With his high-pitched voice, square spectacles and stubbly chin, Jordi Evole is not your typical dashing television presenter. That doesn’t stop three million Spaniards switching on to watch him every Sunday evening.
Indeed, it’s his man-in-the-street style that makes the political journalism of his hit show “Salvados” so popular in crisis-hit Spain.
In interviews with politicians, experts and citizens, Evole, 38, strips away the jargon and deference that cloud much Spanish political reporting and interviewing.
“Do you think that’s a good thing?”… “Do you think that’s normal?” he asks his interviewees, often cutting them short with a simple: “I don’t understand.”
He targets the raw issues of Spain’s crisis, such as wasteful spending on public building projects, nepotism in public office and cuts to education budgets.
One memorable show was about the forgotten victims of an accident in the Valencia metro that left 43 people dead in 2006 — and subsequent silence from authorities.
In that report, Evole embarrassed a senior official by approaching him unexpectedly in a market, questioning him about a victim’s family that claimed to have been offered a job in return for not pressing charges.
Refusing to answer the questions, the official ended up cornered by onlookers shouting for him to respond.
With a quizzical frown or an ironic smile, Evole also digs into broader questions troubling Spain, such as political control of the justice system.
The show “aims to make very complex subjects comprehensible”, says Evole, whose broadcasts at times show how other media fail to do so.
He says the recession, which has driven up unemployment and prompted high-level corruption scandals, has also whetted people’s appetite for his kind of analysis.
“The serious situation Spain is going through at the moment means that citizens want more than ever to be informed, and in a different way.”
Broadcasting on left-wing channel La Sexta, “Salvados” eats into the audience of the Sunday evening feature film on Spanish television and prompts a flood of commentary on Twitter while on air.
“Salvados manages to channel people’s discontent about the crisis and about the public institutions,” said Fernando Cano, editor of the specialist media news website PR Noticias.
“It touches on subjects that other media have not dared to touch or have preferred to overlook.”
The show launched in 2008 at the start of Spain’s financial crisis, which has since spawned mass street protests and demands for greater political transparency.
The decade preceding its launch had seen a credit-driven building boom that drove huge growth in Spain but came crashing down, throwing millions out of work.
“We were amazed at how people got rich in such a short time. We didn’t want to know what was really happening because we are all doing relatively well. We let our guard down,” Evole told AFP by telephone from his office in Barcelona.
“Now our defences are coming back up and things we used to think were minor, like a corruption scandal, we now give due importance to.”
In this sense, “the crisis is going to be very useful to the Spanish people”, he said. “The coming generations will be always on alert, wanting to know what is being done with our taxes.”
[Photo of Jordi Evole via Wikimedia Commons]