Watchdogs or influential political players?: The blurring line between editorializing and informing in Argentinean and Brazilian news media
2016 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
The watchdog role of the press has been a widely accepted concept in political communication for decades. According to this view, by monitoring the conduct of governments, news media play a regulatory role that is vital to democracy, such that their independence from political actors enables them to consider different sources of information and perspectives on an issue and present a balanced coverage to the public, and the quality of their news is defined by rigorous fact-checking, a focus on information rather than infotainment, and due attention to the complexity of the issue covered (including adequate discussion of context, causes and consequences). This view, however, is challenged by the current Latin American scenario, in which the boundaries between editorial line and information are blurred in connection with the engagement of media holdings in society as commercial and political actors with their own interests. In this paper we approach the problem by way of a comparison of the reporting by Brazilian and Argentinian printed news outlets of two recent stories involving political personalities in government in both countries. . We a) analyze the quality of their respective coverage and b) establish similarities and differences in their approaches. We then compare this coverage with that of four smaller-scale news media outlets (Página/12 daily newspaper and bimonthly magazine Acción in Argentina, and weekly newspaper Brazil de Fato and online newspaper Brasil 247 in Brazil) that are not components of media conglomerates, analyzed following the same approach. Findings of this exploratory study indicate that the coverage of dominant news media outlets fails to meet the quality standards considered a hallmark of watchdog journalism, and reveal commonalities in their approaches to framing the stories under scrutiny. These commonalities call for further comparative investigation of the production of political news by dominant media players in the region. Moreover, our findings illustrate the use of newsmaking to advance specific interests rather than inform the public, and indicate the need to rethink the location of the watchdog role in democracies affected by media concentration. If dominant media groups use their news outlets to advance specific interests and therefore play a powerful role in the democratic game other than duly informing citizens, where should the watchdog role lie?
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
watchdog-journalism, quality news, Argentina, Brazil
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-133155OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-133155DiVA: diva2:957460
Media and Governance in Latin America - Leeds 25-26 July, 2016