The Spanish Press

by Robbie McClintock

Review of The Spanish Press, 1470-1966: Print, Power, Politics by Henry F. Schulte (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1968.xi, 280 pp. $6.95), published in the Comparative Education Review, Vol. XIII, No. 2, June 1969, pp. 235-38.

Length: 1,400ß words

Early in 1966 the Spanish government instituted a new, more lenient press law with great ballyhoo: liberalization had begun. Henry F. Schulte, former Madrid bureau manager of United Press International, opens The Spanish Press; with a cautiously favorable assessment of the 1966 law and then rapidly surveys the historical developments since 1470 that he thinks led to the apparent liberalization. One would expect such as account to give relatively fuller attention to twentieth-century developments than it does, since these were most relevant to the 1966 law; but this expectation is disappointed. Each period from 1470 to the Franco years receives an equally cursory glance. This superficiality is integral to the author's method; and the weaknesses of this method have been exposed by events. Early in 1969 the Spanish government suspended the press law, closed the University of Madrid, and arrested a number of accomplished Spanish publicists and exiled them to remote villages.

Schulte's thesis is that the history of the Spanish press has been a history "of the oscillations between strict controls, rigorously applied, and libertine freedom." In his five-hundred-year dash the author supplies sufficient evidence of both controls and freedom. Neither of these extremes, he contends, makes for an effective fourth estate; and insofar as it is an effort to reach a mean for the first time in Spanish history, he commends the 1966 law as a major first step. This thesis should be taken as an example of the ignorant judiciousness endemic to responsible American journalists.

ne learns little about the Spanish press from this book, what one learns is a little about the press in Spain; and if Schulte understood more about Spanish journalism, his historical essay would have been less vulnerable to historical acts. The scope of the work ~recludedc areful research: the secondary literature was covered adequately, although it is surprising to see Manuel Ortega y Gasset's book, El Imparcial, ignored in the bibliography; but the primary sources were not used well. For someone interested in promoting an effective, moderate press in Spain, Schulte gave surprisingly scant attention to examples of effective, moderate papers, such as El Imparcial or El Sol, that flourished in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In general, the author's account shows few signs that he thumbed page by page through many issues of Spanish papers. It is indicative of Schulte's limitations that he gave fuller, more sympathetic coverage to the journalism of the Restoration than he did to that of the Generation of 1898, despite the fact that this renaissance of Spanish culture was almost wholly a journalistic phenomenon.

Had Schulte delved more deeply into the cultural substance of the historically important Spanish papers, he might have realized that the Spanish press could not be rightly measured, as he sought to do, by American norms. Despite his service in Madrid from 1956 to 1962, a time when Spanish journalism was in abeyance, he remained an American newsman who sees the Spanish tradition through American eyes. Significantly, Schulte speaks of Spanish "newsmen," as if there was much in common between the American reporter and the Continental journalist. To mite the history of the Spanish press, one has to break away from the standards of the professional reporter, the newsman, in order to understand the tradition oi the periodista, the journalist, the intellectual who does not write for a daily paper but who frequently publishes what he writes in a daily paper. If he had understood this tradition better, Schulte might have tied his account less tightly to the fortunes of the 1966 law, thus writing a more sound, less vulnerable book.

Spain's tradition of the periodista is a tradition of the literary intellectual and the university professor taking an active part in journalism. There has been more to this tradition than an oscillation between strict control and libertine freedom. Schulte mentions that during what he calls the "cynical years," 1898 and 1936, many intellectuals wrote and managed various periodicals; but he does not understand their work. He dismisses the often heavy emphasis on cultural rather than political matters as a result of political censorship. The truth is that journalism produced by intellectuals has a different function and mix than that produced by newsmen. Spanish journalism flourished from 1900 to 1930 when novelists, poets, and professors-among them Unamuno, Josk Ortega y Gasset, Pio Baroja, Luis Araquistain, Ram6n Pkrez de Ayala, Manuel Abril, Ram6n de Valle-InclAn, Manuel Machado, Ramiro de Maetzu, Manuel Azafia, American Castro, Dr. Gregorio Marafion, and Salvador de Madariaga-published much of their writing in newspapers and cooperated in founding and running major daily, weekly, and monthly periodicals. These men created a journalistic tradition that the welleducated Spaniard who is ~ r o u dof his cultural heritage takes as the standard of excellence that should be pursued by journalists.

The historic backbone of Spanish journalism has been something quite unfamiliar to American experience: the combination in a single man of the reforming intellectual, the university professor, and the leading journalist. This fact should have been a clue alerting Schulte to what was really happening in Spain and making his prognosis more circumspect. In The Spanish Press Schulte mentioned that under the 1966 law, papers were able to give wider factual coverage to clashes between the government and university students and professors; but having failed to understand the unique character of Spanish journalism, he did not grasp the integral connection between the 1966 law and the university disturbances.

There is little in common between the Spanish student disturbances and the more recent eruptions of student radicalism in France, Italy, Germany, Japan, and the United States. In Spain students have been seeking autonomous student associations that would be free of overt and covert government control. The government has refused to yield on this issue, and its position was particularly unbending at the time the Press Law was put into effect. Historically, Spanish student associations-the Residencias and Atenos-have given popular professors and intellectuals a public forum from which they could speak out on issues. A professor would be invited to speak his mind to a large group of sudents; his views would be reported prominently in the press, for Spaniards, unlike Americans, consider a stimulating lecture to be a newsworthy event; and soon the professor would have a public following and his opinions would be a frequent feature in one or another paper.

By its actions in the university in 1965, 1966, and thereafter, the Spanish regime made it very clear that it did not intend the new press law to refurbish this tradition. About the time the press law was instituted, five professors of international stature were dismissed from their chairs and forbidden to teach because they helped students petition for autonomous associations. The point was clear to intellectuals that strong public opposition could be severely penalized even with the new law in force. What happens to the Spanish press cannot be isolated from what happens to the Spanish university, and the constant harrassment of activist professors, students, and intellectuals did not bode well for the real liberalization of the Spanish press. This harassment indicated that the regime might well do what it has since done: rescind the law when and if the intellectuals of the university began to make themselves heard in the press.

Schulte did the right thing in giving the 1966 law the benefit of the doubt; the error of his book did not stem from the fact that he hoped for the best, but that he hoped for the best blindly. The error of his book is his failure to understand the particular genius of Spanish journalism at its best, a genius very different from that of American journalism. By better understanding this genius, he might have interpreted recent developments and their twentieth-century background differently; and, without giving up his hopes for the best, he might have warned about the probable causes of less happy possibilities, possibilities that have since become realities. These realities make a period piece of The Spanish Press and its interpretation of five hundred years of history as a prelude to a short-lived law.