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Economically-Driven Partisanship—Official Advertising and Political Coverage in Mexico: The Case of Morelia


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Partisanship and dependence on government support have characterized Mexican media along its history. That is, on the one hand, the journalistic practice has been determined by the alignment towards a political stance. On the other, thanks to the intervention of the state, news outlets—especially newspapers—have survived in an economically difficult environment. Nowadays, the support from the government mainly comes in the form of official advertising, which has become a token to trade revenues for publicity. Therefore, this paper argues that media partisanship in Mexico has shifted from ideological to economic. Based upon a case study conducted in Morelia (the capital city of Michoacán), this article analyzes the impact of the official advertising on the political information published by the local newspapers.
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Journalism and Mass Communication, ISSN 2160-6579
January 2013, Vol. 3, No. 1, 14-33
Economically-Driven Partisanship—Official Advertising and
Political Coverage in Mexico: The Case of Morelia
Ruben A. Gonzalez Macias
In order to understand the implications of the official advertising for the decisions within the Morelian
Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus Puebla, Mexico
Partisanship and dependence on government support have characterized Mexican media along its history. That is,
on the one hand, the journalistic practice has been determined by the alignment towards a political stance. On the
other, thanks to the intervention of the state, news outletsespecially newspapershave survived in an
economically difficult environment. Nowadays, the support from the government mainly comes in the form of
official advertising, which has become a token to trade revenues for publicity. Therefore, this paper argues that
media partisanship in Mexico has shifted from ideological to economic. Based upon a case study conducted in
Morelia (the capital city of Michoacán), this article analyzes the impact of the official advertising on the political
information published by the local newspapers.
Keywords: Mexican media, journalism, partisanship, coercion, official advertising
From the very beginning, partisanship has been one of the hallmarks of the Mexican journalism.
Historically, media have supported different ideologies and politicians have used those outlets as their political
trench. Nonetheless, as this paper will argue, the editorial alignment has not always been motivated by
ideological coincidences, but by different soft means of coercion towards the press such as the allocation of
official advertising. That is, news organizations in Mexico have learnt to exchange friendly coverage for
commercial agreements with political elites. Based upon a case study focused on Morelia (the capital city of
Michoacán), the aim of this article is to analyze the impact of the official advertising on the political news
published by the five local newspapers. Correlating the investment of advertising and the coverage of the
government/party elites allows understanding how the former determines the latter. In other words, the former
political allegiance of the news organizations has evolved to the new economically-driven partisanship.
Therefore, the content of this paper is organized in four sections: Firstly, there is an overview of the main
features of the Mexican press (partisanship, soft means of coercion towards the media, and official advertising).
Secondly, it will explain the design of the study. Thirdly, the findings will be analyzed and discussed. Finally,
there will be some concluding remarks.
Mexican Press: Between Partisanship and Coercion
Ruben A. Gonzalez Macias, professor, Department of Marketing and Communication, Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus
newsrooms, it is important to have a general background of certain traits of the Mexican press. Therefore, this
section offers an overview of the partisan character of the media in this country, the diverse forms used by the
government to exert pressure over the journalists, and the arrival of the official advertising contracts.
Partisan Roots
Partisan media are far from being an extraordinary event in Mexico. On the contrary, instead of the
exception, it has been the rule from the very beginning of its existence. Just as the literature about Mexican
journalism refers, partisanship is one of its hallmarks. Considering that most of the time newspapers were used
as links between interest groups and the causes they were after, the partisan character of those publications
turned them into mere ephemeral instruments, when certain minorities disputed regional power, and their
editorial spaces were their political trench. That is, those publications were the forum in which politicians
presented and defended their ideologies (Pineda & Del-Palacio, 2003).
Opinion press has deep roots in Mexico: Prior to the beginning of the Independence War (1810), partisan
newspapers started developing with the only goal of diffusing liberal political ideas that were the fuel of the
movement. Once the separation from the Spanish crown was consummated in 1821, different papers were
published for supporting both conservative and liberal ideologies. The typical feature of the newspapers from
that time was the fact that they emphasized not only the news, but also editorials and partisan comments as well
(Bohman, 1986, p. 61). At the end of the 19th century, El Imparcial, considered as the first newspaper with
mass circulation, was founded with the idea of providing only information. However, due to the political
environment prior to the Revolution (1910-1920), partisanship was present in the rest of the printed media.
When this new war was over, the factions within the revolutionary army published their own papers with their
own political ideas. From the 1920s until now, diverse media have operated under specific ideological
alignments that include all the shades of the political spectrum, from the left to the right (Rodríguez, 1993;
Avilés, 1999; Lawson, 2002; Pineda & Del-Palacio, 2003; Pineda, 2005; Hughes, 2006; González, 2012).
As heirs of the revolutionary legacy, the members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido
Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) built the perfect dictatorshipand for seven decades they established a
network of alliances with news organizations under an authoritarian veil. Journalists in these societies were
expected to support authority, not challenge it, because media were viewed as a tool for nation building.
Information, or truth, became the property of the state” (Hughes, 2006, p. 49). In the same sense, Aceves (2000)
considered that the authoritarian features of the Mexican regime which came after the revolution were fostered
by a media system where news outlets were submissive and disposed to complicity, with scarce heroic cases of
confrontation against the government.
As a result of that, Mexican press was docile and reporters were not used to do more than copying press
releases or official statements. Media subordination towards the state fostered that, in practice, the news stories
were not for the audience, but for the political elites, which became the main producers and consumers of this
kind of information (Riva-Palacio, 1992; Adler-de-Lomnitz, Salazar, & Adler, 2004). In fact, politics were
portrayed by news organizations, especially the national broadcast chain Televisa, as a fragmented reality:
There was the realm of authority and the realm of politics, the former was integrated by the president and
ministries, Congress and political parties belonged to the latter (Hallin, 1995).
Even though the press was clearly dominated by the government, there was no need to promote corruption,
at least not at scandalous level though, because most of the news workers were convinced about the role they
were supposed to adopt
By 1917, prior to the end of the Revolution, freedom of speech and press was supposed to be guaranteed
by the new Constitution approved by President Venustiano Carranza. Despite the brand new official protection,
since then, in practice every single head of federal, state or local administrations have controlled news outlets
through different means. An interesting case was President Lázaro Cárdenas (1934-1940), who set the standards
. Journalists support for authoritarianism does not have to be coerced.
Authoritarianism under the right conditions can be as legitimate to journalists as a more democratic model of
news production (Hughes 2006, p. 51). But not only reporters, editors, or publishers were deferential towards
the government, the PRI regime was also widely accepted by most of the population, a situation which favored
its legitimacy (Camp, 1999; Vogler, 2007).
Regarding the coverage of political information, the effective domestication of the media by the PRI
regime was evident in three aspects: official control of the public agenda, selective silence on compromising
issues related to government and its performance, and a clear partisan bias in support of the official candidates
during elections (Lawson, 2002). In general terms, there was an evident similarity among the editorial lines
which inclined the news to an official and conservative alignment. However, during the late 1970s and early
1980s several printed media were founded as a reaction to this situation. Proceso, Unomásuno, and La
Jornada aimed to offer a different approach to the information, detached from the official version and
considered as leftist”. Being identified with the left, at that time, meant being away from the official version,
rather than being aligned with a specific political ideology. Nevertheless, it did not take those publications so
long to really incline to the left (Castro, 2006), a situation that was permitted by the state because it
facilitated its legitimacy. That is, by allowing certain dose of oppositional voices, the regime could be
perceived as democratic and tolerant. Whether through alignment or tolerance, news organizations
wereand still aresubjects to the government’s will, which was the result of the soft means of coercion
that will be explained now.
Soft Means of Coercion Towards the Media
Corruption between politicians and the press is not new in Mexico. There is a long list of episodes in
which both actors negotiate allegiance in exchange of favors. Whether the politicians or the media promote this
practice, there are different means of coercion which have been used across the time in this country. Therefore,
this part of the section offers an overview of the ample catalogue of techniques that journalists and
party/government elites use to exert pressure towards one another.
