VIDEO: Guatemala's Plaza Pública news site part of international trend of in-depth, independent online journalism

The online news site Plaza Pública (Public Square), created in early 2011 to bring a "more independent, less superficial" journalism to Guatemala, is aimed at exploring the relations between power and economy, and power and organized crime -- uncomfortable themes for the powers that be, said Martín Rodríguez Pellecer, the site's founder director, during an interview with the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.

Rodríguez, one of the panelists at the 10th Austin Forum on Journalism in the Americas held at the University of Texas at Austin in May, said that traditional media in Guatemala have made great advances in the past 25 years, losing their fear of holding government authorities and the military accountable. However, he noted, mainstream media are more reluctant to fulfill their watchdog role when it comes to holding business owners and other ruling elites accountable. Further, they have become "institutions of power," failing to offer the kind of journalism that a democracy needs, and moving away from the goal of journalism which is the "search for truth." And that, he said, is where Plaza Pública, with its independent reporting, has found a place.

"We try to do rigorous journalism,...understanding that the public's interest does not end with Congress and Parliament," he said. Adding that it's readers tend to be more educated, Rodríguez said that "instead of telling them what to think, what we try to do is make them question."

This type of independent journalism in part is made possible because of Plaza Pública's online, rather than print, platform, Rodríguez said. Cheaper operating costs mean more funding can be spent on investigations, he noted, adding that Plaza Pública is part of an international trend of online, independent news sites not restricted by the same limits that apply to traditional, mainstream media. Other such sites, for example, include Spain's Público, El Salvador's El Faro (The Lighthouse), and several online independent news sites in Colombia, including La Silla Vacía (The Empty Chair) and VerdadAbierta (Open Truth).

The vision of a more rigorous, in-depth, independent "just doesn't fit within traditional media anymore," Rodríguez said.

See the Knight Center's full interview with Rodríguez in Spanish below.

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.