I was stunned to read that Diario Extra, the best-selling daily newspaper in Costa Rica, went out of business on June 1st. If you had never taken the time to sit down and look through a copy of Diario Extra, the editors of this rag truly had their fingers on the jugular of the average Pedro Fulano walking the streets and backroads of Costa Rica.
Sensationalism brings them in, and their daily mix–sex, violence, disaster, tragedy, interspaced with cartoons, fortune tellers, horoscopes, celebrity watching, and a few pages of international news and sports thrown in— never failed to sell.
The present tense headline was typically written in inch tall red letters and usually dealt in death and tragedy, with the promise of even more mayhem and disaster inside. I have in front of me an old Diario Extra that I found while cleaning out my office. The headline of this particular issue reas:
SE METE EN EL RIO CON LA NOVIA Y SE AHOGA
Rough translation: He goes into the river with his girlfriend and he drowns.
This article includes a color photo of the drowning victim, body balled up against the boulders along the riverside. Next to the photo, on the right hand third of the front page is Francesca, a model who is posed looking back over her shoulder with her barely covered butt front and center. This was a typical juxtaposition–the favored front-page layout featured two large photos, one of which would be:
- a bloody body trapped in the wreckage of a vehicle
- a bloody body lying dead on a street
- a bloody body strapped to a gurney and being lifted (too late) into an ambulance.
(In a laughable gesture toward the privacy of the victims lying in their own blood, the Extra would add a black censor bar to cover their lifeless eyes). The other photo–right next to the death and gore–would be one of the endless supply of young scantily clad model wannabes.
Diario Extra was the best selling paper in Costa Rica and you would see that mentioned several times in every edition: “El periodico con las mas ventas en Costa Rica”. The bulk of their readers were lower and lower-middle income working class, both urban and rural. The editorial philosophy of the Extra toward its readers could be summarized as follows:
Dear Reader, No matter how bad a day you have had, no matter how miserable your existence may presently be, somewhere there is someone, WHO HAS IT WORSE OFF THAN YOU! Have you suffered a recent death in the family? Check out this article about the old man in Iran who lost three generations of family in an earthquake, leaving him the sole survivor in a family of thirty-five. Did you just lose your job? Here is an article about a guy who lost his job, car, house and dog, all on the same day.
Are you a legless, homeless person reduced to selling trinkets on the street to survive? Today’s Diario Extra will have an article, complete with color photos, about a legless– and armless– blind person who also suffers from leprosy, and lives and sleeps in a child’s wagon in a Calcutta doorway.
Times change, and it appears that the switch from print to online caused a great dip in readership and advertising. Adios, Diario Extra, you will be missed.