For years, the Mexican media were harshly (and justly) criticized for their association with the old regime”
(Lawson, 2002, p. 7). The PRI years were widely known by the control over news organizations, nonetheless,
coercion towards the press is a much older phenomenon. Just as partisanship, pressure has been present from
the very beginning of journalism in Mexico. As soon as the independence from Spain was declared in 1821, one
of the ephemeral emperor Agustín de Iturbide’s first actions was to constrain press freedom. Thus, the
opposition voices, the ones which not long ago fought by his side, could not express their disagreement to his
plans (Bohmann, 1986).
A couple of examples of the docility towards the government were presented by Molina (1987) and Rodríguez (1993). The
former described the routines and newsworthiness values of Televisa’s newsroom in the early 1980s regarding the coverage of the
federal government and the local authorities of Mexico City. The reporting at this television station responded to its owner Emilio
AzcárragaMilmo’s stance towards the regime, who also considered himself as a soldier of the PRI. On the other hand, Rodríguez
(1993) offered a collection of anecdotes related to the cosy relationship between publishers and the president in turn, from Miguel
Alemán (1946-1952) to Carlos Salinas (1988-1994).
of media management that would be applied by basically all of his successors, even the new governments
emanated from the opposition. Two key elements fostered the control over news organizations: the Autonomous
Department of Press and Advertising (Departamento Autónomo de Prensa y Publicidad), designed for
controlling the official information, and Productora e Importadora de Papel S. A. (PIPSA), a monopolist
state-owned company created for producing and distributing newsprint.
Pressure towards media was exerted by government through refined and softinstruments (Avilés, 1999,
p. 7), selectively applied to specific news outlets which proved to be more effective than repression. Official
advertising allocation, tax exemptions, free service of the state-owned news agency Notimex, low interest loans,
and cheap newsprint mentioned above were some of the subtle means of control. Nonetheless, when the
friendly instruments were not persuasive enough, some other mechanisms were activated and government
reprisals tended to be noisier and even more threatening. Retributive tax audits, bills for accumulated debts of
newsprint and, in very few occasions like the case of the coup to Excélsior in the 1970s, overt intervention,
were some examples.
Besides these institutional tools, a more focused form of pressure was also widely practiced: the bribe.
Known in the Mexican journalistic slang as chayote, this form of corruption consisted in offering money to
journalists, editors and even photographers (there are even especial payrolls for selected reporters in most of the
ministries) or favors (housing credits, especial medical care, meals in fancy restaurants, gifts, paid vacations,
posts in the administration, etc.) in exchange for friendly coverage. To a different degree, depending on the time
and budget, all branches and levels of the government use it all the time. Its effectiveness relied on the fact that,
most of the time, new workers salaries were low and this extra money represented up to one third of their
income (Trejo, 1992; Lawson, 2002; DeLeón, 2009). On the other hand, since more than media’s impact,
politicians discretion was basically the main argument for allocating advertising or granting subsidies, then,
facilitating information access was another form of control. Documents, interviews, and even press releases
were frequently used to make aligned journalists’ job easier and blocking independent or critical ones.
Instead of a conflict of interests, the relationship between news organizations and government was
determined by a confluence of interests (Riva-Palacio, 1997; Lawson, 2002; Reig, 2010), which dictated the
collaborative way they interact with each other. Media owners were after a favorably business environment to
make profits from, and political elites needed friendly publicity to legitimize and perpetuate their influence.
Thus, both of them were ready to negotiate loyalty for revenues. In the absence of clear rules for the game, both
media and politicians use one another and are used by each other too. Therefore, the nature of the
journalist-politician relationship in Mexico is a complex network of mutual benefits, commitments and favors,
difficult to penetrate and even more difficult to reform” (Riva-Palacio, 1997, p. 22).
However, with only a few exceptions, neither the media nor the sources act as a solid and uniform group.
On the contrary, individual interests are always above the common good, a situation that fosters mutual
instrumentalization and exploitation. For that reason, “As a general rule, the journalistic message responds to
the structural interests which are behind the media(Reig, 2010, p. 7). Whether coercion, pressure, or
instrumentalization, the truth is that all these terms point out a single concept: corruption, which is the abuse
of public power for personal gain or for the benefit of a group to which one owes allegiance(Stapenhurst,
2000, p. 1). In the media environment, it means the use of the news power to curry favors or illegally benefit
the interests of a government, public servant, political party, politician, enterprise, or individual to the detriment
of the truth and the common good (López, 2001).
In more recent times, and despite the existence of others, official advertising has become one of the most
effective means of coercion towards the media. For that reason, the following part of this section will present an
overview of this concept and its impact on the journalistic practice in Mexico.
Official Advertising and Its Impact
One of the core arguments of this paper is that the official advertising contracts represent a renovated form
of chayote. That is, the allocation or withdrawal of government adverts has substituted the old bribe, but its aim
remains the same: getting favorable coverage. For that reason, in order to better understand the relevance of the
empirical evidence of the Morelian case, this subsection offers a general review of this concept and its
implications for the journalistic practice in this country.
The literature about Mexican journalism reveals that the use of official advertising as a means of coercion
towards the media is not a new phenomenon. On the contrary, government has exerted pressure through it since
a long time ago. As a result of that, and at different levels, news outlets have been historically subjected to
instrumentalization, not always involuntarily though. Even before the evolution of the concept of official
advertising as it is now, Mexican governments have sponsored friendly media and punished critical voices. No
matter what their ideologies are, conservative or liberal, presidents and governors have used public money for
promoting partisan journalism.
Before going further into the issue of coercion through official advertising, it is important to define this
concept: in normative terms, the aim of the official advertising should be to foster communication between
government and its constituency, by informing the latter about the performance of the former. This means that
people have the right to know and authorities have the obligation to inform about their activities, such as
implementation of social programs, use of public budget, and law initiatives (Fundar, 2011). In so doing, public
servants would boost accountability through this kind of publicity.
Therefore, the rationale of the authorities for having an official advertising contract is to guarantee that the
government, at its three levels and despite the political times, has a permanent presence in media by getting
good coverage through news stories and/or by having priority spaces for its advertisements. By a monthly or
yearly investment, the newspaper offers certain amount of pages for the government to publish its press
When a press release is published in its full-length, as a main story and in a preferential placefront/odd page or centre folds, it
is known in Mexican journalism as paid news (nota pagada or publi-reportaje). It is usually published without the by-line,
sometimes with a different layout and, ideally, with a caption like paid content or something similar. Nonetheless, at least in
Morelia, this last feature never appears. For that reason, it is quite difficult for the average reader to distinguish a regular news
story from a paid one. This situation was also noted at the national level by Riva-Palacio (1992; 1997) and Keenan (1997).
and advertisements. The sum of money that each news outlet gets from the official budget depends on
its reach and impact, so the biggest share goes to the most important media organizations.
The introduction of the official advertising contracts and its use as a substitute of the bribes to individual
reporters did not happen suddenly. It was a process that can be tracked down in the early 1990s during
President Carlos Salinas’ administration, when a series of regulations for granting money to news outlets and
their staff were approved (Riva-Palacio, 1992, 1997; Orme, 1997; Orozco, 2007). Among others, the new
guidelines prohibited paying newsmen’s expenses whilst they were covering presidential tours and only
allocating official advertising in the most important media. However, this new policy was vague and left a lot of
room for authorities’ discretion at the moment of deciding with whom and under which terms a contract for
publicity should be signed (Villanueva, 1996).
The arrival of these formal agreements between political and media power holders was supposed to
inaugurate a different logic in the way political communications operate in Mexico, taking it to a renewed and
more professional level. However, it has not been without a permanent halo of suspicion though, because this
new kind of interaction did not only stay at a commercial level, it had evident implications in the stories that the
people receive from the media as well. Since the very beginning, the contracts have been used as a means of
coercion towards the media and, as a result of that, they have had an undeniable impact on the way political
actors’ activities have been covered (DeLeón, 2009).
Especially during the PRI regime, politicians used to negotiate coverage directly with reporters, because
the latter was able to sell advertising besides reporting (Bohmann, 1986; Keenan, 1997; Lawson, 2002). It
means that, since correspondents earned extra money if they could close a deal, they were allowed to act as
salesmen as well. Under this system, three were the sources of income for journalists: regular salary, sales
commissions (5%-10%) and, very frequently, bribes. Since news workers had to complement their incomes
by selling advertising, their pens were compromised because their professional values were put at stake
whenever they had to write a story about their customers, who only expected to be treated favorably. In other
words, money determined newsworthiness and economic interest was more important than journalistic interest.
