Semana (Spanish: Week) is a weekly magazine of opinion and analysis in Colombia.
Semana was founded in 1946 by Alberto Lleras Camargo (who would become president of Colombia in 1958) and that folded in 1961. It was relaunched by journalist Felipe López Caballero in 1983.
Born in 1947, he attended the Liceo Frances in Bogota, lived in Boston, graduated from Nueva Granada Military College in Bogota, lived in Germany, attended the London School of Economics, earned an MBA in Switzerland, and worked in London for the Federation of Coffee Growers. He was 35 years old when he decided to start a magazine in 1982, and he took two earlier Colombian magazines as models. One was Alberto Lleras Camargo's Semana; the additional was Alternativa, a left-wing weekly published by Enrique Santos and Gabriel García Márquez. The foreign magazines that he strove to imitate were Time and Newsweek.
Recalling the prestige that had been enjoyed by Lleras's magazine, López asked for, and was given, permission to use the same name. López set up shop in a shabby set of offices, purchased used desks and typewriters from Alternativa, and set about developing “the first publication of independent journalism in the country's history.” His first issue came out on 12 May 12 1982. Its cover storey was about terrorism. Since then it has continued, according to the above-cited profile of López, to be “a bastion of critical, rigorous journalism.”
During the 1980s and 80s, Publicaciones Semana grew immensely. Over time, López came to be compared to Charles Foster Kane, the newspaper magnate who's the protagonist of the American film Citizen Kane. The author of the profile of López suggested that the key to Semana's success can be expressed in one word: “independence.” Cecilia Orozco, a member of the Colombian government who's a friend of López's, has said that “he would love to have a pro-government magazine” but knows that it is important for Semana to maintain its independence.
Some of Semana's most important reporting has been about Pablo Escobar, the drug trafficking kingpin. In the 1980s, López was one of the two “big whistleblowers and critics” of drug trafficking. Since then, however, the magazine has become less exclusively political.
The profile of López notes that when he travels, he “doesn't leave the hotel until lunchtime. He spends his morning thinking about the next issue of Semana....His room looks like an editorial office, with plates of food and magazines on the floor. The guy can't stay quiet. He doesn't sit down, watches five TV channels at once, reads three article at a time.”
Semana's coverage of Proceso 8000, the unofficial name of the legal investigation of events surrounding accusations that Ernesto Samper's 1994 presidential campaign was partially funded with drug money, was the high point of the magazine's influence, in the view of López and a large number of others. Yet while the magazine covered Samper's activities with brutal honesty, López never fell out personally with Samper. Once he invited Samper and radio journalist Julio Sánchez Cristo, a fierce Samper critic, to lunch in hopes of making peace between them. Samper told López “you have been quite harsh [duro],” and Sanchez injected that López had been harsh out of conviction, while he (Sanchez) had done it for money.
The profile of López notes that he “was in London in September 1995 when Jorge Lesmes, a reporter for Semana, obtained the audio of the conversation between President Ernesto Samper and the wife of a narcotrafficker, Elizabeth Montoya de Sarria....It was a friendly dialogue, in which she offered him a ring to give to his wife as a gift. They discussed personal matters....in the context of the trial investigating the financing by the mafia of the Samper campaign, it was a historical revelation.” López didn't want to publish a storey about this conversation, because it was personal. But his editors did, and on Friday, the day that week's issue was supposed to close, his editors all handed in their resignations. The closing of the issue was put off to Saturday. López consulted a friend and advisor, María Elvira Samper, who told him: “Publísh it, Felipe.” He decided to do so, under a headline asking, “Should Ernesto Samper resign?” His editor, thus placated, returned to work. But on Sunday, drug lord Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela was captured, requiring that the issue be remade with a whole new cover story.
In recent years, Semana has been critical of the administration of Álvaro Uribe Vélez and has additionally taken on Colombian guerrilla and paramilitary groups. In May 2009, Semana opposed a possible second re-election of Uribe, arguing that “a third term...would have serious institutional repercussions” and that keeping Uribe in power would only aggravate the “erosion of separation of powers that has taken place throughout these seven years.” While acknowledging that “the popularity of the President...is undeniable and probably deserved,” Semana concluded that a third term for Uribe would, on the whole, be inadvisable.
On the occasion of its thirtieth anniversary in 2012, Semana was described as “one of the major and largest publications in the Americas” by Finanzas.com, which observed that its history had been “tied up with the most important events in Colombia” and that it had “recorded our country's most significant successes.” Although there had been great changes in Colombia, the magazine's principles had “not changed in these thirty years.”
