Journalists on Journalism

Mexicans: New Climate, Old Habits

This article appeared in the December 2001 World Press Review (VOL. 48, No. 12)

Newsstands on Mexico City streets brim with a variety of newspapers and newsmagazines, and, a study of what’s inside the pages reveals a wide range of viewpoints on controversial issues. But the number of Mexicans who read them is limited especially outside the capital city and even more so, in rural areas. Studies estimate only 20 percent of Mexicans regularly read newspapers, according to Florence Toussaint, a professor of communications at the National University, while 70 percent listen to television news.

The television channels available around the country without cable or satellite are mostly controlled by two companies, TV Azteca and Televisa. Toussaint says their newscasts may have different styles, but the contents are basically the same and what they don’t include are “the voices of the poor and marginalized sectors, those against the system, indigenous peoples, and in general, social conflicts.”

She points out that the result of limited and superficial television news is that “people are less politicized, they have less complete information, and that makes them an easy target for political or marketing campaigns.”

Since it’s difficult to change how people get their news many can’t afford newspapers groups like the Mexican Academy of Human Rights are trying to pressure for better news coverage on TV. Its “Right to Information” project has been monitoring TV Azteca’s and Televisa’s major newscasts for seven years, and so far, has focused on coverage of elections and indigenous rights, including the Zapatista conflict.