However, the weakening of the PRI regime two decades ago and the opposition victories at local and state
level brought a different logic for the journalist-politician relationship, when instead of barging with the former,
the latter started negotiating with their bosses (DeLeón, 2009). The political juncture strengthened media
owners position by putting them right in front of their customers and letting them set the new conditions for the
official advertising contracts. Notwithstanding, at the end of the day, these commercial agreements became
instruments of control in both directions: On the one hand, politicians might have lost their influence towards
individual reporters, but they also gained direct access to directors-general and editors, who actually decide
which information is published or not. On the other hand, media owners may have set advantageous conditions
for publicity contracts, but news outlets proved to be economically weak to survive without official advertising
revenues too. In sum, these new official advertising contracts have made the interaction between news
organizations and government/political parties more sophisticated, because their commitment towards a
mutually supportive relationship is built upon a mercantile logic.
By selectively
Since there is not any law or regulation which dictates the criteria for allocating official advertising, the decision of how much
and in which news outlets the budget will be invested depends on the authorities’ discretion (Fundar, 2011).
investing in publicity in news organizations which could hardly survive otherwise, and
which suddenly became friendly towards the official authorities after the injection of public resources, in
practice, the government also structured the media market to an important extent. Nevertheless, being rescued
by the state was not for free, because it necessarily implied an editorial alignment towards the official discourse.
In short terms, exchanging advertising for favorable coverage became the rule for the interaction between news
outlets and politicians. However, this relationship was a matter of power and control mediated by a commercial
agreement. Control through official advertising means the use of advertisements allocated in a news
organization as a powerful instrument for rewarding or punishing its economy, based on its editorial criteria
(Torres, 1997, p. 91).
Besides the economic limitations, printed media have to survive in a difficult environment, because there
is no mass circulation press in Mexico and the readership is reduced, mainly consisting of political, economic,
and intellectual elites. Newspapers had few readers, depended to a significant extent on official payments given
in return for favorable publicity, and, with a few exceptions, were written more for the consumption of
government press offices than for the reading public (Hallin, 2000, p. 275). For this reason, no Mexican
newspaper can survive only by selling copies, they all depend on their advertising revenues
Regarding the content analysis, the focus was on the amount, frequency and type of advertisements; and for
the political information, attention was paid to the amount of news, agenda setting, and bias. In short, the
interest was in the quantity and tone of coverage as a way of evaluating the partisan stance of each publication.
The analysis included the five local newspapers (Cambio de Michoacán, El Sol de Morelia, La Jornada
Michoacán, LaVoz de Michoacán, and Provincia), and was held from January to June 2010. Each newspapers
political section
, especially from
the government at its three levels. In spite of being virtually unknown by the readership, some of them have
the only goal of making money through the state. Even the so-called independent projectsfind it hard to
exist without a share of the official budget, which in many cases represents covering the payroll, hence, a
favorable coverage here is more than justified (Trejo, 1992). Printed press exemplifies the rearrangement of old
practices under new conditions. Its reduced readership and the consequential finance dependence on paid publicity
make it susceptible of coercion by diverse powers and self-censorship (Adler-de-Lomnitz et al., 2004, p. 291).
In order to see in practice the real impact of the official advertising on the media, a case study was
conducted in Morelia. Its aim was to analyze the implications of the government paid publicity for the political
news published by the local newspapers. Therefore, the rest of this paper will present the findings, but before
that, the next section will summarize the design of the research.
The Design of the Study
Before explaining the concept of economically-driven partisanshipand its further implications for
understanding the Mexican journalism, this section outlines the design of the study in terms of methodology
and the city where it took place. Therefore, the content is organized in two parts: The first one offers an
overview of the methodological scheme of the research, and the second presents a quick glance of Morelia, the
place selected for conducting the research.
Methodological Scheme
In order to understand the impact of the official advertising on the content of the political information
published by the Morelian newspapers, two techniques were used: on the one hand, a content analysis which
aimed to evaluate the official advertising and the political news coverage; on the other hand, a set of 20 in-depth
interviews was conducted with journalists, communications officers, and politicians.
This is not an exclusive phenomenon of Mexican newspapers: In the United States, 80% of printed media’s revenues came from
advertising in 2008. In that same year, British national newspapers relied on this concept up to 41%, and local papers 65%
(McAthy, 2010).
Only La Jornada and Cambio have a specific section with the label Politics, the rest include the information regarding this issue
in their local information sections. In that case, a story was considered political when it was related to the activities and opinions
of the government (federal, state, and local), legislative branch (Senators and federal and state Congress), and political parties.
was revised every single day during the six months. Table 1 offers the sample size of the
content analysis, which represents the amount of official advertisements and political news published by each
newspaper during the period of study.
Table 1
Sample Size of the Content Analysis
Cambio El Sol La Jornada La Voz Provincia Total
Official ads 515 655 503 740 596 3,009
Political news 1,760 1,534 1,356 1,403 1,400 7,453
This period was selected for two reasons: Firstly, because the interest was revising the published
information in which the interviewed actors had a certain degree of involvement at that time, either in
generating or reporting it. Secondly, the idea was also to evaluate the political news production during a normal
time. That is not during an electoral campaign, when this kind of information has an excessive presence on the
media and that might incline the results towards inaccurate parameters, which would not represent every-day
reality. As Vliegenthart, Boomgaarden, & Boumans (2011, p. 98) noted, compared with electoral coverage,
research on routine news periodsis scarce, even comparisons between both of them. Thus, looking at an
ordinary period of time—when there are no elections near—provides useful insights of media routines.
The aim of using the content analysis was to obtain empirical data related to the political messages that
were published on a daily basis in the local newspapers. This information represents what actually was
presented by the media, not what the actors involved might have said about it. The reason of selecting the news
stories and advertising responded to the interest in exploring how these news outlets present the political
information, how dependent they are on the official advertising (considering it as their main income and also as
a means of coercion), and what is the connection between the coverage and the amount of advertisements.
Related to the interviewswhich were conducted between April and July, 2010the idea was to
collect the opinions of at least one journalist/editor from each newspaper, one politician or communications
officer from the three main parties
Morelia (the capital city of the state of Michoacán, located in the Middle West region of the country)
represents an interesting case study for analyzing the relationship between official advertising and political
coverage. Choosing this place responded to its particular blend of uniqueness and representativeness: On the
one hand, it is one of the few places in Mexico that have been governed by the three main political parties
(Institutional Revolutionary Party, National Action Party, and Democratic Revolution Party). On the other, it
, and the communications officers of the state and local governments. As
a group, they were representative of the local political communications process and offered the diversity of
opinions sought. However, during the fieldwork stage and as a result of the networking, different
communications officers were included because they were basically the only option, since the access to
politicians and authorities was very restricted for a non-journalist. That is the case of Partido de la
Revolución Democratica (PRD), which Congressmen and party leaders were the most reluctant to be
interviewed for an academic research. It is important to stress that the interviewees’ identities will be kept
anonymous and a specific combination of letters (J for journalists, CO for communications officers, and P
for politicians) and numbers will be used whenever they are quoted in this article.
Morelia as a Case Study
During the period of study, the three main partieswhich had 90% of the state Congress seatswere National Action Party
(Partido Acción Nacional, PAN), Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI), and Democratic
Revolution Party (Partido de la Revolución Democratica, PRD).
can be considered as an average medium-sized city in terms of population (729,279 inhabitants, INEGI, 2010)
and media outlets (five newspapers, five television channels, and 13 radio stations).
Being the capital city of Michoacán and also having experienced three apparently different approaches
to public administration are strong reasons to consider Morelia as a research object in the communication
field. Firstly, this is because the three main parties are equally strong at this level, which sets special
characteristics to the political debate. Secondly, related to this point, the media system is constantly forced to
adapt to the changing political environment, since the instrumentalization is one of its main features. It is
important to address that the number of news organizations in Morelia, although apparently high under
Western standards, is not unusual at all in Mexico because the average of newspapers in most of the capital
cities is around three or four.
In terms of political communication, this city is also a good example of how local and regional media
outlets manage to survive in an economically weak environment, which constantly puts at stake their
commercial viability, a situation that opens the door to all kind of manipulation, both political and economic.
