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LIFE IN SPAIN

A foreigner’s guide to understanding the Spanish press in five minutes

Interested in deciphering the different political biases in the Spanish press? Want to find out which newspaper you'll enjoy reading while improving your Spanish? Seville-based political journalist Conor Faulkner talks us through everything that's interesting and important about Spain's newspaper landscape.

A foreigner's guide to understanding the Spanish press in five minutes
Spanish newspapers reporting on the 2016 victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election. Spain is joining the global shift towards digital, with fewer paper copies sold and more online subscribers than ever.(Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)

Like almost any other democracy in the world, Spain has a range of newspapers that stretch across the political spectrum. In fact, according to the association Editores de Diarios Españoles (Editors of Spanish Dailies), there are over 100 published in Spain alone, with a total daily circulation of over 2 million copies between all its national, regional, and local titles. 

Although a flurry of newspapers were born at the end of the Franco dictatorship and during the transition period, and the free press held up as the backbone of Spanish democracy, even Spain’s relatively young media ecosystem has been unable to avoid the overall global trend in falling newspaper readership.

Back in 2006, daily circulation stood double recent figures at 4 million copies, with the vast majority of that circulation shared between a few bigger titles.

Spain is in essence joining the global shift towards digital, with fewer paper copies sold every year and all the leading national newspapers and many regional dailies turning to a subscription-based model to survive. There are now 3.6 million subscribers to digital newspapers in Spain, including The Local.

Interestingly, although Spanish newspapers are designed and published in tabloid format, the sensationalist reporting you might see in British tabloids is (largely) absent from the Spanish media landscape.

To help you understand and navigate la prensa española (the Spanish press), The Local has broken down the main periódicos (newspapers) in Spain, their editorial lines, history, and the differences between them:

spanish newspapers

Front pages of Spanish newspapers dedicated to the 2017 Barcelona terror attacks. Photo: GABRIEL BOUY /AFP


El País

Founded just six months after the death of Franco, El País (meaning ‘The Country’) is the newspaper with highest circulation in Spain. El País is considered the most progressive newspaper in Spain, the editorial line is largely social democrat and almost always supportive of PSOE.

Perhaps the most respected and well-known Spanish newspaper abroad, El País is the only big Spanish daily with an English-language edition. That being said, even El País hasn’t been able to buck the downward trend of print media; in the late-1990’s the left-wing paper sold almost 450,00 copies daily, but by 2016 that number had shrunk to 185,000.

El Mundo

Spain’s second biggest newspaper, El Mundo is also considered one of Spain’s print sources of record. Founded in 1989, El Mundo has ten regional editions with headquarters in Andalusia, Valencia, and the Balearics, among others. 

Editorially, El Mundo is broadly centre-right and critical of PSOE and Podemos, as well as nationalist and separatist groups in the Basque Country and Catalonia.

Although it leans right editorially, El Mundo (The World) reporters have played their part in uncovering several big political scandals over the years, including Guardia Civil corruption, fraud by the governor of the Bank of Spain, and the paper played a role in the fall of Felipe González’s socialist government in the 1996 election.

ABC

ABC has much more history than both El Mundo and El País, founded in Madrid in 1903. It’s conservative editorially and a staunch defender of the Spanish monarchy, also known for its full-page photographic front pages which catch the eye at newspaper stands across Spain.

It is also distributed in Latin America, and is often the Spanish language newspaper of choice for exiled Cubans and Venezuelans. Interestingly, for a time during the Civil War there were two editions of ABC: one in Madrid that supported the Republicans when the headquarters were taken over, and another in Sevilla supportive of the nationalist cause. 

La Vanguardia

The oldest of all Spanish newspapers, La Vanguardia (Vanguard) was founded in Barcelona in 1881. Its conservative editorial line meant it was left alone during Franco’s dictatorship at a time when many other newspapers were forced to support the regime, and the paper has endured as one of Spain’s best-selling daily newspapers that focuses particularly on regional and separatist issues, remaining a favourite among Catalonia’s middle classes.

La Razón

The youngest of Spain’s big five newspapers, La Razón (The Reason) was founded in Madrid in 1998 and has an economically liberal, socially conservative editorial line. La Razón has had its fair share of controversies over the years, including most recently in 2015 when it published a photoshopped picture of a Canadian Sikh man and linked him to the 2015 Paris terror attacks. 

El Diario

An online title founded in 2012, El Diario has a progressive editorial stance and is read by the academic and middle class left. Edited by Ignacio Escolar García, El Diario was born after Público (also founded by García) after it ceased to print and is staffed by many former Público journalists. El Diario is a partner of the Guardian newspaper. 

El Confidencial 

Another digital paper, El Confidencial is an old school online newspaper, if that’s possible, starting back in 2001. Its coverage has a financial and economic focus, with lots of political analysis, and has a broadly liberal editorial outlook. El Confidencial increased its international reputation for its role in The Panama Papers leaks.

Regional titles

Anyone who has spent any time in Spain knows how varied and distinct its regional identities are. This translates to dozens of newspapers too, with Spain having a more influential, effective and well-read local newspaper market than most other European countries. 

Often these regional titles are aligned editorially with political movements, or even separatist or nationalist ideology, and printed in regional dialects. The big hitters are El Periódico de Catalunya, which has built a respectable readership among young left of centre people in Catalonia, and prints in both Spanish and Catalan, as well as Gara, a 1999 founded Basque language newspaper that was born after the long-running daily paper Egin was closed down due to its links to separatist group ETA, Gara has since softened its stance somewhat but still has a distinctly nationalist, anti-Madrid editorial stance. 

