Editor’s note: In an ongoing series, INMA is profiling our most engaged members — our super fans. At a time when we have less face-to-face time, we hope this gives members a chance to learn more about each other. Today we profile Antonio Barrios Alvarado, managing editor for Prensa Libre and Guatevisión in Guatemala, Guatemala.
One of the biggest lessons Antonio Barrios Alvarado learned was from journalism teacher Tomas Eloy Martínez (Argentina, 1934-2010): “Journalism is not a circus to be exhibited, but an instrument to think, to create, to help man in his eternal combat for a more dignified and less unjust life.”
Alvarado, managing editor of Prensa Libre and Guatevisión in Guatemala, believes that statement perfectly summarises the primary purposes of journalism when it is practiced in regions such as Central America, where citizens face many complex situations.
Having this purpose in journalism excites Alvarado daily as he tries to tell people what is happening in their environment, why it is happening, and what impact it has on their community.
INMA caught up with him recently to find out what other impactful lessons he has learned in the past couple of years.
INMA: What big lesson have you learned over the past couple of years that helped shape your plans for 2022?
Alvarado: We learned to understand our audiences more and better and to be able to satisfy their information needs in better ways — especially in two years in which uncertainty has reigned.
Our priority has been to be useful to our audience, to be that reliable ally who will try to explain to you why something is happening and what its consequences could be. Central America has been challenged by an effervescent intolerance toward the independent press even when we have questioned elementary issues such as the advance of the pandemic, the purchase of vaccines against COVID-19, and practices by some authorities that go against democracy and freedom of the press.
INMA: If you had your career to do over again, what would you want to know in the beginning?
Alvarado: If that could be done, I would like to know how to better use technology, using methods like SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) to understand our audiences better and faster. [We would] be able to better serve them to prevent loss of trust in journalism and continue to be a necessary ally of citizens to make their decisions.
INMA: What is the craziest job or project you’ve ever done in media — and what did you learn from it?
Alvarado: The digital transformation of Prensa Libre and Guatevisión has gained speed since 2015, and we have not stopped, and we will not stop. But this has occurred in parallel with a stage of political, judicial, and social upheaval that has not been seen in Guatemala for more than 40 years.
Perhaps the digital transformation could not have come at a better time for journalists and the audience because thanks to these steps toward the digital world, we have been able to better tell and explain what is happening in our country. And what did I learn? Everything can be achieved by the hand of a multidisciplinary team that you can trust, as fortunately has been our case.
INMA: What success within your company are you most proud of right now?
Alvarado: To be part of a multidisciplinary pilot team called “los acelerados” (something like “the accelerated”) that is managing to change the way of doing journalism using data.
INMA: What do you do to relax?
Alvarado: Read history books and listen to music.
INMA: If you hadn’t gone into news media, what was your back-up plan?
Alvarado: My plan B was to be a volcanologist or an archaeologist, although I always dreamed of being a sportscaster. I wasn’t, but I was a sports reporter for 10 years.
INMA: What is your favourite thing to read?
Alvarado: Besides history, I love reading about political strategy and journalism.
INMA: What do you find the most challenging/interesting about the news media industry right now?
Alvarado: We have never had so many tools to do journalism and generate content that has a positive impact on people. Never has the media industry had so much opportunity to connect with the audience, and we are going to do it in the best workable way.
INMA: What are you most excited about in 2022?
Alvarado: The pandemic has left great lessons for everyone, and journalism is no exception. I believe that starting this year we will begin to have clearer ways of serving and being more useful to our audiences. I am very optimistic that we are doing it.