As a result of this manipulation, the interaction between journalist and politicians tends to be shaped by the
factors that foster this instrumentalization. Hence, as this research will show, the existence of different news
organizations aligned to the official discourse, produce messages more related to the political actors, rather than
the audience, which reflects the impact of the official advertising on the Mexican journalism. Therefore, the
next section will present the main results of this case study.
The Findings
This section presents the main findings of the research, which is organized in three parts: The first one is
the analysis of the results and it includes, on the one hand, the general panorama of the official advertising in
Morelian newspapers, and on the other, the correlation between the allocation of the ads and the coverage that
the state and local government got during the period of study. The second part offers the opinions of the
interviewees regarding the impact of the government’s paid publicity on the news. Finally, the third part
presents the discussion on the implications of the findings for the Mexican journalism.
Analysis of the Results
As previously mentioned, an official advertising contract facilitates publicity for the government through
paid messages (advertisements and press releases). Its aim is to secure a permanent media presence, no matter
what the political times are. It is worth mentioning that in Mexico the government at its three branches
(executive, legislative, and judicial) and levels (federal, state, and local)but also political partiescan sign
one of these commercial agreements with whom they consider adequate.
This first part of the analysis of the official advertising offers a correlation between this issue and the
coverage of the state and local governments which, in comparison with the state Congress and political parties,
are the most important advertisers for the Morelian newspapers. However, before commenting on that, the next
two charts offer the overall panorama of the paid publicity in the local printed media.
Regarding the official advertisers and their level of investment, there is a homogeneous trend in the five
local printed media: Government at its three levels is, by far, the main investor in every newspaper because
nearly all the revenues come from it (between 97% in Cambio and 91% in El Sol). Legislative branch and
political parties had a reduced presence, especially the latter whose highest peak was in La Jornada (3%),
whilst the formers rate was between 8% (El Sol), and 2% (Cambio and La Jornada) (see Figure 1). The next
chart (see Figure 2) breaks down the concept of government as an individual official advertiser.
Figure 1. Official advertisers in Morelian newspapers.
Figure 2. Levels of government advertised in Morelian newspapers.
State government is the most important sponsor of the local newspapers which revenues from official
advertising mainly came from. Their dependence to the state budget oscillated between 91.34% (Cambio) and
61.21% (La Voz). On the contrary, local governments investment was more selective: Whilst La Vozand
Provincia got the biggest slice (34.12% and 31.26%, respectively), the other three received significantly less
money but in an equitable way (14.11% La Jornada, 13.75% Cambio, and 13.23% El Sol). A more or less
similar trend appeared with the federal government which gave more money to El Sol, La Jornada, and La Voz
(12.97%, 10.93%, and 9.3% respectively) than the other two (Cambio 4.41% and only 1.8% Provincia).
The following two charts present the figures related to the presence of the governor, mayor, and their staff
on the political news sections and their levels of allocation of adverts. Therefore, the percentages for
advertising represent the level of investment of the government (state and local) per publication and the
These are individual
frequencies and their
sum is not 100%.
Base: 97% of the
official advertisers in
Cambio, 91% in El
Sol, 95% in La
Jornada, 94% in La
and 96% in
Sample of the official
- Cambio: 515
- El Sol: 655
- La Jornada: 503
- La Voz: 740
- Provincia: 596
coverage that the head and members of the administration received during the period of study. Since, as it was
commented before, the investment in publicity by the state Congress and political parties is reduced, they were
excluded from the analysis.
Figure 3. Advertising and state government coverage correlation.
In graphical terms, Figure 3 summarizes part of the central argument of this article: The old practices of
media coercion through bribes have in the official advertising their modern version, because it has the same
goal of the chayote. That is, fostering constant and friendly coverage, but used as an official and formal contract.
Since there was a homogeneous investment in all the five newspapers, there was a homogeneous coverage then.
State government advertising rates represented between 91.34% (Cambio) and 61.22% (La Voz) of the official
advertising revenue. The presence of the governor as an individual actor oscillated between 20.43% (Provincia)
and 14.03% (Cambio); and the different members and offices of state government got between 37.71% (La Voz)
and 21.88% (Cambio). Furthermore, the coverage was not only quantitatively similar among the local
publications, but also in qualitative terms. It means that the news stories about the head of the state government
and his staff had an evident trend towards a favorable bias. In other words, they usually received a friendly
coverage and the scarce criticism only came from the opposition, never from the media.
Figure 4. Advertising and local government coverage correlation.
The case of the local government is also consistent with the assumption of the role of advertising contracts
These are individual
frequencies and their
sum is not 100%.
These are individual
frequencies and their
sum is not 100%.
in determining the news: the more investment, the more coverage. Since La Voz and Provincia received more
money (34.12% and 31.27%, respectively), they offered the best coverage of the local government (23.09% and
12.64%, respectively) then. This tendency was also evident at the moment of analyzing the bias of the news
stories, because the municipal administration had a friendlier coverage in the newspapers in which it allocated
more advertisements. However, since the investment was significantly less than the state government,
sometimes these publicationsand opposition as wellcriticized the local government. Nonetheless, the
mayor received a rather uniform coverageboth quantitatively and qualitativelywhich oscillated between
11.55% (La Voz) and 4.94% (Cambio), which made him the second most important individual political actor,
after the governor. The reason is that he is considered as an important local politician and opinion leader.
Finally, as it will be commented in the following subsection, government paid publicity shapes the
coverage that authorities get. This is because the allocation of adverts determines the coverage, both in
quantitative and qualitative terms. This situation significantly differs from other political systems such as the
British, where unlike advertising, news coverage is free(Davis, 2000, p. 52); or the American, where neither
sources nor reporters are expected to pay for the exchange of information (Gans, 2004). In addition, and
according to the interviewees, these contracts can be used for exerting pressure either towards the news outlets
or the politicians. That is, on the one hand, the former might harshly criticize a public servant until he/she signs
a commercial agreement with them. On the other, politicians use this kind of adverts as a shield against
criticism from the media. Furthermore, and as it was mentioned before, even the literature suggested that the
government has used the official advertising for punishing or rewarding friendly news organizations (e.g.,
Bohmann, 1986; Trejo, 1992; Rodríguez, 1993, 2007; Torres, 1997; Lawson, 2002; Hughes & Lawson, 2004;
DeLeón, 2009; González, 2012).
Impact of the Official Advertising According to the Interviewees
This part of the section presents the answers given by the interviewees when asked about the impact of the
official advertising on the Morelian newspapers. As a result of this, an almost complete agreement was found:
Official advertising does have an impact on local newsrooms. However, who exerts the coercion through this
means could be analyzed from two opposite points of view. The expectedreaction to this issue is thinking
that politicians are the ones who corrupt media by signing or cancelling advertising contracts. Nevertheless,
there is also another side of the story, not very often mentioned in the literature, in which actually the latter
blackmails the former through this instrument. Since corruption needs two players, the one who gives and the
one who takes, the extent official advertising influences editorial decisions depends then on those two actors,
none of them more innocent or guilty than the other. For that reason, in order to understand this situation, both
perspectives will be presented in the following pages.
In the late 1970s, during an official event with media owners and journalists, and referred to the
advertising contracts, José López Portillo (the Mexican president from 1976 to 1982) said I do not pay you to
beat me up, referring to a complaint about the allegedly harsh criticism he received from the media, in spite of
his investment in official advertising. His sadly famous phrase, in which the Mexican journalistic slang simply
means exposing or criticizing a public servantwith or without reasonis still widely used to explain this
technique of coercion. As J2 pointed out: “If you print a story ‘Beating Xofficer up, he calls you and says:
‘Hey! I am not paying advertisements in your newspaper and then getting beaten up by you’”.
Under the logic of whoever pays is in charge, J6 and J7 commented that governments abuse media through
the official advertising. By using these contracts as a means of coercion, high rank authorities demand a
preferential treatment when reporters cover their activities. This situation has fostered a relationship between
news outlets and politicians based on economic interests, in which the former lives in a comfort zone built upon
the latter favors. That is, a patron-client relationship.
