‘Mexican newspapers don’t explain Mexico’ says journalist

Mexican newspaper publishers sell only three million newspapers a day in a country with a population of 106 million. Most Mexican journalists will tell you that Mexican’s don’t read because Mexican newspapers have yet to get round to the job of ‘explaining Mexico’, according to Ronald Buchanan, a Scottish freelance journalist based in Mexico City.

OK, so it’s in Buchanan’s interest to say that as he is a regular writer for recently launched English-language newspaper the News in Mexico City, but he has a point. Newspapers here are rife with bias, personal attacks on politicians and partisan editorializing, making it hard if not impossible for Mexicans (never mind foreigners) to understand what’s going on.

As Buchanan rightly adds, Mexican journalists are some of the bravest and best in the world, as the example set by Lydia Cacho shows.Mexican journalists are some of the best and bravest in the world

It’s the country’s media institutions and a culture in which corruption is endemic that is the problem.

A former foreign correspondent in Mexico recently told me the following: “The newspapers have marked political lines. I get just as frustrated by the Telegraph as I do by the Guardian but here its much more deeply imbedded in the culture that if I write or publish something critical of someone in my network of friends the social and economic cost is very high. I lose a friend, or a business partner, because there is no belief that the press is to any degree unbiased.”

“Maybe nobody reads because nobody prints anything that’s interesting to read,” writes Buchanan in today’s edition of The News. Newspapers in the country, of which there are hundreds (regional as well as national), are written for the “chattering classes”, and often go out of their way to be impenetrable to anyone else.

“Few in the Mexican press see language as a means of communication; most seem to regard it as a battering ram with which to impose their superiority over their readers,” he writes.

What’s even more worrying than Buchanan’s observations is that the vast majority of citizens in Mexico rely on television for their news and information on current events and politics – a medium which is equally if not more biased and partisan. TV in the country is run by just two companies – Televisa and TV Azteca. The medium easily accounts of the lion’s share of advertising revenue in Mexico, a huge amount of which comes from the Government’s ad coffers – although this looks set to change thanks to recent electoral reform.

The monopolization of television, partisanship in press of all mediums and the current all-time-high levels of violence and intimidation of media workers in Mexico combine to create a situation where it is hard for anyone to get any idea of reality through the media. That the majority of attacks and intimidation of journalists are carried out by Government or States bodies, according to Article19 (mostly outside of the capital Distrito Federal) adds to the problems journalists have in reporting, especially political news.

Sources say that until recently, it was common for reporters covering politics to receive a monthly envelope of cash each month – easy to accept in a country where wage levels for journalists are incredibly low.

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One Response

  1. I totally agree, I try to read the NYT or the Drudge Report every day on line instead of Mexican papers, the Mexican ones don’t say a lot and are very focus on destroying the life of some politicians, I still say that Mexican Newspapers & TV News in Mexico are very (how do you say “Amarillistas”)

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