‘La Vanguardia’ newspaper launches its Catalan language edition with Bin Laden’s death on the front page of its first issue

In the year of its 130th anniversary, the historical flagship of the Catalan press, the spokesperson of the business world and centre-right nationalism has launched an edition in Catalan. ‘La Vanguardia’ has finally taken this step after many years, or even decades, of rumours. Also some months after a new newspaper in Catalan aimed at a similar but younger target began publication. “Our DNA is Catalan”, states the newspaper’s editor Javier Godó to explain their decision.

CNA / Gaspar Pericay Coll

May 4, 2011 02:49 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- Tuesday May 3rd 2011 will be a milestone in the history of the Catalan press. It is the day that the oldest and probably most influential newspaper edited in Catalonia, ‘La Vanguardia’ launched its Catalan language edition. ‘La Vanguardia’ –funded, edited and owned by the Godó family– has only been issued in Spanish in its 130 years history. From Tuesday on, it will have two equal editions: one in Spanish and another one in Catalan, with 200,000 printed copies each daily. The only difference between the Spanish and the Catalan edition will be the language used. This formula is already being used by ‘El Periódico de Catalunya’ (the second most read newspaper in Catalonia) for the last 14 years, with great success in terms of increasing the number of readers by diversifying its profile. In fact, the Catalan edition of ‘El Periódico’, despite arriving many years later than the Spanish one, is now the most read one. ‘La Vanguardia’ expects a similar trend. Proof of the Catalan edition’s likely success: before its first issue, 20,000 people already subscribed to the service of receiving the Catalan edition’s printed copy in their homes. ‘La Vanguardia’ editing company, the Grupo Godó, expects the Catalan edition to overtake the Spanish edition quite soon and increase the current diffusion of 350,000 daily copies. ‘La Vanguardia’s editor Javier Godó stated “Our DNA is Catalan”.

In fact, despite being always issued in Spanish, ‘La Vanguardia’ has been the flagship of Catalan moderate nationalism and the spokesperson for Catalan businesspeople. This curious phenomenon –supporting Catalan nationalism, which is based on the Catalan language and culture, in Spanish– is known, in journalistic jargon, as the ‘Gaziel doctrine’, in honour of Agustí Calvet Pascual, whose nickname was ‘Gaziel’. He was the director of ‘La Vanguardia’ between 1920 and 1936, and he advocated defending Catalan economic and political interests in Spanish, so that it could be read in Madrid and the rest of Spain. Therefore, ‘La Vanguardia’ became the newspaper of the Catalan bourgeoisie, which was mainly speaking in Catalan, but was reading on current affairs in Spanish as a way of influencing Spain’s politics and economy. Actually, this anecdote illustrates how old this debate is and the dimension of launching now an edition in Catalan language. A debate that has not been maintained through all its history, since La Vanguardia has adapted itself to all contexts (including the difficult times of the Franco dictatorship), but has been popping up from time to time. Current times made the debate resurface again and push the Grupo Godó to take the decision.

Two main reasons are behind the Grupo Godó’s decision. Catalonia is experiencing a new wave of Catalan nationalism in the last decade, characterised by people being quite tired of the tactics of Spanish nationalism, being more outspoken, having enlarged its base and having a closer relationship to Catalan economic and intellectual establishment. This audience is an attractive asset and is eager to read current affairs news in Catalan. The second reason that spurred ‘La Vanguardia’s Catalan edition is the launch of a new newspaper edited entirely in Catalan that is aimed at a similar but younger target than ‘La Vanguardia’ and aims at becoming the voice of Catalan nationalism, ‘Ara’. It was launched last November. ‘La Vanguardia’ felt it was the time to jump into the Catalan newspaper market, which already had at a Catalan national level ‘El Periódico de Catalunya’, ‘Avui’, ‘El Punt’, and ‘Ara’, as well as other local newspapers such as ‘El Segre’ or ‘Regió 7’. Some voices claim that there is no market space for another newspaper written in Catalan, but from a business perspective, ‘La Vanguardia’ cannot risk losing readers by not having a Catalan edition. If actually there is no space for another newspaper in Catalan, the question is simple for the Grupo Godó: which of the existing ones will have to shutdown in the future? ‘La Vanguardia’ is fighting this war as the advertising market is involved.

The Catalan President signs a copy of the first-day issue

The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, and Barcelona’s Mayor, Jordi Hereu, signed two copies of the first day issue. They both were present at the rotary printing press room, to witness the issuing of the first-day front-page of ‘La Vanguardia’s Catalan edition. It coincided with a very unique day, since the launch day coincided with the death of Osama bin Laden. Therefore, the Catalan edition portrayed the news about Bin Laden on the entire front-page. Surely, it will be an historic front-page in ‘La Vanguardia’s and the Catalan press’ history.