According to J4, that is why news organizations are concerned about avoiding their customers heart
feelings with the stories they publish: “When we try to criticize the government, editors and directors-general
suppress certain information which could hurt susceptibilities and risk contracts. Nevertheless, this situation
does not apply for every political actor, because not everyone has enough money: “Parties which do not have
that economic power are always front page if they perform corruption acts”. In that sense, CO3 considered that
by signing a contract, the newspaper is not supposed to beat up any politician or officer, not even with a rose
petal... Through these commercial agreements, disguised censorship, government exerts control over the
media. This control oscillates between limiting the scope of information, framing it or even censoring it,
whilst the media have to accept the terms and conditions set by the one who pays.
At least four of the interviewees, current and former reporters, openly accepted that they had experienced
being censored when they presented compromising stories related to government officers or candidates in
electoral campaigns. The reason was always the same: official advertising contracts. J5s reaction summarizes
journalist’s feelings towards this situation:
It was the first time that I realized that censorship actually does exist, I experienced it. Once I naively believed that it
did not exist and I wanted to think that working for the best and most prestigious newspaper in Michoacán involved just
that, having the freedom of information... Now I can show off that my head in the newspaper represented a 200,000
[Mexican Pesos ($15,209 USD)] monthly contract.
For that reason, “Official advertising does not have certainimpact on newsrooms, it has a totalimpact!
Media are terrified for their own subsistence, because only very few of them are auto-sufficient”, J3 added. The
chosen few that have some other sponsors could manage to survive without government investments, not for
long though. This is because, at the end of the day, there is not any other advertiser who could match official
budgets, at least at the state level. That is the reason why prostitution also exists in journalism: when you are
going to decide the edition of the day, you have to reserve the space for the official paid news stories, which
take most of your available space”, J1 said. In so doing, most of the information produced by newspapers own
staff comes second in importance order, at least in economic terms. The reason is that none of the published
press releases is free and all of them have been already paid.
In short, the extent of government involvement in local newsrooms depends on media’s economic
resources. Since most of them are not self-sufficient companies because their daily paper sales are not high, and
they have a lot of expenses (payroll, consumables, taxes...), they have to rely on government subsidies. Very
frequently, those subsidies represent their most important means of survival. News outlets like Cambio and La
Jornada with low circulation rates
Cambio has a circulation of 8,891 copies and La Jornada Michoacán 7,233 (PNMI, 2010).
have, therefore, a limited readership and an evident lack of commercial
advertisers. This situation facilitates the dependence on official advertising contracts. Notwithstanding, there is
an evident price to pay, because investments are not charities. Thus, advertisers are in a strong position to
raising certain demands or asking for special treatment, when they perceive their interests may be at stake
because of the media’s information.
Every single government wants to have the media on its side and, in so doing, it uses certain instruments which
sometimes are unethical... It is natural that the government invests in official advertising to publicize its activities and
programmes, but that is also a double edge knife: “If you do not talk favorably about me, I simply stop buying
advertisements from you”. (P2)
According to this interviewee’s opinion, those agreements are neither good nor evil per se. It all depends
on how they are used by the actors, because a contract may be used just for branding, as a regular advertising
campaign. But it may also foster an unethical relationship between the politician and the news outlet,
facilitating special favors, such as suppressing or framing information, which have an evident impact on the
news. From this point of view, money seems to be the key element for determining the relationship between
both actors. For the case of the local government, P4 and CO6 considered that at this level it is more difficult
to have an impact on newsrooms, because the advertising contracts are way lower than the ones that state
government signs on a regular basis. That impedes local authorities exerting greater pressure towards media.
Official advertising contracts do exert influence, I can testify that, because I am member of the Social
Communications Committee of the state Congress, and sometimes some fellow Congressmen ask us to call a specific news
outlet to make a complaint about a story that they think it is unfair or inaccurate, and they use as an argument the financing
for advertisements. (P3)
Exploiting the advantages of the official advertising is a sweet temptation for every government, no
matter the party. Even though the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), during its hegemonic years,
developed mastery in media control, whenever the opposition was in charge the same pattern presented itself.
P2 confessed that:
Whilst we were opposition, we harshly criticized this misconduct, but once we gained power the situation changed;
and now, as government, we cannot help ourselves from falling in the same temptation of covering our backs with this
contract. (P2)
These new so-called left orientated governments that now rule Michoacán are much worse, they are more fascist than
the PRI... They are more intrusive and they were supposed to be more liberal. If it was up to them, if they could only
decide, they would not hesitate in dictating every single front page; but it is not like that, they still have to deal with us
[journalists]. (J3)
However, as previously mentioned, corruption needs two players and their roles are exchangeable. In that
sense, official advertising contracts can also be used by the media to exert pressure towards politicians.
Although very common as well, this side of the story is usually avoided in the literature about Mexican media.
CO7 stressed that there is indeed certain pressure when the political party or ministry does not have a contract
with a specific news organization. But when they do, their opinion counts in stopping a story or, at least, the
editor or director-general warns them about what will be published the next day, and that helps too. However,
once again, it only depends on the economic resources they have.
CO1, a former reporter, explained that local newspapers use their own journalists to beat up certain
politician or government officer in order to get a contract from them. The logic is that the reporter is asked to
do an investigation about a specific political actor and dig until something comes out, especially something
compromising. After the publication of the story or even a series of special reports on the same issue, the
director-general and the politician or the communications officer of the government agrees to sign a contract,
and suddenly the harsh criticism leaves the place to a friendlier coverage. This situation, also commented by
other interviewees and perceived by scholars (Bohmann, 1986; Lawson, 2002; DeLeón, 2009), leaves reporters
out of the corruption game, at least to certain extent. Since now the agreements are reached by owners and
politicians at the higher levels, individual journalists do not have the active participation they use to have
several years ago, when they were the ones who directly negotiated coverage with the government officers.
Even though it is now a common practice between news organizations, not all of them do it with the same
frequency or intensity. Again, as CO6 pointed out, the newspaper’s economic strength determines the ethics of
its coverage: “Those which make hard criticism are the smaller ones, which only want your money and they
would do anything to expose you”.
It is true that official advertising contracts could be used as means of coercion, both towards media and
politicians, but their nature is different. Some of the communications officers interviewed thought that when
they are used in a more ethical way, they are actually a very useful tool for their work, because they could be
part of a wider institutional image campaign.
More than influencing the newsrooms, you use them for branding. A good official advertising contract helps you in
getting better spaces on the editions and spreading your message in a more effective way, but they do not help you in
shutting media’s mouths up. (CO8)
Regarding the importance of having a well-structured communications campaign, rather than just a
contract, CO9 considered that the latter is just one among other ways for publicizing government’s activities,
which means something much more elaborated than just sending press releases. Government requires a more
ambitious strategy for branding its institutional image, in which public relations and more targeted actions have
a critical role. The interviewees agreed that, at least in theory, advertising and news coverage are two different
things and should be separated from each other, but in practice the latter is clearly determined by the former,
and the empirical findings of this case study reinforced this idea as well.
It definitely should not be like that, because you are not buying pens or editorial lines, only spaces for placing your
information. Both actors, media and politicians, must be very clear about it; so everyone should know what is buying and
selling. (CO4)
Discussion of the Findings
As a result of the content analysis and interviews, it can be said that the local newspapers showed an overt
allegiance towards the state government. However, this final part of the section argues that, rather than
ideological, this alignment has economic roots. That is, due to the official advertising contracts, the sale of their
editorial lines has fostered theeconomically-driven partisanship”.
If Lawson’s (2002) assumption about considering the market as the key for building a Mexican Fourth
Estate and media opening is right, Morelia seems to be doomed then. Despite the apparent external pluralism
among the local press, which would involve different approaches to the news fostered by specific political
ideologies, the empirical evidence showed that their editorial lines are for sale and, at the end of the day, there
is an evident alignment towards state government. Therefore, the idyllic image of the reader’s interests reflected
on the news is still an aspiration. Brown (2011) also considered this issue: “Partisan alignment is a rational
business strategy in a market large enough to support multiple competitors(p. 71). However, local media
market is reduced and it is not capable of maintaining competence among news outlets. For that reason, their
only chance to survive is exchanging their allegiance for revenues, but not from selling copies, from selling
their pages to the best buyer instead.
