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Panama 2015 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Hitler Cigarruista, Director of Capital Financiero, on trends in the media industry, covering the local market, and working with nuanced data to provide accurate coverage.

Hitler Cigarruista
BIOGRAPHY
Hitler Cigarruista has completed studies in negotiation, treaties, and international commerce at the Universidad Latinoamericana de Comercio Exterior (ULACEX) and the Universidad de Santiago de Chile, in addition to courses in business journalism and sociology at the Universidad de Panama. His work experience has included positions as head of publications for the Center for Latin American Studies (CELA), and as a reporter for Radio Cadena Exitosa, TVN Canal 2, Radio Ancón, Diario El Universal, and Diario El Siglo. He has been working for Capital Financiero since 2003, as a reporter senior journalist, editor, and currently, director. In addition, he is a member of the Panama Journalists Union and the Panamanian Association of Travel Journalism.

What are the current trends in the media industry?

The media industry in Panama is facing a downturn. There is resentment amongst the public regarding the lack of transparency of the previous government. There are still many unanswered questions about the use of public funds by officials. The media needs to ensure its democratic role, and that the judiciary brings the guilty to justice. At the same time, there is a huge trend in terms of how the public has accepted new types of media. This sometimes hurts the traditional ones like us because people are not interested in the complete truth and analysis. They prefer the short straightforward version, which might not be the correct one. It is the media industry's job to be able to cater to that public, while providing verifiable information and it can get tricky.

How do you increase your presence in the local market in terms of coverage?

This is a challenge, Panamanians have a limited income and our paper is very expensive, selling for $2. We follow what is happening with the economy, we follow what is happening with the banks, and with the insurance companies, car sales, and so on, because these reflect how the economy is doing and how the people of Panama are living. Most of the our readers are business people, because they want to know what is going on in the economy, so they can make investment decisions and follow developments in the business environment. We are the most reliable economics-related newspaper in the country, even though we are a weekly title. Not only do we write about current economic issues, but we also look at future movements and trends in the economy.

How do you ensure the integrity of the information that you provide to your readers?

We only source official information, we work with the Treasury, we work with the Ministries, and with the Department of Statistics. In Panama, it is very difficult to find accurate information on companies, as very few are listed on the stock exchange, and therefore not obliged to transparency. The insurance and banking sector supervisors have information available online, which helps get up-to-date information on sector developments. That is applicable for a number of sectors, such as automobiles; companies generally post monthly car sales figures online, for example, and include information and a breakdown about the brands and models. We have several expert journalists capable of pointing out any potential irregularities in the numbers to maximize accuracy of information delivery.

Is having an online platform eroding the sales and readership of the paper?

Not for now. Panama is a special market. Our online readers do overlap with some of our paper subscribers, but they are different markets. This is what makes Panama so special and helps our industry as well. In other countries, this is definitely the case, but we seem to be moving slowly. Our Panamanian readership prefers the more traditional paper. This is closely related to our age group audience. Our online readership is somewhat younger, so we are now focused on catering to their needs and likes. We have had a long discussion about this topic. However, we truly believe we are to modify paper and digital in separate arenas. For example, about whether we should start to charge people to use the website or else leave it accessible to all. We may impose a charge at some point in the future, but today those with access to the internet, or even those with a smart phone do not go online in the same manner as someone in the US or Europe might. Panamanians are not avid readers and this is a problem if you want to start asking people to pay to read a news article online when they have always read it for free.