Elissa Park

Journalism consists of gathering, evaluating, and presenting current events, ideas, and information. Due to the immersive nature of this field, journalists end up in the center of everything happening in the current moment, ranging from who wore what at the Grammy’s to a politically motivated uprising. The career as a journalist formulates potential for corruption and life-threatening events. A research article by Jeannine E. Relly and Celeste González de Bustamante titled Silencing Mexico: A Study of Influences on Journalists in the Northern States examines the downfall of the press as a democratic institution, focusing on the effects that violence has on the interconnections between media, government, corporation, and organized crime groups.

Relly and González de Bustamante have three research questions: What are the political, societal, and economic influences on the country’s journalists in the context of violence along the northern border, what types of violence and intimidation are visited upon Mexican journalists along the country’s northern border states, and how has increased violence along the country’s northern border changes journalism practice for Mexican journalists since the period when civic journalism was introduced? Through the hierarchy-of-influences model, they focused on five levels of influences on journalists: Individual-level influences, news media routines influences, organizational-level influences, extra-media influences, and ideology as an influence.

On the individual level, journalists lacked training to work in conflict zones which led to high amounts of concern for their families and personal safety. The stress level took a major toll on the journalists’ ability to perform daily tasks such as investigations about the government, crime, or other public interests. Through media routines influences, journalists noted “technological innovations, which allow rapid news dissemination and increased use of social media, along with the faltering economy and local job layoffs, had led to increased workloads, longer workdays, and superficial reporting in an already challenging and often violent environment”. The rise and expansion of technological devices led some journalists to be more careful in their communication because they believed anybody could be listening to their conversations. In the organizational influence, Relly and González de Bustamante found that most of the news organization owners, top editors, and producers interviewed were reacting to the violence and economic downfall rather than setting visionary goals; they projected neutral positions. The violence influenced journalists to begin self-censorship and also triggered the decline of support from companies. Almost all the journalists interviewed states that businesses stopped advertising with news companies to avoid being targets of extortion and kidnapping, thus the newsgroups were forced into the increasing use of government advertising.

Inter-media influences brought most news organizations together, which ceased rivalries amongst the newsgroups. Journalists from different news organizations drove together to crime scenes in order to ensure their safety and to have witnesses for potential abuse by security forces, local law enforcement officers, or members of organized crime groups. Through extra-media influences criminal organizations, governments, academic institutions, businesses, civil society, and transnational organizations all had big impacts on the journalists. All the extra-media influences heavily impacted the journalists by forcing them censor their publishing based on who supported their news organization and who helped keep them safe. The ideological-level influences on journalists concluded that there is a disconnect between journalists and society because there is no possibility to include citizens in news reporting. The disconnect was due to censorship by organized crime groups or governments and self-censorship by the journalists.

Essentially, self-censorship and censorship became a norm that is tolerated in news organizations. The reporting and news coverage were dictated by violence. Organized crime groups controled many parts of media because of an interconnection between the people, journalists, the government, and corporations. The violent nature of the crimes that the organized crime groups commit infiltrates the psyche and brings out the fear in people. The fear causes a chain reaction: corporations begin to cease funding towards newsgroups in order to not be targeted by the crime groups, thus causing newsgroups to rely on the funding of government advertisements. The government then begins to wield more power and control over the media. The journalists also stated that corrupt politicians or government officials involved with criminal groups infiltrates news organizations with moles or buying off reporters; they used journalists as propaganda tools for their own message.

The newsgroups that were interviewed for this study seem to be part of corporate media where they rely heavily on advertising. Thus causing a dramatic dependency on the government when corporations no longer advertise with the newsgroup. Although we briefly discussed how the government infiltrates media bias, we did investigate how the government has a large impact. The study done by Relly and González de Bustamante exemplifies the interconnectivity between media, the people, corporations, and the government. The journalists help identify that fear and corruption are the two causes of self-censorship and censorship. The fear has the most dramatic effects: journalists not being able to go and investigate alone, journalists doubting their reports due to concern for the safety of their family, corporations stopping advertisements so they are not targeted by crime groups, and most importantly losing their life. Everything reported in this article touches on many things we talked about in class such as terrorism, police brutality, journalism, constitutional law, justice, and equality. Terrorism triggered police brutality and corruption, which led to disregarding constitutional law, thus forming inequality amongst the people and injustice for the people who have been killed. Journalism lies in the center of it all, connecting all the pieces together.

Relly and González de Bustamante stated:

And across the border, journalistic autonomy often was traded for personal security, which included reporting only one version of events, that of government officials. Although these newsroom policies often were born out of a sense of terror in the practice along the northern border, this distinct trend can be likened to some semblance of Hughes’ conceptualization of the “adaptive authoritarian” news model in its “passive approach to new gathering” with “traded autonomy,” though in our study it did not appear to be for “partisan or personal advantage” and was complicated by the more prominent role of organized crime groups. Nonetheless, there appeared to be vestiges of the old guard ways, consisting of stenography from press releases, which Hughes’ work a decade ago described as a model that was fading. (Relly 124)

According to this research article, journalism is influenced heavily by government officials in the northern border of Mexico due to fear, but in most cases journalists comply because the want to. This statement is correct in the sense that many media outlets comply with people in power in order harness power and money, but there is a more complex back story to many situations such as the safety of their families and themselves, living in constant fear, and the need to keep their news organization running.

I went to Ikeda library’s online database and started to search for journals on the concealing of government secrets. But after stumbling on an article about the corruption of the government, I searched for that instead. I narrowed my search down to Latin America and came across the research article Silencing Mexico: A Study of Influence on Journalists in the Northern States. It was published in The International Journal of Press/Politics and was found on Sage Journals.

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