Farewell from EL COLOMBIANO director, Ana Mercedes Gómez
For all humans there is a time to be born and a time to die. In between those times there are unavoidable parentheses, and within them planned and unplanned phases. Greatness is confronting those phases with responsibility and joy, and oftentimes a good deal of courage. It is saying yes knowing we would have preferred another option and that’s how my life as an employee of EL COLOMBIANO began.
I was familiar with it ever since I was in my mother’s womb: my father was already director of this newspaper when I was born. I could have majored in something else, but I chose humanities because I have an inalienable calling to serve others and want to help build a more equitable society where every person has equal opportunities. That’s why I majored in education first, and journalism and communication later. I was a contributor translating from English, French and Italian. With my sisters and sisters-in-law I started a family education page which I then took on myself with Calixto. I taught Spanish and English in a number of educational institutions and companies, I taught journalism.
Many might wonder why I say I would have preferred something else. In 1987, when my job here began, I would have preferred to stay with my children and it pained me to leave my home knowing I would never again be able to spend school vacations focused completely on them. Right then I decided to trade quantity for quality of time, but I was always envious of mothers who could be with their families during vacations.
I discovered, perhaps because of my training as a teacher, that the media constitutes informal education and that, by informing, they can form or deform, but always transform. That’s why my work in EL COLOMBIANO always emphasized education and the media’s responsibility to their audiences.
Media doesn’t just form public opinion, but subtly presents life models. That’s the reason behind the stories highlighting values.
That’s also what brought on the challenge to teach austerity in the face of consumerism. To teach pluralism and tolerance towards ideas different from our own. A community in which we kill each other for thinking differently is incomprehensible. As Jota Emilio Valderrame used to say: “This has to change.”
I don’t believe life is black and white. There are shades and discovering them makes us think about how there isn’t any person who is totally bad or totally good, totally erudite or totally ignorant.
It never bothered me to release a story two or more days later, as long as they were supported by serious research. I’m allergic to sensationalism. I like a paper that thinks twice before it speaks. I’m also allergic to ‘light’ journalism, which is not to say that I don’t appreciate a modest dose of news that make us smile and even laugh, the type you read when you’re overwhelmed by hard-hitting news like the ones we have to cover daily in Colombia. But I will not accept going overboard with the “light” because it shields a person from being able to think about the big issues and problems in which he needs to take action and be part of the solution.
I do not like the reification of a human being, nor contributing to man’s unhappiness just because he lacks the luxuries others possess. Maybe that’s why I love the saying: “The richest man in the world is not the one who has the most, but the one who needs the least.”
I directed a catholic but ecumenical newspaper, of progressive ideas within democratic framework.
I agree with my father, Fernando, my best journalism textbook, that I was born for discipline and order. I looked for truth in an atmosphere of corruption and half-truths that were complete lies.
I did it with one goal in mind: to contribute to the construction of a dignified country for generations to come. I had big dreams during my time as director, and many of those dreams are realities today: a young newspaper that celebrated its 100 years. Other dreams have been set aside for later. The biggest one: to be able to say that Colombia achieved peace, the fruit of quality and solidarity.
I thank God, my parents Fernando and Bertha, my family and all of those who were my colleagues. Some are still here, others have moved on. I thank all audiences, the reason for being of this noble profession. I leave filled with dreams and hopes for my new chapter. Wherever I go I will be true to my calling. I will not look for internal peace in noise but in the silence of my conscience. Today I bid farewell to EL COLOMBIANO, a newspaper that I carry as an indelible mark on my soul.
Ana Mercedes Gómez Martínez