Mexican newspapers lag behind those in many other parts of the world. The Mexican government does not confront a
critical press, not because it is more determined to silence criticism than other governments, but because it has been so
successful with subtle measures. The government can exercise control over what it wants to be published because the press
has no desire to give up its share of the bargain, the press cannot bear the idea of unbridled competition. (Riva-Palacio,
1997, p. 29)
Journalists and politicians do not share ideologies, only interests, said one of the interviewees. He was
right. Whether political or economic, but especially the latter, interest is the key for understanding partisanship.
In that sense, the relationship between them is determined by the perception of a mutually beneficial interaction,
which could result in revenues for one part and publicity for the other. Since media organizations are
considered more as business, rather than public service organizations, customersnot audienceshave the
last word. For that reason, editorial lines are flexible and easily adapt to the ever changing political
environment. Putting it bluntly, newsrooms decisions are more and more up to advertisers, but less and less
up to journalists.
Blumler and Gurevitch (1995) were right when they said that there is a sense of correspondence between
the role of reporters and politicians during the political communication process
The situation repeats at a national level too. Sandoval (2002) stated that this phenomenon reaches
shameless levels especially during electoral campaigns, when coverage is everything but balanced. Thus,
differences in coverage and framing are only explained through differences in advertising investments, which
means that the more money, the better the portrayal. The reason, as Champagne (2005) put it, is that “Economic
. Hence, party and
governmental elites are expected to act as information providers in a watchdog press environment. Under this
logic, the conflictive or collaborative relationship has an ideological origin. Nonetheless, in the capital city of
Michoacán, the empirical evidence proved otherwise. The Morelian case showed that instead of ideological, the
interaction is mainly shaped by economic factors. Therefore, the former political parallelism has shifted
towards the new economically-driven partisanship”, in which allegiance is now solely determined by money.
In that sense, the informants stressed the point that conflicts between media and politicians had an economic
origin most of the times. Thus, whenever money stopped flowing, the beating-ups immediately started, once
investments returned, harsh criticism magically went away.
State government coverage in Michoacán is an example of this situation, because content analysis
showed that when correlating advertising rates and coverage, there is a neat uniformityboth quantitatively
and qualitativelyregarding the way this administration was portrayed by newspapers. Due to a
homogeneous investment in official advertising in all the publications, the state administration and its
personnel were framed in a more than friendly way. On the contrary, since the local government selectively
invested more in La Voz and Provincia, the coverage it received presented that same pattern: higher levels of
presence on them than on the rest.
By assigning a specific communication role, each actor of the political communication process (audience, media, and politicians)
adopts a set of attitudes and expectations that would determine his/her participation in the process, which might be complemented
by the others’ position. For instance, a partisan public would expect the journalists to be editorial guides and the politicians to act
as gladiators (Blumler & Gurevitch, 1995).
censorship... is stronger and much more merciless(p. 51). Hughes and Lawson (2003), also, found this trend
in their study about television news and the 2000 presidential election in Mexico:
For privately owned stations, financial incentivesincluding both advertising revenues and potential favours from
government officialswere most important in shaping coverage. For state-owned television broadcasters, coverage
depended straightforwardly on whether or not governors intended to exploit the station for political ends, which they
typically did. (p. 82)
That is why Lawson (2002) suggested that, when there is a convergence of journalistic ideals regarding the
role of news outlets in society, civic-minded reporters could change the routines within their own
organizationsno matter the ownershipand earn greater levels of independence. Once again, this romantic
view reinforces the idea that reality transcends fantasy. Even though neither public nor commercial media are
immune to partisan practices, ownership is not the key for understanding partisanship either, it is their financial
resources instead which give them their higher or lesser informative freedom. In simpler terms, adopting a
watchdog or lapdog position towards political elites depends basically on each news organization’s solvency to
face economic contingencies, not just on their goodwill.
Just as the literature review pointed out, official advertising and partisanship are interdependent
concepts, deeply rooted in Mexican political journalism. The use of the former as a means of coercion
towards the media could also be conceived as a reflection of the patron-client structure which, despite the
regime change, still determines power relations in the country. Based on this idea, official advertising
contracts might as well be considered as the modern times chayote (bribe), but on the contrary of the old one
which was received directly by individual news workers, this one is now negotiated at institutional levels and,
hence, acquires an official character. Nonetheless, its purpose stays the same: influencing the political news
production process.
Although it was not its ultimate goal, the empirical evidence of the Morelian case offered the foundation
for explaining the shift of the receivers of the bribe known as chayote. In other words, by correlating the
information provided by the interviewees, it could be argued that the shift from the old bribes to individual
reporters to the use of the official advertising as a means of corruption has a threefold explanation: Firstly, it is
easier to negotiate a single contract directly with the media owners or directors-general than with several
individual news workers. That is, since ownership is not a shield against instrumentalization, instead of dealing
with a group of many reporters, party/government elites negotiate these commercial agreements with their
media peers. In other words, journalists are suppressed as intermediaries between politicians and news
organizations. Moreover, news workers are now mere instruments of their bosses because, in order to sign a
contract, the latter uses the former for beating upa political figure. Finally, the fact that these contracts are
official and, thus, public accountable, gives them an “institutionalcharacter.
Secondly, this shift might as well be fostered by some kind of modernization process in which new
institutional communication techniques have been adopted by the press offices of the government. In other
words, these departments have slowly moved towards a marketing oriented performance. That is, instead of
mere press releases writers, their staffs have started developing more elaborated campaigns in which public
relationship, advertising, and graphic design tools have been exploited. In so doing, rather than depending only
on the coverage, communications officers boost publicity by this means too.
Thirdly, the increasing rate of university graduate reporters who are supposed to be more ethically
concerned than their predecessors (the empiricists who learnt the trade on the field), might have also fostered an
incipient professionalization of the Mexican and Morelian media system. Notwithstanding, holding a
communications or journalism degree is by no means a guarantee of professionalization. Nonetheless, it
definitely facilitates it becauseat least ideallythe new reporters were taught about the importance of the
ethics in the journalistic practice. But once again, no matter how ethical the new reporters are, they are still the
weakest link of the chain and, in the media owners’ eyes, they are disposable when their ethical values get in
the way of an official advertising contract.
Finally, the existence of this economically-driven partisanshipalso reinforces the general assumptions
of the political economy of communication, because it emphasizes the concepts of control and survival
(Mosco, 2009, p. 3). The former is related to a political process of relationships between key actorsreporters
and politicians in this articleand the latter refers to the economic subsistence of the news organizations.
Herman and Chomsky (1994) considered that both the reliance on advertising and government agenda are
important factors of the propaganda
. In that sense, whether public or commercial, media messages are mere
reproductions of the ideology of the paymaster(Shoemaker & Reese, 1996, p. 231). For that reason, as was
commented earlier in this section, “The concern for financial performance has become so dominant that
journalism gets neglected for the sake of the company profitability(Sparrow, 1999, p. 103). Furthermore,
Wald (1987) concluded his analysis of the news marketplace by arguing that the purpose of the news
organizations “is to make money, not to express ideas” (p. 16).
Thus, the Morelian case demonstrated that the media in Mexico still work under a partisan logic. However,
rather than ideological, this partisanship is economically-driven. That is, the alignment is not fostered by
political visions, but by economic reasons. In that sense, the official advertising has become the coin to
exchange revenues for publicity. Since government authorities’ discretion determines the allocation of these
adverts, both news outlets and high rank public servants use these contracts as a means of coercion towards one
another. This is possible because the specific conditions of the media market boost this phenomenon. In other
words, instead of a business strategy, the dependence on the official advertising is a matter of survival. Finally,
this situation also proved that, in spite of the arrival of different political parties to the government (federal,
state, and local), the relationship with the news outlets remains basically the same. In short terms, it means that,
rather than evolution, Mexican media are still frozen in the PRI regime era.
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... In that sense, Mexican journalism has been consistently characterised as passive, because news stories tend to mainly rely on press releases or speeches from government authorities or party leaders, to the detriment of factual reporting, context, and follow-up stories (Márquez 2012;González 2016). Thus, media agenda is openly dominated by political actors, neglecting citizens and other sources (Gonzalez 2013;Díaz-Cerveró, Barredo, and Hueso 2017). ...
... The patron-client relation between political elites and media may adopt two forms: First, licenses for exploiting television and radio frequencies are granted by the government on a clientelistic basis and political alignment, rather than going through a formal and impartial process held by a third party (Hallin and Papathanassopoulos 2002;Gómez 2020). Second, government advertising has been the main-and, in some cases, even the only-source of revenues for news organisations (De León 2011;Gonzalez 2013;Gómez 2020). ...
