Comunicar Journal Blog

The role of journalists in the face of political and economic pressures



Post written by Laura López Romero and translated by Daniela Jaramillo-Dent

In a context of political and economic turmoil, the gap between the work of journalists and the interests of large corporations is a heated ethical conflict. This is the basis of this article published in Comunicar 58, under the title “Conflicts in the professional roles of journalists in Spain: Ideals and practice”, written by professors Sergio Roses, from the University of Malaga, and María Luisa Humanes, from the University Rey Juan Carlos, in Madrid.

The methodology for this research is based on the results of a survey conducted between 2015 and 2016 with 122 journalists from four Spanish newspapers, in order to examine the extent to which these professionals perceive a gap between ideals and their implementation, and the most “conflictive” roles in the context of a polarized media system.

According to the researchers, “this study is the first to systematically and empirically assess the conflict of journalistic roles in press communicators in Spain, quantifying the magnitude of the perceived gap between ideals and journalistic practice.”

Some of the main conclusions reached by the study are that the confrontations were always resolved to the detriment of journalists’ ideals, which reflect the greatest gaps in the watchdog role -reducing control to power-, in the disseminating role -minimizing impartiality-, in the civic role -discouraging its role as a social catalyst- and in the role of services, reducing its capacity to advise in everyday matters.

The largest gap is perceived by journalists in the surveillance role of economic and political powers. “Professionals claim that they implemented less than the watchdog role would like. Similarly, they claim that they were forced to write information favorable to the image of political and economic leaders – a role that favors the status quo – more often than their ideals would dictate. Meanwhile, the infotainment role, has been promoted encouraging entertainment.

Roses, S.  & Humanes-Humanes, M.L. (2019). Conflicts in the professional roles of journalists in Spain: Ideals and practice. [Conflictos en los roles profesionales de los periodistas en España: Ideales y práctica]. Comunicar, 58, 65-74. DOI: 

Photo by Bank Phrom on Unsplash

Facebook to build an informed community

In a lately meeting, Facebook announced to media practitioners that they would do their part to elevate media literacy by means of supplying tools and training to journalists.

At first glance, Facebook’s move is shocking, or at least confusing as we all know that Facebook is the platform where all sorts of information got spread/viral. To ensure freedom of expression and to do its business well, Facebook has no reason to select/censor/filter contents from users of various backgrounds. After all, Facebook is no more than a commercial organization based on “contents”. In my view, it is debatable that how Facebook shall position itself on this issue. However, for better or not, a healthier and fairer media eco-system is beneficial to the whole society, as long as Facebook provides media literacy tools rather than be the “tool” itself.

During the Facebook meeting, ways of engaging in media literacy are introduced, though a lot more moves are still at their preliminary phase. Third party experts are of great importance to this emerging literacy project. Experts in various fields are invited to join force to conduct situation analysis. In Hong Kong, Facebook partners with the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre.

The media literacy project by Facebook leaves a few concerns, in another word, new challenges: shall we re-define news/journalism again? When Facebook, the largest social media in the world claims to do “journalism” as well, what shall we expect from Facebook-style journalism and journalistic journalism? In addition, as the “third party” mechanism acclaimed by Facebook represents the “independence” and “fairness” which are complied with traditional journalism spirit, does it mean that this “third party” equals to “objectivity”?

When the boundary between online and offline world blurs more and more, it is an urge for us, as researcher, educator and citizen, to re-think “news”.



How cultural identity outweigh​ partisan​ identity in election: A response to Iyengar

maxresdefaultPartisan polarisation has long been studied by communication scholars, from conflict displacement to ideological realignment and to social identity. Individuals tend to act according to group norms if they are identified to a group, sometimes even ignore scientific facts and support policy decisions as long as the majority in the party do so. Iyengar describes this phenomenon as affective polarisation and argues partisan tend to have a hostile feeling, if not discriminate out-group members, i.e. those in other parties.To what extent can this proposition be generalized to other places or is it America-centric?
Using the 2017 Hong Kong Chief Executive Election as an example, I believe cultural identity sometimes are more important than partisan identity, and hostile feelings not only exists in mass but also elite level.
Unlike America, Hong Kong is a battlefield between two cultures. On one side it is the colony that left Hong Kong with British system and turned a small village into an international financial center, on the other is the rising Authoritarian regime. Facing the tightening grip of Beijing, many worries Hong Kong will be turned into just another ordinary city in China. The uniqueness of Hong Kong, for instance, freedom of speech and fairness of elections, are diminishing as Beijing abducted Hong Kong booksellers and interfere elections in Hong Kong.
Chief executive candidate must gain support from 1200 election committee members, where pan-democrats have less than 350 seats and pro-Beijing own a majority. Carrie Lam and John Tsang were the front runners in the election, and they have extremely similar background: both were the former members of the government (i.e. mostly support Beijing’s decision). The only difference between them is Lam had support from Beijing while Tsang did not. Pan-democrats abandoned their underlying ideological difference and supported John Tsang, who is the member of pro-Beijing.Both partisan group and cultural group exists in the city.
John Tsang was supported by pan-democrats, not because of his political identity but cultural identity: he remains British humor and unlike Chinese officials, is willing to open to (or at least to create a perception) public examination. These cultural characteristics allowed Tsang to get support from pan-democrats.While Iyengar’s framework works well in America, more discussion and study are needed to extend it to other cultural contexts, especially contest with two conflicting cultures.
Iyengar, S., Sood, G., & Lelkes, Y. (2012). Affect, Not Ideology: A Social Identity Perspective on Polarization. Public Opinion Quarterly, 76(3), 405–431.
Iyengar, S., & Westwood, S. J. (2015). Fear and Loathing across Party Lines: New Evidence on Group Polarization. American Journal of Political Science, 59(3), 690–707.

