Guest post: Facebook and Twitter, Mexican journalism’s newest allies in times of violence

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  • April 18, 2011

Guest post by Kowanin Silva, information chief for the newspaper Vanguardia in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico

Violence in Saltillo has increased in recent months, putting us in new risky situations where social media is a way to break the silence enforced by criminal groups. It is not the best substitute, but considering the lack of protection journalists in Coahuila state have, there is no other option.

Vanguardia has used its Facebook community of 30,000 and the more than 12,000 following @vanguardiamx to pressure the authorities for more information, through public tweets directed at state officials and the prosecutor’s office. The community demands information from us, so we demand formal statements from the authorities to report accurately and stop rumors.

The response was interesting: the Saltillo municipal police opened their own Twitter account and the state authorities used theirs, giving us a means to engage in some form of real-time reporting, even though much of the news does not appear in the print edition due to underlying risk.

We have published several editorials explaining the risks we face. Some readers don’t accept our explanations, while others support us. The important thing is that they know we are making an effort to break out of this information void.

Proof of this is that we are addressing this violence with investigative journalism and a social vision. The experience has made it so our stories are more useful for our readers than simply the hard numbers after a firefight. This is the challenge that we have undertaken: tell how we are living with creativity, analysis, and a watchdog sensibility. For example, we published stories ranging from a series on elementary school children with drug addictions to evidence that Coahuila has the largest security budget in the country.

Vanguardia is one of the most important newspapers in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila. Along with Tamaulipas, Coahuila is one of the U.S.-Mexico border states where reporting has suffered due to threats against the media and journalists from organized crime. Efforts to break down this information vacuum go hand in hand with the use of new technologies and social media like Facebook and Twitter.

The Twitter post below reads: “A murder is committed every 18 hours in Torreón – Vanguardia http://vang.mx/eycVcG
Clipped from: twitter.com (share this clip)

Other Related Headlines:
» Frontera NorteSur (Migrant 'Nobodies' Amid Mexico's Crime & Violence)
» Knight Center (Journalism in Times of Drugs: Under Threats, Violence and Censorship )

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.