... It is important to emphasise that bribes are also promoted by the precarious labour conditions that most of the Mexican journalists face, especially those who work for small outlets located outside the large and more developed urban centres (Salazar 2019;Del Palacio 2018;Reyna 2019). That is, the excessive dependence on government advertising have generated a media market in which many organisations can hardly survive without public money (De León 2011;Gonzalez 2013;Gómez 2020). Very often, those less competitive news outlets can pay their staff salaries only if they sign an advertising contract with the local or state government. ...
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In spite of its common use, professionalism is not a self-explanatory concept in the field of journalism studies. Even though there is an already extensive literature on this issue, what its basic elements are and how they can be assessed are still subject of debate. In order to contribute to this discussion, the article proposes a conceptual model that integrates four categories: routines, orientation, autonomy, and training. The proposal made here builds on previous knowledge, and attempts to strengthen the problematisation of this topic. For the purpose of testing how applicable this approach is on the field and, hence, empirically refine the proposed concept, the inquiry draws on 21 semi-structured interviews with Mexican journalists who work forquality news organisations.
... An economically robust Southern media system creates local content independent from the government in radio and print, whereas the Northern media are limited to reproducing journalistic content from the national networks (Pinto, 2017). There is also qualitative evidence of great variations in Mexican media performance, mainly between Mexico City and the regional provinces, in terms of greater autonomy and professionalism in the former, and clientelism and instrumentalization in the latter (González, 2013;Salazar, 2019 These four modernization patterns not only make some media system variables more salient in the region (such as clientelism or instrumentalization), but also help to explain other features of the media, and offer further lines of research. ...
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Since Hallin and Mancini's (2004) seminal work, many scholars from around the world have proposed different models of media systems for countries and regions outside the Western world. Particular challenges have arisen when conceptualizing the systems in Latin America, where shifting liberal and polarized pluralist models have been proposed, and where media traits like clientelism and collusion remain in spite of political, economic and social changes. We contend that one obstacle to the characterization of the resilience of certain structures and practices in this region is the lack of a historical perspective to account for specific processes of media modernization. Drawing on the multiple modernization paradigm, as well as on post-colonial theories, system differentiation theories of the Global South, and theories of uneven regional development, we understand Latin American modernization processes as the appropriation, adaptation, or rejection of certain elements of Western institutions, ideals and values. In media systems, this might produce: (a) centralization of power, (b) a struggle between elites, (c) state-driven differentiation, and (d) regional or local subsystems. Our historical perspective aims to explain the prevalence of several media structures, and show how institutional legacies yield core media traits, in order to pave the way for further model inference.
... A nivel sistémico, se han documentado las lógicas del periodismo con relación a la 'captura' de los medios por parte de intereses políticos y económicos (Guerrero & Márquez, 2014) en el que el modelo de negocio gira alrededor de la publicidad oficial, con diversos efectos nocivos para el periodismo (Salazar, 2018). Este fenómeno va de la mano con la instrumentalización política de los periodistas y su 'partidismo' de mercado (González, 2013;Maldonado, 2018); la cooptación o represión de los medios y periodistas (Salazar, 2020); la gestión jerárquica de diversas redacciones (Hughes, 2003) y los distintos niveles y factores de influencia que restringen el periodismo sub-nacional (Lemini, 2020). ...
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Este reporte analiza el impacto de la pandemia por COVID-19 en el quehacer periodístico en México. Mediante una encuesta no-probabilística con N=472 periodistas, se examinan los roles periodísticos que los periodistas consideran importantes en una pandemia; los actores, fuentes y temáticas a las que dieron cobertura; su evaluación sobre el manejo y comunicación de la pandemia por parte de diversas autoridades sanitarias y las áreas que demandan capacitación periodística. Por otro lado, se explora el impacto de la pandemia en su trabajo (rutinas y exposición al riesgo), empleo (despidos y recortes), salud (contagio por COVID-19) y bienestar emocional (cansancio, estrés, preocupación, angustia, frustración). Encontramos que funciones asociadas a los roles de servicio y cívico recibieron el mayor apoyo. Respecto a coberturas, la mayoría dio uso y seguimiento a fuentes oficiales y actores institucionales, especialmente estatales. Por otro lado, los periodistas no sólo fueron alcanzados por la COVID-19, los despidos y la degradación de las condiciones laborales, sino que están más sobrecargados, cansados, estresados y angustiados por su futuro. Muchos debieron sortear dificultades logísticas y coberturas altamente riesgosas para su salud en condiciones de escasa capacitación y protocolos de seguridad mínimos por parte de su medio.
... Otro factor exógeno que bloquea o retarda el proceso de modernización está directamente vinculado con los diversos medios de coerción que algunos actores poderosos utilizan con la finalidad de controlar al sistema mediático en México; tales como autoridades gubernamentales, políticos, empresarios y de manera reciente el crimen organizado. Históricamente, y a diferentes niveles, la prensa ha sido moldeada por diversos intereses políticos y económicos, en lugar de los exclusivamente periodisticos (De León, 2011;González, 2013;Márquez, 2014;Espino, 2016). El amplio abanico de instrumentos suaves para controlar la información incluye chayotes, contratos de publicidad oficial, exenciones de impuestos, papel periódico barato y servicio casi gratuito de la agencia oficial de noticias Notimex, por mencionar sólo unos cuantos. ...
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La historia reciente de México ha estado marcada por un constante esfuerzo para instaurar y consolidar un modelo democrático, que permitiera dejar atrás los tiempos de la hegemonía del Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) y abriera la puerta a otros actores que se sumaran a la construcción de una nación más incluyente. La llamada transición a la democracia dio inicio en la década de los ochenta del siglo pasado, cuando el Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) comenzó a ganar elecciones a nivel municipal y estatal; esfuerzo que se vio coronado en el 2000 con el arribo a Los Pinos del primer presidente emanado de la oposición. Las transformaciones experimentadas por el sistema político estuvieron acompañadas de una reestructuración del sistema mediático; o al menos esa era la percepción generalizada de periodistas y académicos internacionales. Sin embargo, hacia el interior, la visión no era tan halagüeña dado que, en el ámbito local -y en especial en las regiones menos desarrolladas- aún permanecian casi intactos muchos rasgos distintivos de los setenta años anteriores a la alternancia partidista. Con base en lo anterior, el objetivo de este capítulo es proponer un modelo que permita explicar la coexistencia de aspectos liberales y autoritarios en la prensa mexicana.
... El elemento central consiste en convenios publicitarios celebrados con las cúpulas mediáticas. Hay evidencia de que situaciones similares se reiteran en entidades como Nayarit (Orozco, 2007), Sinaloa (Rodelo, 2009), Aguascalientes (De León, 2011), Michoacán (González, 2013), Querétaro (Espino & Mendoza, 2015), Veracruz (Del Palacio, 2015), Jalisco (Hernández, 2016), Baja California (Merchant, 2017), el Estado de México (Maldonado, 2018), y seguramente en el resto de las entidades. ...
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Este ensayo revisa las condiciones de la protección a la libertad de expresión en el contexto de dos décadas de alternancia partidista en el Poder Ejecutivo Federal de México. En clave evaluativa se consideran tres elementos de análisis: 1) avances en la legislación, 2) condiciones reales del ejercicio de la libertad de expresión, y 3) planteamientos desde el espacio local. El método de análisis consiste en la revisión documental de la legislación sobre comunicación social en México considerada como el resultado de un amplio proceso desarrollado durante los últimos 20 años en contraste con datos de los riesgos de ejercer la libertad de expresión en México. Los resultados muestran una intensa adecuación legislativa y de políticas públicas, sin embargo, los datos disponibles demuestran que la implementación de esos mecanismos no ha sido significativa ante la permanencia de problemas de consecuencias fatales.
... El elemento central consiste en convenios publicitarios celebrados con las cúpulas mediáticas. Hay evidencia de que situaciones similares se reiteran en entidades como Nayarit (Orozco, 2007), Sinaloa (Rodelo, 2009), Aguascalientes (De León, 2011), Michoacán (González, 2013), Querétaro (Espino & Mendoza, 2015), Veracruz (Del Palacio, 2015), Jalisco (Hernández, 2016), Baja California (Merchant, 2017), el Estado de México (Maldonado, 2018), y seguramente en el resto de las entidades. ...
