Last September, the director of EL PAÍS, Javier Moreno, appointed Andrea Rizzi, until now editor-in-chief of the International section, director of Opinion. The one who gives him the job, after just over two years, is Máriam Martínez-Bascuñán (Madrid, 1979). Doctor in Political Science, she will continue to be linked to the newspaper through her column and as an advisor. “I think I can be of use to the newspaper and I put myself at their disposal for whatever is needed, I feel part of it and the director -Javier Moreno- has made me feel like this,” he says by phone.
Martínez-Bascuñán acceded to the position with three purposes: internationalization, parity and rejuvenation of the section. Although the newspaper has always had a European and global vocation, as the former director emphasizes, it wanted to incorporate more foreign voices to support this precept. Thus, he added authors such as the BritishGuy Standing, the German Carolin Emcke or the Bulgarian Ivan Krastev, “so that they would talk both about Spain and what was happening in their respective countries.”
The second issue, gender balance, was a bit more complicated. “With such a long tradition of such prestigious firms, it was difficult to fit in new voices,” he explains, indicating that the publication calendar had to be readjusted. In addition, he ran into another problem: “When he invited authors to write in the Opinion pages there was no permanence, while the main network assumed that they were regular collaborations,” he clarifies. His “obsession” was to combine these two sources “With some I have succeeded and I am very proud,” she concedes.
His latest endeavor was to “shake up the section” with young firms that identified issues that were otherwise hidden from the newspaper. Martínez-Bascuñán gives an example: Paul B. Preciado, internationally recognized for his contributions to queer theory. Its tribunes have caused a stir, but the political scientist considers it necessary to “surprise” to create dialogue. “The reader of EL PAÍS has a very high cultural level and critical capacity and the newspaper is due to them, it is part of the game of complicity between Opinion and its readers to offer something unexpected”, he considers. As if thinking aloud about what makes readers think the most, he adds: “Then there’s El Roto, of course, which is an editorial in itself.”
Opinion firms help compose a diverse cast. “With clear limits, the condition of plurality is possible, because it does not mean open bar, but that certain lines have to be respected,” he clarifies. These are the sacred respect for facts and the rejection of hate speech.
Ideological wealth brings pressure from all angles, but for Martínez-Bascuñán they are not at odds with “the professionalism, autonomy and personal honesty” of the person who holds the position of Opinion director. Aware of the weight, he assumed it as “part of the democratic game” from which no space of power is free.
He leaves the management praising the professional and personal quality of the EL PAÍS editorial team and the entire Opinion team, which recently lost the editorial writer Jesús Mota, who died in September. “Working in the newspaper is a responsibility and a privilege, especially seeing the dynamics from within, the discussions, how lively and stimulating a newsroom can be,” he details.
The section has three legs: the editorials, the columns, and the letters to the editor. The first is identified with the voice of the newspaper and, as the former director points out, is “probably the most complex.” To identify the topic, the Opinion team must be connected with the rest of the sections of the newspaper, since they are the ones who set the agenda for the day. Then it’s time to “go down to the mud” and decide the position that the newspaper will adopt. This is disputed by the editorialists and ultimately belongs to the editor.
A defined editorial line allows for a wide network of collaborators and analysts that feeds EL PAÍS pages with columns on a daily basis. The only red lines that Martínez-Bascuñán marked for himself are those that contradict the founding principles of EL PAÍS: the defense of institutions, progressive values and that accompany changes in society, Europeanism and the Book of Style.
The third leg of the section is the readers themselves, who participate through their letters. The section team reads and selects them with care, knowing that THE COUNTRY is due to its readers.
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