Sunday, August 25, 2013

Agriculture coverage by Juventud Rebelde

For our class paper, I decided to look at how Juventud Rebelde covers agricultural topics. Juventud Rebelde is a nationally distributed newspaper, first published by the Young Communist League in 1965, that is specifically addressed at young Cubans. During our class sessions, some of the speakers talked about the importance of getting more young people into the fields, so I thought it would be interesting to see what kinds of stories and messages they are getting from a media outlet that is directed at them.

During the period I chose, January 2012 to June 212, I scanned through 165 of the issues published (one was not available online), and pulled out the text for all items that had agriculture or food as a significant focus. In total there were 124 news items, features or commentaries that fit this description. Before doing any content analysis, I decided to create a word cloud and see what relevant words came up the most, and it is actually quite similar to the results I got from the theme and topic categories I established.

Overall, the main focus of coverage was the goal of increasing production, with 50 items related to system, yield numbers, strategies, and research. These are topics very much in line with the updating objectives of the government (the Lineamientos), such as reducing imports, increasing exports, and achieving self-sufficiency. At times, the coverage read like a race, a competition between entities to be the most productive. All throughout the items, there were phrases like “Paquito Rosales exceeded fulfillment at 111percent” and “the UEB Porcinos from Isla de la Juventud did not fulfill the plan.”

One particular feature item was direct about the reasons to report figures: “Praises to the exceptionality of many farmers, well-deserved, often transcend to the public eye to demonstrate that there are indeed those who produce well, and to push stragglers to look in the mirror.” Two aspects stand out about this quote. First, the journalistic style in Cuba allows for strong opinions within news reporting. Second, combined with the phrases above and others I found, it denotes an effort to instill a sense of moral and patriotic duty in readers: increase your yield numbers because it’s what your country needs of you.

Given the paper’s audience, it is not surprising that the topic of “youths” was the fourth most recurring, with 24 instances. At some points, there were clear efforts to motivate young people to work in the fields by featuring others like them who are doing that work. Many feature items were tailored to young people, highlighting the work of young individuals in the field or in research. In Corrientazos con marabú? a college student proposes that farmers can produce energy with an invasive plant. Similarly in Joven con muchos millones, a young man is praised for his extraordinary contributions to sugar cane harvesting. Other youth-related items highlighted the work being done by young people through statistics, while others reviewed events for young farmers or that were intended to promote this line of work among youths.

The most critical items tended to be in the opinion pages. There were 18 commentaries, all but one by José Alejandro Rodríguez. In his column, Rodríguez gathers letters sent in by readers of the paper. They are not published verbatim but, rather, he summarizes them, quotes them, and comments on them. Often, public functionaries answer to some of the complaints presented, and Rodríguez consistently provides follow up columns on the situations that he reports. Here is an example from the selected period

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