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Resumen Este ensayo revisa las condiciones de la protección a la libertad de expresión en el contexto de dos décadas de alternancia partidista en el Poder Ejecutivo Federal de México. En clave evaluativa se consideran tres elementos de análisis: 1) avances en la legislación, 2) condiciones reales del ejercicio de la libertad de expresión, y 3) planteamientos desde el espacio local. El método de análisis consiste en la revisión documental de la legislación sobre comunicación social en México considerada como el resultado de un amplio proceso desarrollado durante los últimos 20 años en contraste con datos de los riesgos de ejercer la libertad de expresión en México. Los resultados muestran una intensa adecuación legislativa y de políticas públicas, sin embargo, los datos disponibles demuestran que la implementación de esos mecanismos no ha sido significativa ante la permanencia de problemas de consecuencias fatales. Abstract This essay reviews the conditions of protection of freedom of expression in the context of two decades of partisan alternation in Mexico. In evaluative terms, three elements of analysis are considered: 1) advances in legislation, 2) real conditions of the exercise of freedom of expression, and 3) approaches from the local space. The method of analysis consists of the documentary review in contrast to data on the risks of exercising freedom of expression in Mexico. The results show an intense legislative and public policy adaptation, however, the available data shows that the implementation of these mechanisms has not been significant in the face of permanent problems with fatal consequences. Palabras clave: Libertad de Expresión; Legislación de las comunicaciones; Derecho a la Información; Periodismo.
The aim of this chapter is to describe Mexican journalists' responses to constant threats and aggressions. In doing so, it draws on 93 semi-structured interviews conducted in 23 of the most violent states of the country. The results indicate that violence against news workers has a twofold set of implications for the practice of professional journalism: On the one hand, constant attacks on media staff have promoted the development of a more elaborated journalistic performance, based upon factual reporting, diversification of sources, collaborative coverage, and the creation of journalists' associations. On the other hand, however, in many cases the same situation has also inhibited reporters' and newsrooms' jobs by forcing them to self-censorship and the dependence on government official versions of sensitive issues such as crime news or corruption, amongst other passive routines. The simultaneous coexistence of both outcomes provides evidence of the operation of multiple journalisms within the Mexican media system.
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Uno de los procedimientos más habituales de cooptación de los medios por parte del régimen de partido único que gobernó México durante 70 años era el sesgo indirecto, esto es, que los medios locales, y no sólo los nacionales, favorecían al candidato a la presidencia de la República de ese partido, incentivados por las relaciones clientelares con los gobiernos locales. Con la transición democrática, las redacciones optaron por al menos tres modelos de prensa: cívico, comercial y autoritario inercial. Este último comportaría un cambio tan solo de patrocinador, pues el clientelismo sería ejercido por los gobiernos locales en favor del candidato a la presidencia emanado de su partido político. Para comprobar si tales relaciones de clientelismo y sesgo indirectos persisten, al amparo del autoritarismo inercial que se presenta en buena parte de las prensas subnacionales, realizamos análisis de contenido de sesgo de visibilidad y tratamiento (N=1,699) en 22 diarios locales de seis estados de la República, en el contexto de las elecciones presidenciales de 2018. Los resultados demuestran la inexistencia de sesgo de ambos tipos y abonan a la hipótesis de una democratización y descentralización de la prensa local, por lo menos en expresiones fuertes de sesgo como la explorada.
Las agresiones contra la prensa no se limitan a los asesinatos, golpizas o secuestros. Por el contrario, en países como México, los informadores enfrentan cada vez mayores riesgos, tales como amenazas, campañas de difamación o espionaje digital. A pesar de la diversidad de ataques, el tema de la precariedad laboral como una forma de violencia no ha sido estudiado en profundidad. Por lo tanto, el objetivo de este artículo es analizar la percepción que los trabajadores de medios mexicanos tienen respecto a las condiciones con las que realizan sus tareas cotidianamente. A partir de una serie de entrevistas semiestructuradas con periodistas en activo ubicados en los 23 estados más peligrosos del país, los resultados indican que las circunstancias laborales adversas obstaculizan el cumplimiento de su función, la cual es fomentar la rendición de cuentas de la clase en el poder y, como resultado, mantener informada a la sociedad. Asimismo, el origen de esta situación se encuentra en las propias organizaciones mediáticas, cuyos dueños anteponen los intereses económicos a los estrictamente periodísticos.
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El modelo de comunicación política es un entramado normativo que establece expectativas de desempeño en los medios de comunicación mexicanos, así como una plataforma de información electoral. Aunque se han hecho esfuerzos aislados para conocer el desempeño de los medios durante las elecciones, no se ha realizado una evaluación integral del modelo en su conjunto. El presente trabajo ofrece resultados de análisis de contenido de los mensajes de 22 medios de prensa impresa (n = 2095) y cuatro digitales (n = 473), tres cadenas de televisión pública (n = 222) y tres de privada (n = 220), así como nueve programas de opinión (n = 502), tres debates televisados (n = 556) y redes sociodigitales (Twitter, 180 tuits), bajo una rejilla transversal de categorías basada en los conceptos de imparcialidad, base de información y deliberación mediada, que profundizan en dicha evaluación. Los resultados revelan que la equidad en el modelo se ha conseguido, pero los medios carecen de pluralidad temática y de voces, así como de deliberación mediada. Ello implica que los ciudadanos tienen insumos de información imparcial, pero poco sustanciosa, para configurar su decisión de voto.
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The role of the media is critical in promoting good governance and controlling corruption. It not only raises public awareness about corruption, its causes, consequences and possible remedies but also in-vestigates and reports incidences of corruption. The effectiveness of the media, in turn, depends on access to information and freedom of expression, as well as a professional and ethical cadre of investi-gative journalists. This paper examines how the media have exposed corrupt officials, prompted investigations by official bodies, reinforced the work and legitimacy of both parliaments and their anti-corruption bod-ies and pressured for change to laws and regulations that create a climate favorable to corruption. The paper considers, too, how the media can be strengthened, highlighting private versus public owner-ship, the need for improved protection of journalists who investigate corruption, press freedom and media accountability.
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Politics in Mexico has been gradually changing for more than two decades. There has been a shift from the hegemony of the official Institutional Revolutionary Party to a more egalitarian distribution of power, in which the other two main parties –National Action Party and Democratic Revolution Party– have been gaining salience. The impact of this reconfiguration has reached the media too. Nonetheless, there is no agreement about the implications of this change: whilst American scholars perceived an evolution of the journalistic practice, their Mexican peers argue otherwise. Thus, the aim of this paper is to open a discussion regarding the issue of modernization versus stasis of the Mexican media and its impact on the journalistic professionalization.
"A nuanced assessment of the threats still faced by Mexican journalists, especially in the provinces, and of the corruption of much of the mainstream media."—Jonathan Fox, Latin American Research Review "This pioneering report reveals a pattern of violence against journalists outside the capital and includes brief histories of 11 Mexican reporters who were killed in mysterious circumstances over the past 10 years.... A timely and valuable book on a long-taboo topic."—Foreign Affairs
Political news coverage has – allegedly – undergone profound changes in the past decades. A professionalization of both politics and journalism, increasing market pressures and technological developments (Negrine & Lilleker, 2002) have led to a new quality in the link between political actors and institutions and the mass media, but are also claimed to have greatly affected the way politics is covered in the media. Such changes include overall decreasing amounts of political news coverage, an increasing focus on political strategy and the horse-race in politics, increasing negativity towards political actors and politics in general, conflict as a central theme of the news and an increasing focus on political leaders and personalities (Blumler & Gurevitch, 1995).
The practice of news management sits at the centre of the discussion of mediatization. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, govern ments and political parties have developed new institutions and techniques to cope with a changing media. These changes in the political–media environ ment have both horizontal and vertical dimensions. Horizontally, political journalism has become more challenging and the volume of coverage has increased. Vertically, new media forms enable a decentralization of the political communications process. We can find evidence of these developments in many countries, but there are also significant differences between countries. This chapter argues that in order to explain these differences and continuities it is necessary to give greater attention to the ways in which the structure of political competition interacts with the media marketplace to shape the political communications process.