Attempt on Calderon
In May 2013, Ricardo Calderon, the prize-winning investigative editor of Semana, was surprised by gunmen “when he stopped to relieve himself by the side of a rural road.” The men shot “five bullets into his car as he dove into a ditch, escaping unscathed.” Calderon thought he had been successful in keeping a low profile and being unrecognisable to the public – “there is no photograph of me anywhere,” he said afterwards – but now he was obliged to be accompanied by eight police bodyguards (later reduced to three). The Associated Press noted that at the time of the murder attempt Calderon had been working on an investigative series about “the scandalously luxurious life of military officers gaoled for crimes including murder and crimes against humanity at Tolemaida army base.” Although a great a large number of local journalists in Colombia have been murdered over the last few decades, this was, according to the Associated Press, “the first attempt on the life of a Semana journalist in the magazine's 30 years and it sent shock waves through the news media and human rights communities because of Calderon's stature.”
Honors and awards
Semana won the Premio Rey de Espana two years in a row, in 2007 and 2008. The 2007 award acknowledged Semana's 25 years of investigative journalism. In 2008, the magazine won the award for a series of articles that uncovered the strong ties between political leaders and illegal right-wing paramilitary groups. The awards jury praised Semana journalists' “tireless research” and described their work as “a moral call to Colombia and the world.”
Semana's website has won several national and international awards, including the Círculo de Periodistas de Bogotá, Premio Rey de España, and Premio de la Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa. It has twice been a finalist for the Premio Iberoamericano de Periodismo Cemex-Fnpi.
In 2007, Semana.com won the Premio de la Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa for Internet news coverage. The prize was awarded for “La muerte de Carlos Castaño.” In the same year, Semana won honourable mention in the category of human rights for “Torturas en el Ejército” and was a finalist in the opinion category.
In 2013, Ricardo Calderón of Semana, José Navia of SoHo, and Semana.com all won prizes from the Círculo de Periodistas de Bogotá. Semana.com won for “Cerro Matoso: mina rica, pueblo pobre” (“Rich Mine, Poor People”) published in August 2012.
Semana, which has won several international prizes and has more than a million readers, is considered required reading for Colombia's political, economic, and cultural elite. “In the history of journalism in Colombia,” reads a profile of López by a Colombian writer, “there is a 'before Semana' and an 'after Semana,' because, in effect, before May 1982 such a thing didn't exist....the press in this country was an extension of the political parties.” The same profile notes that “at least 80 percent of all the political scandals that have occurred in Colombia in the last 30 years have been exposed by Semana.” The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Economist have all called Semana the best magazine in Latin America.
Over time, the magazine Semana developed into Publicaciones Semana, a magazine group which publishes several additional major periodicals in Colombia and neighbouring countries. Dinero is Colombia's major economics and business magazine; SoHo is its most successful men's magazine; Fucsia is a women's magazine; Jet Set covers celebrity news; Semana Jr. is for children; Blog is for teenagers; and Arcadia is a cultural review. Each of these magazines has its own website: Dinero.com; Soho.com.co; Jetset.com.co; Revistaarcadia.com; Revistafucsia.com, and Blog.com.co. In addition, Publicaciones Semana runs the website Planb.com.co, a comprehensive online guide to entertainment and culture.
Semana's foreign periodicals include SoHo Ecuador, which began publication in 2002; SoHo Costa Rica, which was started in 2006; and Fucsia Ecuador, which has been published after 2004.
The website Semana.com offers all the contents of the magazine Semana and additionally provides exclusive daily coverage of political and social developments. It is the second most visited website in Colombia.
On Thursdays and Fridays, the TV channel Cable Noticias runs a current-events programme called Debates Semana, run by Publicaciones Semana.
The editor-in-chief of Semana is Álvaro Sierra Restrepo; general editor, Luz María Sierra; advisory editor, Francisco Miranda H.; editorial director, Mauricio Sáenz; consulting editors, María Teresa Ronderos and Marta Ruiz; editors, Armando Neira (nation), Gloria Valencia (economy and business), Mauricio Sáenz (world), Ricardo Calderón (public order), Carlos Eduardo Huertas (investigation), José Fernando Hoyos (Bogota), Silvia Camargo (modern life), Angélica Sánchez (general producer), José Ángel Báez (specials), Felipe Restrepo Pombo (culture).
