Argentina: What the Media Didn't Say About Personal Fest

Last Friday in Buenos Aires, the Personal Fest was held, which was an event that gathers Argentine and foreign musical artists, sponsored by a local mobile telephone company: Personal owned by Telecom Italy. The show was preceded by an impressive advertising campaign in every imaginable media: television, radio, magazines and newspapers. But this Friday something unexpected happened: during the wait for Snoop Dogg's show, a person was stabbed and another one was attacked, which caused a huge disturbance. Many people ran way causing a stampede and many were trampled on and injured, not too seriously, fortunately. Many of the people who went to the Personal Fest affirmed that it was a miracle that the incident did not end in a massacre. Scared by this incide, and despite there still were a few more show left, many people decided to leave the place where the festival was taking place.

The most shocking fact was that, despite the existence of injured people, practically no media covered the incidents, not even the local cable news stations, who are prone to those “last minute” newsflashes. This particular silence towards a serious issue in an event sponsored by one of the largest advertisers in Argentina, started a real furious reaction among blogs and forums. In a certain way, the fact itself was left in the background, and the big subject was the notorious hiding that the media made of the facts. And when they did bring it up, they did so in a casual way, playing down its importance.

Just a few minutes later, people who attened the Personal Fest started leaving comments on the event's blog, which were deleted a few hours later, something that was reported in blogs such as Personal Fest Desastre [es], a site created to tell the story. The site's creator wrote:

Creé este blog para postear todos los comentarios que fueron borrados del site oficial del Personal Fest. La intención de esta via es canalizar las opiniones q fueron suprimidas del site para garantizar nuestro derecho de expresarnos y defendernos del abuso permanente.

I created this blog to post all of the comments that were erased from the official site of Personal Fest. The purpose of this medium is to channel the opinions that were withheld from the site in order to guarantee our right to express ourselves and defend ourselves from permanent abuse.

In this same blog, one can see pictures of the incidents and a video filmed a few minutes after the stampede of people.

But many other personal blogs also talked about this incident. The journalist Eduardo Fabregat, from Pagina /12, the only news media that informed about these issues, made an early summary report on his blog Pan y Circo [es].

Anoche, en la primera fecha del Personal Fest y poco antes del show de Snoop Dogg, hubo un herido de arma blanca. Según me contó el periodista Roque Casciero (quien confirmó la versión con personal de Cruz Roja y la Policía), desde que trascendió la noticia hubo un importante operativo de Popart y Personal sobre la prensa para minimizar el hecho, e incluso se dio a conocer un comunicado bastante livianito en el que se habla de “un incidente entre un reducido grupo de gente”, no se menciona el arma blanca ni que el herido fue operado en el Hospital Rivadavia.

Last night, on the first night of Personal Fest and a little bit after the show of Snoop Dogg, there was a person wounded with a weapon. According to the journalist Roaque Casciero (who confirmed the story with personnel from the Red Cross and the Police), from the time that the news was announced there was an important operation from Popart and Person regarding the press in order to minimize the event, and even there was a light communication in which they referred to a “an incident between a small group of people,” and there was no mention of neither a weapon, nor the wounded that was operated on at the Hospital Rivadavia.

Also the 20 Palabras [es] news site published about the incident, and hundreds of comments broadened the information.

La desorganización del festival acaba de dejar un herido. Es un chico que acuchillaron en medio de una estampida, tras la que se fue un cuarto del público. Está internado en el Hospital Rivadavia.

The festival's disorganization left one wounded. It is a male that was knived in the middle of a stampede, and after which more than a fourth of the public left. He is admitted at the Hospital Rivadavia.

The website of Argentine version of the Rolling Stone magazine published a light account of the event, which they called “a party”. In this note, comments were disabled. Instead readers literally assaulted the previous article about the show the band The Police played a few days earlier. That article did allow comments and the readers accused the media of hiding the facts. Such comments were deleted, but the magazine published a note about the incident, which can be found here, and where one can find more comments of angry readers.

Behind these, dozens of blogs started publishing about this subject and linking other sites. In a few hours, any person that wanted to find information about the incidents in the Personal Fest could do so. Despite the fact that the mass media had not informed about the issue, the information was widely available.

And there are some early conclusions from different bloggers. The first one, it's increasingly evident that, for certain issues, the traditional media do not monopolize the spreading of certain topics of public agenda, but they still act like they can –in this case, by not informing about a serious incident in an event sponsored by one of the largest advertisers in the country. [es] writes:

Periodismo ciudadano? La revolución de los blogs? Llámenlo como quieran. Lo que es seguro es que para estar bien informado, con los medios tradicionales, no alcanza.

Citizen journalism? Blog revolution? Call it what you want. I assure you that to be well informed, the traditional media is not enough.

Second, the fact became a real public relations disaster to those who organized the event. Many blogs revealed that the organizing company and the press agency that managed the event pressured to avoid the release of further details of the incidents; by doing this, they created a massive protest in the Net, and now the events have blown out of proportions, as Fabregat of Pan y Circo [es] reported.

Third, that in a country still sensitive for the tragedy of Cromañon, where 194 young people died of asphyxia in a rock concert, any incident in a public event quickly becomes big news. There are no deaths in this case, but there were injured people. Gabby Aloe of La Vie en Rose [es] was relieved that there were no deaths:

Gracias a Dios fue en un lugar abierto y amplio como el Club Ciudad, si era en otro predio con accesos más chico, hoy los estaban contando. La gente corría y decía, “no sé explotó el escenario, explotó el escenario.”

Thank God it was in a large and open space like Club Ciudad, if it was in another location with smaller access points, maybe I would be saying something else. The people ran saying, “I don't know, the stage exploded, the stage exploded.”

