Monday, March 27

Gay Talese: “Journalists must be willing to be demonized as traitors”

Gay Talese, in a moment of his conversation with Luis Enríquez, CEO of Vocento. / VOCENTO

‘Echoes of the future’ | Vocento’s 20th anniversary

Luis Enríquez, CEO of Vocento, spoke with the father of new journalism at his residence in New York

The day ‘Echoes of the future’, with which Vocento celebrated its twentieth anniversary, closed with a special dish. Suddenly on the screen, Gay Talese, a living legend of journalism, a proper name in the history of this profession, author of memorable pieces such as ‘Sinatra has a cold’ and essential books such as ‘You will honor your father’ and ‘The woman of your neighbor’, among many others. A historical myth with which Luis Enríquez, CEO of Vocento, spoke a few days ago in New York, in an interview of which a twenty-five-minute summary was screened (the expanded version will be broadcast on Sunday on and on the rest of Vocento’s headers) and that it was a way of vindicating tradition, which is always innovative. «Vocento closes its twentieth anniversary, ‘Ecos de futuro’, and it does so with a ninety-year-old guy. You are right. Gay Talese talks about the past, denounces the present and only has the purpose of showing us the future. Because as Jorge Fernández Díaz said, the future returns”, explained Enríquez from the lectern, after presenting Talese as the most brilliant author of the most brilliant generation of journalism.

In his first question, Luis Enríquez evoked the book ‘The kingdom and the power’, in which Talese recounts a meeting in which it is discussed whether the ‘New York Times’ should publish a story about some documents that showed an imminent North American invasion of the Bay of Pigs, in Cuba. Finally, the information was not published so as not to compromise the stability of the country. “Which is more important, national security or the people’s right to know?” “Speaking as part of the people who want to know, I believe that the people’s right to information should take precedence over so-called national security. But the question is: who determines what is national security? There are lawyers, bureaucrats and government people who too often talk about high security when in reality it is not about high security, but about protecting their own privileges, “replied the journalist, who wore his usual attire: three-piece suit, tie gold, silk scarf and handmade shoes. Not even at his ninety years does he renounce elegance, he, the son of a tailor and a dressmaker.

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A moment of the conversation between Gay Talese and Luis Enríquez. /


The conversation, to a large extent, was a defense of freedom of expression. “Journalism must be independent of the government. Journalists have to be willing to be demonized as traitors to their country. Perhaps the best journalists should be traitors. “Do you have the impression that journalists today have more intimidation and pressure than they had before?” “Yes I believe it. We have a distorted perception of what we consider acceptable or politically correct. Right now we have a conflict over how one person’s behavior is going to affect that person’s right to be heard or their right to publish or to be an actor or to be a musician. Sometimes, the nationality of the people is so provocative that a Russian soprano cannot sing at the MET in New York, one of the best sopranos in the world is not allowed to sing here… Sometimes I wonder if the books I have published or the articles I wrote when I was young would be published today. And later: «I assure you that if I were saying what I am saying to you now I would not be on television. And this is wrong. It should be possible that I could say these things on American television, the “land of free men and of the brave”… We are not so brave in this country.”

About his career, Talese stated that he always wanted to work for a newspaper, but not to “write news”: “I wanted to write stories that were real, verifiable and accurate. He wanted scenes, dialogues, internal monologues. He wanted to be a writer of short stories, of non-fiction stories». He also said that “local journalism is so important because all journalism is local.” And that sports journalism is the most honest. Why? “Because they see what they are writing. If you’re a war correspondent, you don’t see the war. You get information through the Pentagon public relations department or a news agency. You don’t see the war. But in sports, you are there, on the field of play.

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Luis Enríquez cited some of the latest milestones in non-fiction, such as ‘Don’t Say Anything’, by Patrick Radden Keefe, or ‘The City of the Living’, by Nicola Lagioia. “Do you think that these authors will be able to live from their profession as you did with “Honour your father” or “Your neighbor’s wife”? “If they are determined and strong and willing to suffer, they will. (…) Sometimes, actors have to work as waiters in a restaurant or writers as taxi drivers and write in their spare time because they don’t make enough money for the publisher because they don’t become best sellers. Perhaps they will be one day, but at first they are not. And that’s when the perseverance comes in that you see in great athletes or great actors who go to auditions and are always rejected until they finally get a role. A writer has to be a fighter, he has to have great self-confidence, believe in himself when no one else does. Great writers sometimes don’t get discovered until after they’re dead, unfortunately.”

Gunter Pauli:

Last question: “Do you regret anything in life?” “I’ve never done anything I’m ashamed of in my professional life. In my personal life I have done many things that I should be ashamed of. But maybe I’m not ashamed enough.” And to top it off: “I know I’ve done immoral things to get a story. I am a confessed adulterer (…) I have written many times about petty people. I recently wrote about a voyeur, a nasty guy, who doesn’t know why he became a voyeur. I have invaded people’s privacy, because I wanted to be with the voyeur. I myself am a voyeur, I think all journalists are voyeurs… But as a writer I wanted to see the devil inside him. I wanted to write about that demon. The devil in me, too.”

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