The college student assigned to write a term paper about Ambrose Bierce, one of the most widely read and influential journalists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, will be confronted with a peculiar notation for his lifespan: 1842-1914? A question mark?
The normally placid Central American republic of Honduras has been the focus of domestic and international political turmoil for months, and the Honduran media have found themselves caught, in the Spanish expression, entre la espada y la pared (between the sword and the wall).
Communication scholars call them agenda-setters, gatekeepers or filters. To their employees, they are the budget-setters. To their audiences, they are the ones to blame if something goes unreported or something is inaccurate. Within the profession, they are editors and news directors, the ones who sift through the prodigious amount of news flowing in relentlessly from wire services or staff reporters and decide which are stories reported in the finite amount of space or time available, where they run in the pecking order, and how much space or time they are alotted.
Fact of life: The First Amendment does not protect a college newspaper’s bottom line. The staff of Driftwood, the 45-year-old student weekly at the University of New Orleans, learned that bitter lesson the hard way in December when Chancellor Tim Ryan ordered the newspaper closed — not for offensive content, but because of an ocean of red ink.
Fourteen years after being unshackled from the constraints of the Pinochet dictatorship, the Chilean media are undergoing a major self-examination into whether they are abusing their freedom through their sensational and allegedly unethical reporting of a pedophile scandal with political overtones.
Democracy-conscious Guatemalans – and especially intimidation-weary journalists – will hold their breaths Nov. 9 as the country elects its fifth president under its 18-year-old democracy. The stakes are high. Among the crowded field of candidates is former military strongman Efraín Ríos Montt, 77, once the most popular political figure in Guatemala but one not known for his tolerance of media criticism.
At 9:15 a.m. on Jan. 4, Vanessa Leggett, an aspiring Houston crime novelist, walked onto the street in front of the Federal Detention Center in downtown Houston for a tearful reunion with her husband, Doak. Leggett had occupied an 8-by-10-foot cell there since July 20, a total of 168 days.
Two Latin American journalists who have been prosecuted and persecuted under the defamation laws of their respective democratic governments have recently celebrated muted victories. Alejandra Matus, a Chilean journalist and author who has spent more than two years in self-imposed exile in Miami, has seen Chile’s national security law repealed and the defamation charges against her dropped – but her book remains banned, and she still faces a libel suit brought by a Supreme Court justice.