Fourth, that the mass media are also one of the most affected parties in this incident; certain agencies cannot control like they used to four or five years ago.Here's a list of blogs that talk about this topic and that have not been cited in the rest of this note:

2 Papiros
Denken Uber
Manzana que no
Vida Vacía
La tuya está
Kill Your Kids
Partido Pirata Argentino
Unos cuantos piquetitos
Pablo Mancini
Bloc de Periodista
Martín Revert
Mundo Perverso
Yo opino que
La verdad de la milanesa

If there's a blog I did not mention, leave the link in the comments area.


  • “Citizen journalism? Blog revolution? Call it what you want. I assure you that to be well informed, the traditional media is not enough.”

    I write that, in the other blog. Thanks for linking!
    (sorry for my bad english, i am argentinian :s)

  • CB

    “The only news organization” to report on this story?” This is simply not true.

    A quick Google News search indicates that Rolling Stone, Urgente24, and Channel 26 all covered the incident pretty extensively, at least. And quite a bit of the coverage in the metro and regional dailies did register the stabbing as part of their coverage, though they did not report extensively on what led to the incident.

    Rolling Stone interviewed the alleged stabbing victim, one Edisson Boudiwan, in his hospital bed, at length, and defended the supposed “cover-up” of the incident on its part as prudent journalism: It said it did not wish to contribute to the rumor-mill that quickly grew up around the incident.

    “Respecto de la herida sobre la que se informó, repetimos, ya a las 3 de la mañana — con otra actualización a las 5 AM, tras información obtenida en el mismo hospital Rivadavia en que se destacaba su estado de salud estable — este medio no ofreció confirmaciones acerca de que se trataba de una herida cortante porque eso no fue precisado por ninguna fuente médica ni policial. En ese momento la confusión era mucha y los rumores también. Si bien fue un colaborador de esta revista quien acompañó la camilla hasta el puesto de la Cruz Roja con una visible mancha de sangre y que parte de este equipo vio escenas del incidente en las cámaras de circuito cerrado que había en la oficina de prensa (en las que sólo se veía un tumulto y el joven caído), no había hasta ahí más que rumores acerca de que era una herida cortante. Afirmar cómo se había producido la herida en ese momento, hubiera sido tan imprudente e irresponsable como hacerse eco de rumores más graves.”

    What more can you ask of a major publication like Rolling Stone than to interview the man on the receiving end of the 10cm blade in question about what happened? And quote him extensively? Along with interviews with corroborating witnesses?

    Heroes of Soviet citizen journalism or a rumor-amplifying echo chamber? A legitimate debate. Naturally, hip hop fans will want more detail on the incident than general-interest readers. But it does seem Rolling Stone actually did make a credible effort to provide that for its readers.

    In any event, claiming that NO news organizations covered the incident in depth, in order to extol “citizen journalism”, seems like the very sort of baseless exaggeration that represents a principal risk of the phenomenon you are celebrating rather uncritically here.

    Here in São Paulo, for example, after the TAM air disaster, the UOL news portal prominently and proudly displayed a “citizen journalism” photo showing someone leaping from a burning building struck by the malfunctioning jetliner, accompanied by many of the same claims you make here. But not only was it a Photoshop montage, it was an extremely CRUDE Photoshop montage that an awful lot of cheap Photoshop montage artists (I am one, although I do most of my crude montage work using the GIMP these days) recognized as such almost immediately.

    The portal’s ombudsman issued a very stern warning to its “content managers” to exercise some professional due diligence next time. It is bad for business for a news organization to brand as fact what is actually fiction, she noted. The portal is owned by one of Brazil’s most prestigious newspapers, which does not need its brand associated with the act of uncritically passing along unfiltered rumors and fabrications.

  • […] Global Voices Online » Argentina: What the Media Didn’t Say About Personal Fest: Harvard Law’s prestigious prize-winner for “innovations in journalism” demonstrates once again that its principal innovation is moral panic. See also […]

  • Colin, many of the facts that you state in your comment should be contextualized. Yes, the Rolling Stone magazine finally published a note, but they took four days to do so -and you know quite well how important is timing in journalism. The original coverage of the event barely mentioned the incidents, and talked about a “no reason stampede”. There are no excuses regarding time, since Pagina/12 published an account of the facts on Sunday, and on Saturday many blogs were already talking about it. Now well: you mention three media that covered the incident -and I would point out a fourth one, Cronica newspaper, which I discovered after I posted the entry. And the rest? Why did no other mass media publish about the incident? Why wasn’t there almost any “last minute” newsflash in the local cable TV news stations, where even a car crash deserves such mention, and on a Friday night, when there are not many news? Precisely, having to search around and just coming up with three media as all the coverage -and none of them being leader in audience- you make it clear that a large part of the local press ignored the incident. Of course, you can make a corporative defense of the issue, but by not adequately covering the facts, the media itself helped the spreading of rumors and the magnifying of the subject. The truth is that to be informed about that Saturday’s incident, it was necessary to turn to blogs. Do they misinform about the subject? Maybe we would have a better view of the facts if more media had covered the incident.

  • […] Global Voices Online habla de los flujos informativos en torno al Personal Fest y los mapea En: Blogs, Nuevos medios, Asides — Diciembre 13, 2007 […]

  • CB all that you state were just reactions to the extensive coverage independent media was giving to the issue.

    They had to go out and say something, if not they were going to lose big time.

  • Good report. Thera many links in my blog about all that. If you want, you can visit it. Bye.

  • Thank you very much for this account of what happened at Personal and the following reactions to the event. it is VERY important that these abuses are written about and the media in Argentina is hopelessly toothless due to the fact that 1)the government and 2)the larger advertisers hold them by their necks.
    Louise Belfrage
    The WIP,

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