País, El

País, El
   El País is without any doubt Spain's leading national daily newspaper. Despite growing competition from a number of quarters, it is still the market leader in terms of circulation, and is an obligatory reference point for all serious public debate within the country.
   El País was founded in 1976 by PRISA, one of the main communications groups within contemporary Spain which also owns the radio network SER and is part owner of the subscription television channel Canal +. Its establishment therefore followed close on the death of General Franco in 1975, and responded to a growing demand for independent newspapers not compromised in any way by having lived through the previous repressive regime, championing liberal democratic values and having as their aim the investigation and analysis of all aspects of Spanish life. El País attracted a number of journalists and writers associated with various earlier publications which had been critical of the Franco regime, but which had not survived the transition to democracy. One of these was Eduardo Haro Tecglen, previous editor of the now defunct Triunfo, who writes the daily television and radio review Visto y Oído (Seen and Heard) for the paper.
   El País quickly established itself as the newspaper of modern, liberal-democratic Spain, in contrast to publications such as ABC which continued to be steeped in a conservative ideology and in some ways never quite managed to shake off entirely the implications of their ability to live with dictatorship, even if they had never fully supported its methods. El País continues to attract major thinkers, intellectuals and literary and cultural figures either as regular or as occasional contributors to its columns. Its daily readership is well in excess of one million per day—a remarkable figure in a country which by and large has a relatively low rate of newspaper consumption—and this figure can more than double on Sundays. Like its other major competitor El Mundo, El País is roughly tabloid in format, and is a substantial read, with individual issues at times totalling as many as seventy pages, not counting any special supplements which might accompany the main part of the paper. While the front page will cover what is seen as the major event of the day —whether national or international—page two always opens the international section of the newspaper, in clear contradistinction to the bulk of Spanish dailies which will normally lead with national news first and international news later. This foregrounding of international news is in no sense a coincidence in a newspaper which sees itself —with some justification—as a major player on the European journalistic stage, and which has in fact signed cooperation agreements with a number of other European newspapers, such as the Independent and La Repubblica. Its international coverage is usually a mixture of agency material with other pieces provided by its own overseas correspon-dents, or, in the case of particularly important events, by journalists sent specifically by El País. Following the international section are two pages of editorial and opinion. It is no exaggeration to say that these are the most important—and indeed most extensive—daily editorials in Spain. No one who makes any claim to be up-to-date with current events and debates can afford to miss these pages. Their influence in setting the agenda for public debate cannot be overstated, and many people who in one way or another do not agree with the paper's general position on a number of issues will still read the editorial since they know that it will define the broad framework of debate in a number of fields and activities. As well as the editorial strictly speaking, the accompanying—and at times very lengthy—opinion articles are often written by major public figures from a number of different spheres, many contributions having been made, for example, by the Peruvian novelist and former Presidential candidate, Mario Vargas Llosa.
   After the editorial comes coverage of Spanish news, while the rest of the paper is variously given over to business, culture, sport and entertainment. Sunday editions contain a sizeable business supplement printed on pink paper, as well as a colour magazine.
   El País has from the outset—in keeping with its generally liberal stance—championed the cause of a pluralistic view of Spain as regards the autonomous communities. This feature contrasts El País strongly with ABC, which has gained a certain level of notoriety for the virulence of its attacks on what it sees as the "excesses of Catalan nationalism", but also from El Mundo, which has been to some extent unsupportive of the policy of language normalization within Catalonia as a whole. In keeping with this pluralistic view, El País publishes a number of regional editions, which combine the main paper with a supplement covering news from the community in question. Examples of these regional editions are El País Andalucía as well as the Barcelona edition, though the latter eventually ceased publication in the face of the strength of the local Catalan dailies (see also Vanguardia, La; Periódico de Catalunya, El). The growing popularity of El Mundo does represent something of a threat to El País, though certain fairly clear differences in style will probably mean that the two papers will continue to attract rather different types of readers rather than necessarily steal them from each other. While El Mundo occasionally flirts with a mildly provocative headline, any hint of sensationalism, however faint, would be anathema to El País. And, although both types of approach are clearly present in both publications, the emphasis in El País is rather more on analytic rather than investigative journalism. This is a subtle but important difference, and presupposes a more thoughtful and more sophisticated relationship with the reader, a presupposi-tion which is entirely in keeping with El País" view of itself and of its role within Spanish society.
   Further reading
   - Mateo, R. de and Corbella, J.M. (1992) "Spain" in B.S.Østergaard (ed.) The Media in Western Europe, London: Sage (a useful guide to the media situation in Spain in general, though its coverage of individual newspapers is rather slim).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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