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Newsrooms in Conflict

Newsrooms in Conflict: Journalism and the Democratization of Mexico

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  • Book Info
    Newsrooms in Conflict
    Book Description:

    Newsrooms in Conflictexamines the dramatic changes within Mexican society, politics, and journalism that transformed an authoritarian media institution into many conflicting styles of journalism with very different implications for deepening democracy in the country. Using extensive interviews with journalists and content analysis spanning more than two decades, Sallie Hughes identifies the patterns of newsroom transformation that explain how Mexican journalism was changed from a passive and even collusive institution into conflicting clusters of news organizations exhibiting citizen-oriented, market-driven, and adaptive authoritarian tendencies. Hughes explores the factors that brought about this transformation, including not only the democratic upheaval within Mexico and the role of the market, but also the diffusion of ideas, the transformation of professional identities and, most significantly, the profound changes made within the newsrooms themselves. From the Zapatista rebellion to the political bribery scandals that rocked the nation, Hughes's investigation presents a groundbreaking model of the sociopolitical transformation of a media institution within a new democracy, and the rise and subsequent stagnation of citizen-focused journalism after that democracy was established.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7304-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  2. Part I. The Institutional Development of the News Media

    • 1 Civic Journalism and the Transformation of an Authoritarian Media Institution
      (pp. 3-23)

      When reporter Alejandra Xanic looked into the eyes of firefighters emerging from manholes all over Guadalajara, she could not believe government officials’ assertion that the fumes from a gas leak had been successfully dispersed throughout the country’s second-largest metropolis. While workmen from a nearby gas plant scurried about secretively, city emergency workers just looked puzzled. Instead of returning to her newsroom, Xanic stayed into the night and interviewed workers as they crawled up from the city’s underground drainage system. Early the next day, April 22, 1992, twenty-six blocks of Guadalajara exploded. The blast killed more than two hundred people and...

    • 2 Media Transformation through Institutional Lenses
      (pp. 24-44)

      El Universaleditor Roberto Rock moved through his newsroom like a man on a mission. His objectives were twofold: keep his job and use his position to transform Mexico City’s largest newspaper. If the was successful, his newspaper would not only survive, but also contribute to the creation of a more democratic Mexico. Rock’s task was complicated, but not impossible. Nor was he the first to attempt such a feat. Forty years old when he took the helm of Mexico City’s oldest and largest newspaper in 1996, Rock followed a string of other journalists and media owners who, by the...

  3. Part II. The Civic Media Transformation

    • 3 Authoritarian and Democratic Models of News Production
      (pp. 47-68)

      When institutions break down, new ways of thinking and behaving arise to challenge the old forms. Differences of thought and action appear not only between individual players in an institution, but across organizations such as community colleges, art museums, and newsrooms (DiMaggio and Powell 1991). Mexico’s media institution remained essentially unchallenged for decades. Cracks appeared in the late 1960s, but the wider political and economic environment did not permit the spread or survival of the innovative newsrooms that challenged PRI hegemony. By the 1980s, however, the state’s political and cognitive controls on the media had loosened enough for a vanguard...

    • 4 Ending the Monologue: The Rise of Civic Journalism
      (pp. 69-87)

      As Mexicans prepared for their last presidential elections of the twentieth century, the PRI could no longer count on the news media to uniformly reproduce its monologue. In fact, some Mexican newsrooms produced coverage that helped undermine the authoritarian system by reflecting a civic orientation of assertiveness, autonomy, and political diversity. By the 2000 elections, as normative and coercive controls on media subordination declined, civic journalism contested authoritarian and market-driven alternatives for control of Mexican newsrooms. Traditional, authoritarian newsrooms continued to reproduce the PRI monologue, were subordinated to the regime, and were passive in their reporting styles, while oligarchic authoritarian...

    • 5 The Limits to Civic Journalism
      (pp. 88-107)

      Carlos Slim reached theForbesmagazine list of billionaires in 1991 after making an important purchase. The owner of a relatively modest stock brokerage, he joined foreign investors as the lead partner in a group that bought the Mexican government’s billion-dollar national telephone system, Telmex. As part of the purchase agreement, the presidential administration of Carlos Salinas granted Telmex a seven-year monopoly—free from competition in local service or long-distance calling—so investors could recoup the money they would spend updating the system’s infrastructure. It was a good deal for Telmex, as it was for Slim.Fortunemagazine named Telmex...

    • 6 How Institutional Entrepreneurs Created Civic Newsrooms
      (pp. 108-128)

      The establishment of a new style of journalism in Mexico was based on a civic orientation that encouraged citizen knowledge and participation in politics. Oppositional values and alternative ideas about journalism changed the professional identities of a cadre of newsroom change agents. In a few cases, change agents were able to take control of their newsrooms prior to political and economic liberalization in the 1990s and remake them in a conscious effort to rework the publications’ organization cultures. Once liberalization began, the new civic style diffused to organizations that either were founded in the image of the civic vanguard or...

  4. Part III. Alternative Transformation Paths

    • 7 Alternatives to the Civic Newsroom: Inertial and Adaptive Authoritarianism
      (pp. 131-154)

      As civic-oriented newspapers became more autonomous, more assertive, and especially more plural over the last twenty-five years, other news organizations followed different transformation paths. The journalism they practiced resisted change, adapted authoritarian norms to a weakening national political system, or responded to stronger market cues in the liberalizing economy. Four models of journalism came to coexist and compete for financial success and prestige in the late 1990s, eroding the once-consolidated Mexican media institution and creating the hybrid media system that exists today in Mexico. In addition to civic journalism, the models guiding Mexican journalism now include inertial and adaptive forms...

    • 8 Market-Driven Journalism
      (pp. 155-188)

      Asked why his network broke with custom to give better coverage to the opposition during the first-ever Mexico City mayoral election, the new president of the country’s television powerhouse, Televisa, answered directly: “Democracy is a great customer.’”¹ And indeed it was. All three major Mexican political parties invested heavily in television ads during important federal and state elections in early 1997, thanks to more public campaign financing. Ratings for news programs and special reports such as a candidates’ debate increased, meaning the networks could raise advertising rates based on the size of the viewing audience. Moreover, the cash injection came...

  5. Part IV. Prospects for Civic Journalism and Democracy

    • 9 The Durability of Civic Journalism
      (pp. 191-207)

      When a group of farmwomen approached the tall, mustached president early in 2003, they teased softly that he was as good looking in person as he appeared on television.

      “Ah,” said Vicente Fox, playing along. “How do I look?”

      “Handsome,” they replied, “and your government is moving along nicely too.”

      “Moving along, are we? You obviously don’t read the newspapers,” the president said.

      “No, I can’t read at all, but I watch you on TV,” responded one of the women.

      “You are better off that way,” the president told her. “You’ll be happier” (Venegas 2003; Castillo 2003).

      While Fox’s comment...

    • 10 Media Transformation in Comparative Perspective
      (pp. 208-240)

      Mexico’s transition from an authoritarian media institution to a hybrid system in which civic, market driven, and authoritarian elements of the press compete and conflict can be formulated as an institutional model of media transformation generating hypotheses about journalistic change. Application of the model in other national contexts will allow us to test the generalizability of the model, probe the relative strength of the levels of institutional action, and seek clues about whether civic impulses that awaken during democratic transitions can consolidate as more than a marginalized form of journalism or an unfulfilled desire when societal power centers reconfigure.


    (pp. 241-244)