Sports newspapers

Similarly, anyone who has spent time in Spain knows that perhaps the only thing that trumps regional or political affiliations are football teams. Simply put, the Spanish are football mad, and sports newspapers are absolutely huge in Spain.

spanish sport newspapers

Sports newspapers are more read by Spaniards than regular news dailies. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Want a full page spread analysing the Real Madrid captain’s new haircut and what it means for the title race? Journalists debating whether Diego Simeone had apple or orange juice for breakfast? Browse through the many sports and football newspapers and magazines at newsstands across Spain, and you’ll probably find the answer. 

The major sports papers in Spain are MARCA and Diario AS. 

MARCA is the most read newspaper – of any kind, sports or not, national or regional – anywhere in Spain. A staggering 2,500,000 read MARCA daily, not only for their football analysis but for the ongoing soap-opera style commentary of the rivalries between Spain’s biggest clubs. Not only is it by far Spain’s most read newspaper, it’s also one of the oldest: MARCA was founded in 1938, during the Spanish Civil War, and is a sister publication of El Mundo.

Owned by the same group that controls El País, AS is primarily a football publication, with a particular focus on the Madrid teams. There are, however, other bureaus across Spain, and in 2012 the newspaper launched an English language online edition that is widely cited in the English football media.

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LIFE IN SPAIN

Does Spain have a dog poo problem?

Many foreigners in Spain complain that the streets are full of dog faeces, but is that actually true and what, if anything, is being done to address it?

Does Spain have a dog poo problem?

Spain is a nation of dog lovers.

According to the country’s National Institute of Statistics (INE), 40 percent of Spanish households have a dog.

In fact, believe it or not, the Spanish have more dogs than they do children.

While there are a little over 6 million children under the age of 14 in Spain, there are over 7 million registered dogs in the country. 

But one bugbear of many foreigners in Spain is that there’s often a lot of dog mess in the streets, squares and parks.

The latest estimates suggest it’s as much as 675,000 tonnes of doodoo that has to be cleaned up every year in Spain.

Many dog owners in Spain carry around a bottle of water mixed with detergent or vinegar to clean up their dog’s urine and small plastic bags to pick up number twos.

And yet, many owners seem to either turn a blind eye to their pooches’ poo or somehow miss that their pets have just pooed, judging by the frequency with which dog sh*t smears Spanish pavements. 

So how true is it that Spain has a dog poo problem? Is there actually more dog mess in Spain than in other countries, and if not, why does it seem that way?

One contextual factor worth considering when understanding the quantity of caca in Spain’s calles is how Spaniards themselves actually live.

When one remembers that Spaniards mostly live in apartments without their own gardens, it becomes less surprising that it feels as though there’s a lot of dog mess in the streets. Whereas around 87 percent of households in Britain have a garden, the number in Spain is below 30 percent.

Simply put, a nation of dog lovers without gardens could mean more mess in the streets. 

Whereas Britons often just let their dogs out into their garden to do their business, or when they can’t be bothered to take them for a walk even, Spaniards have to take them out into the street, unless they’re okay with their pooches soiling their homes. 

There aren’t many dog-friendly beaches in Spain, and the fact that on those that do exist, some owners don’t clean up their dogs’ mess, doesn’t strengthen the case for more ‘playas para perros‘ to be added. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN / STR / AFP)

Doggy dirt left in the streets is most certainly not a Spain-specific problem either, but rather an urban one found around the world.

In recent years, there have been complaints about the sheer abundance of canine faecal matter left in public spaces in Paris, Naples, Rome, Jerusalem, Glasgow, Toronto, London, San Francisco and so on.

READ ALSO: Why do some Spanish homes have bottles of water outside their door?

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a worldwide study to shed light on which cities and countries have the biggest ‘poo-blem’, with the available investigations mainly centred on individual nations, such as this one by Protect my Paws in the US and UK

And while it may be more noticeable in Spain than in some countries, it doesn’t mean the Spanish are doing nothing about it.

In fact, Barcelona has been named the third best city in Europe for dealing with the problem, according to a study by pet brand Tails.com.

Although Barcelona’s score of 53/80 was significantly lower than many British cities (Newcastle scored 68/80 and Manchester 66/80, for example) its hefty fines of 1,500 for dog owners caught not cleaning up after their canine friends might be a reason. 

And some parts of Spain take it even more seriously than that.

In many Spanish regions doggy databases have been created to catch the culprits. Over 35 Spanish municipalities require dog owners to register their pets’ saliva or blood sample on a genetic database so they can be traced and fined, if necessary. 

In Madrid, you are twice as likely to come across someone walking a dog than with a baby’s stroller. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

This DNA trick started earlier in Spain than in many other countries; the town of Brunete outside of Madrid kicked off the trend in 2013 by mailing the ‘forgotten’ poo to neglectful owners’ addresses. Some municipalities have also hired detectives to catch wrongdoers.

So it’s not as if dog poo doesn’t bother Spaniards, with a 2021 survey by consumer watchdog OCU finding that it’s the type of dirt or litter found in the streets than bothers most people.

READ ALSO: Clean or dirty? How does your city rank on Spain’s cleanliness scale? 

It’s therefore not a part of Spanish culture not to clean up after dogs, but rather a combination of Spain’s propensity for outdoor and urban living, the sheer number of dogs, and of course the lack of civic duty on the part of a select few. Every country has them. 

On a final note, not all dog owners in Spain who don’t clean up after their pooches can be blamed for doing it deliberately, but it’s certainly true that looking at one’s phone rather than interacting with your dog, or walking with your dog off the leash (also illegal except for in designated areas) isn’t going to help you spot when your pooch has done its business.

Article by Conor Faulkner and Alex Dunham

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