Watchdog Journalism in South America: News, Accountability, and Democracy

Watchdog Journalism in South America: News, Accountability, and Democracy

Watchdog Journalism in South America: News, Accountability, and Democracy

Watchdog Journalism in South America: News, Accountability, and Democracy

Synopsis

Since the 1980s, investigative journalism has undergone startling development in South America, where repressive regimes have long relegated such reporting to marginal publications or underground outlets. Watchdog Journalism in South America explores the rise of critical journalism in four countries: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. Drawing upon interviews with journalists and editors and analyzing selected news stories from each country, Silvio Waisbord offers a unique look at the significant differences between critical reporting in developing democracies and that already in place in the United States and European democracies. As Waisbord demonstrates, critical reporting in South America can be better understood as watchdog journalism than as investigative reporting as understood in the tradition of Anglo-American journalism. Examining the historical absence of a muckraking press, he argues that watchdog journalism represents new political and media dynamics and discusses the emergence of a new journalistic culture and its contributions to the quality of democracy and public debates about morality, truth, and accountability.

Excerpt

Journalists and political analysts have observed that the vigor of investigative journalism has been one of the most important and novel developments in the South American press in the 1980s and 1990s (Alves 1996;Reyes 1996). Investigative journalism seemingly contradicts the historical record of the region's press, which has systematically shunned critical reporting and opted for complacent relations with state and market interests. Watchdog reporting was relegated to marginal, nonmainstream publications during democratic periods, and to underground, clandestine outlets during dictatorial regimes. Today the situation is markedly different. Investigative journalism has gone mainstream, making strides in media organizations that traditionally sacrificed the denunciation of power abuses for economic benefits and political tranquility. Whether this is a passing fad or will become a regular part of the press in the region remains to be seen. Some journalists see a bright future for investigative reporting; others fear for its failure (Crucianelli 1998; Reyes 1996).

There are unmistakable signs, however, that a journalism who prizes the sniffing out of wrongdoing has become more visible and legitimate in the region. A rare good in the not-so-distant past, there have been swelling numbers of investigative reports. The most influential newspapers in Brazil (Folha de São Paulo) and in Argentina (Clarín) have produced a number of investigative stories in recent years. Leading newspapers in Colombia (El Tiempo) and Peru (El Comercio and La República) have investigative units especially devoted to uncover wrongdoing. Other dailies (Argentina's Página/12, Colombia's El Espectador) and newsweeklies (Peru's Caretas, Oiga, and Si) have not corralled hard-hitting reporting in one cubicle but have at times adopted critical positions in the coverage of specific subjects. Newspapers that historically epitomized conservative interests (Brazil's Estado do São Paulo and Jornal do Brasil, Argentina's La Nación) have lately stepped up . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.