Former CNN head visits Semanario Laguna and talks local news
Patrick O’Heffernan Ajijic (JAL) Teya Ryan, the former Executive Vice President and General Manager of CNN, recently visited the offices of Semanario Laguna to see how local news is gathered in Mexico and to talk with Mexican journalists about the state of newspapers. She was impressed not only with the quality of the reporting of newspapers in Lakeside, but with their independence. “Semanario Laguna and other independent newspapers are so important because they keep the ideal of truthful, accurate, unbiased journalism alive at a time when newspapers in the United States are under attack and closing down,” she told the staff. “What you do here,” she said, “is not only excellent reporting but vital to independent journalism everywhere.”
She explained that falling advertising revenues, competition from online news and sales sites, and corporate takeovers have drastically reduced the number of newspapers in the USA. In fact, a study of newspaper coverage in the United States found a national total of 1,810 papers ceased publication in the past 15 years – one fifth of all papers in the country. Ryan stressed the importance of papers like Semanario Laguna that survive on advertising and remain independent.
Teya Ryan, former head of CNN, with the editors of Semanario Laguna.
The Laguna staff explained to her that the basis of reporting in Lakeside for Semanario Laguna and other publication is local area news – Ajijic, Chapala, Jocotepec, and so on. They explained that people want to know what is going on in their town and their neighborhood, so Semanario Laguna and other news sites segment themselves by areas and have reporters who know the local scene and people in each town. This also attracts local business for advertising, the lifeblood of papers here.
Responding to questions about running CNN, she told them she managed a revenue budget of over a billion dollars a year and reporters and crews around the world. She said that her position came with some awesome decisions– especially in wartime when her reporters were imbedded with military units at the battle front and video was streaming live.
“What would you do if your medical reporter, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who is a pediatric neurosurgeon, is at the battlefront with a military medical team and injured children start coming in, including one with brain damage that only he can operate on – would you tell him he can operate and save lives, and thus become part of the story, or would you tell him no, you have to remain a neutral reporter?” (she told him to operate).
Teya Ryan, former head of CNN, with the editors of Semanrio Laguna.
That question, and others like censoring live broadcasts to prevent the enemy from seeing where Coalition troops were, led to a lively discussion. Of course, these are decisions the staff of Semanario Laguna is not likely to face, but they discussed other decisions involving hard-hitting investigations of local government and institutions where similar decisions could be involved.
Ryan was in Ajijic visiting friends including this writer, and was pleased with the opportunity to talk with local journalists. She now is President and CEO of Georgia Public Broadcasting, where she manages multiple TV and radio stations and produces television documentaries and entertainment programs every year. Although she manages a large statewide network, she works to insure strong local coverage, including high school sports, on the part of her stations, much like Semanario Laguna’s hyperlocal coverage.