the local newsagent would reserve me a copy and my late father-in-law—who barely recognized a word in English—would devour the Spanish-language version of its editorials. Later, as I spent more three decades traveling in the country, I got to meet the heroic Cox and Graham-Yooll, and other Anglo-Argentine legends such as food writer Dereck Foster and senior editor Michael Soltys.

I've also written for the paper on occasion, on topics such as Argentina's now discontinued tourism reciprocity fee and the Falkland/Malvinas Islands (for which, in one reader's letter, I was accused of being a CIA agent).


In recent years, the Herald had lost much of its critical edge, and also its readership as it went from a daily to a weekly. It finally closed its doors this week—sadly, without so much as a farewell edition. The best summary I’ve read in English comes from The Economist, which notes (and I agree) that online publications like The Bubble may pick up some of the slack. My own generation falls somewhere in between the Herald’s methodical heyday and The Bubble’s snarkier millennialism; I sometimes enjoy the latter, but I’ll always miss the former.

2 comments:

  1. The curtain drops on yet another era. Once spent several weeks reading through a microfilmed ten years or so of the early 1900s Buenos Aires Herald, then an actual daily, for news outlawry in Patagonia. Dan

    ReplyDelete
  2. One time, John Muir showed up at the Herald offices.

    ReplyDelete

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