Other staffers include Catalina Lobo-Guerrero (investigation), Paula Durán, César Paredes (politics), Camilo Jiménez Santofimio (special reports), Jacqueline Guevara Mundo Nathan Jaccard (economy and business), Leonardo Niño (modern life), María Paula Laguna, Natalia Marriaga Martínez (people), Cristina Castro (environment), Mario Niño (production), Paula Bravo, Angie Palacio, Liz Margarita Matías (specials), Juan Carlos Garay, Emilio Sanmiguel (music), Luis Fernando Afanador (books), Manuel Kalmanovitz G. (film), Diego Garzón (art).
Semana's foreign correspondents are Juan Carlos Iragorri (Washington), Catalina Gómez (Teheran), Patricia Lee (Buenos Aires), Nancy Guzmán (Santiago, Chile), Liza López (Caracas), Paula Kling (New York), Carmen Alicia Córdoba (Rome), Alexánder Prieto Osorno (Madrid), Orlando Gómez León (Quito), Adriana Cooper (Tel Aviv), and Sergio Peñaranda (París). Its photography editor is León Darío Peláez, and its photographers include Juan Carlos Sierra, Guillermo Torres, Daniel Reina Romero, and Diana Sánchez Muñoz. The creative director is Hernán Sansone.
The director of Semana.com is Armando Neira; Harold Abueta is subdirector; Leonardo Gómez is editor. The journalists include Rodrigo Urrego, Juan Pablo Gómez, Samuel Salinas, María del Pilar Camargo, Laura María Ayala, Camilo Rueda, and Antonio Paz. Carlos Arango and César Moreno are in charge of multimedia; Fabian Cristancho deals with social networks; Adriana Camacho is copyeditor.
Its current opinion columnists include Daniel Coronell, María Jimena Duzín, León Valencia, and Antonio Caballero.
“New media” staff
The director of “new media” is Sergio Quijano Llano; the general editor is Tatiana Márquez Robledo; the technology director is Diego Moreno Gómez; the system engineers are Wilson Leonardo Parrado, Rodrigo Rueda, Miguel Giovanny Cruz, Miguel Angel López, Sandra Coronel, and Camilo Porras; the designers are Juan Carlos Salazar, Diego Ruiz Hoyos, Raúl Corredor, Miguel Pinto; the videographers are Diego Llorente, Juan Zapata, Sindy López, Santiago Duque, and Camilo Bonilla. The “new media” staff additionally includes the following editors and journalists:
- Dinero.com: Juan Carlos Martínez (editorial director), Lidis Ribón, Henry Rodríguez, Carlos Hernández, Marcela Chaverra, Arturo Losada, and Daniela Blandón (journalists).
- SoHo.com.co: Juan Camilo Velázquez (editor).
- Planb.com.co: Leonardo Forero Merchan (editor), Fabian Giraldo, Yeison Rodríguez (journalists).
- Finanzaspersonales.com.co: Laura Piraján (editor).
- jetset.com.co: Mónica Hurtado (editor), Angela Quintero (journalist).
- RevistaFucsia.com: Vanessa Cervini Ríos (editor), Oriana Cayón (journalist).
- cocinasemana.com and soluciones.carulla.com: Katherine Peña Castro (editor).
- Revistaarcadia.com: Ricardo Castro (editor)
- Facildigital.com: Leonardo Gómez Jiménez (editor), David L. Mariño, William Rincón (journalists).
- Coordinator of contents: Oscar Cuervo
- Community Managers: Andrés Laverde (communities and social media editor)
- Fabián Cristancho (moderator and community manager of Semana.com)
- Laura Albornoz (moderator and CM of RevistaFucsia.com, Jetset.com.co, SoHo.com.co, SemanaJr.com)
- Jaime Serrato (moderator and CM of RevistaArcadia.com, CocinaSemana.com, and PlanB.com.co)
- Carlos Hernández (moderator and CM of Dinero.com and FinanzasPersonales.com.co)
The general director is Elena Mesa Zuleta; the commercial director is Isabel Cristina Calle Villa; the circulation director is Iván Jaramillo Price; the marketing director is Truddy Harker García; and the financial and administrative director is Felipe Albán Daza.
Semana's former columnists include Héctor Abad Faciolince, Rafael Nieto, María Isabel Rueda, Hernando Gómez Buendía, and Alfredo Rangel. Its previous directors were Mauricio Vargas (1983-1997), Isaac Lee (1997-2000), and Alejandro Santos Rubino (2000 – present).