Data News in the Pulitzers

by Roselyn Du

The Pulitzers are now in their centennial year. A hundred years is a long way to go. Along the way, there are milestones that are remembered. One in 2012, marked by Huffington Post. Its military correspondent David Wood won in the National Reporting category with his 10-part series “Beyond the Battlefields”. That milestone celebrates the first win for the then seven-year-old Huffington Post and evidences the Pulitzer committee’s recognition of online-only news. As the president and editor-in-chief of the “paper” Arianna Huffington commented, it was an affirmation that great journalism could thrive on the Web.

Another in 2016. Yes, freshly out yesterday. The New Yorker became the first magazine to win a Pulitzer, with Emily Nussbaum’s critical reviews. In 2015, for the first time ever, magazines were permitted to enter the awards and the New Yorker was finalisted for feature writing.

I am actually waiting for another milestone. One for data journalism. In the journalism classes I teach, I’ve always asked my students, “when do you think there will be an award category in the Pulitzer for data news?”


Who knows. But there will be one sooner or later, I think. That “sooner or later” has been pretty vague however, until yesterday, when this Pulitzer centennial year’s results were announced. As a matter of fact, I saw data news winning. The Washington Post’s police shooting reports  (in the National Reporting category) is typical data news. It is a “revelatory initiative” in creating and using a national database to show how often and why the police shoot to kill and who the victims are most likely to be. The Post organized an extraordinary team of reporters, editors, researchers, photographers and graphic artists and painstakingly put together a database containing the details of 990 fatal police shootings across the nation in 2015 and a series of articles describing trends in the data. The data show that about one-quarter of those fatally shot had a history of mental illness; most of those killed were white men; unarmed African Americans were at vastly higher risk of being shot after routine traffic stops than any other group; the vast majority (74%) of people shot and killed by police were armed with guns or were killed after attacking police officers or civilians or making direct threats; and that 55 officers involved in fatal shootings in 2015 had previously been involved in a deadly incident while on duty. Very revolutionary new way of story-telling. Data mining, data analysis, and data visualization all in a thoughtful and beautiful way.

Well, yes, this Pulitzer is not under a stand-alone category named “data news” yet, but it does mean something in the, maybe near, future.

We have entered what is called “the age of data” and “the age of new media.” Data journalism is the marriage of the two. With vast amounts of data now openly accessible online, and the new technologies available to explore, analyze, and visualize data, news media are increasingly making use of these valuable mines of data to source and produce their stories. Data journalism – the use of numerical data in the production and distribution of news – is an emerging area in the field. The very old-fashioned Pulitzer Prizes, after 100 years of amusement, may be enlightened by this new era of big data mixed with new technologies. It may decide to change, just like it has in its past.

New media and political engagement of opposition party and the citizens in Cambodia

The Medias in Cambodia is apparently changed, especially after this last national election when the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), the most influential party, which ruled this country over the last three decades, lost its seats from 90 to 68 over the total 123 seats in the National Assembly. Also, it pushed to free the innocent political prisoners and forced to imprison the government official who committed crimes, according to Kem Ley, the analysts and researcher.

Cambodia has more than 20 TV channels, 160 radio stations, 380 national newspapers and nearly 40 international newspapers, the statistics of the ministry of information, Cambodia. Its population is around 15 million.

Media in Cambodia are divided into the pro – government, anti – government, independent news agencies and the shadow news companies, says Van Vichar, the former senior news reporter of Radio Free Asia (RFA), the anti – government radio in Cambodia.

Given that most of the mass media are strictly controlled by the government, the opposition party uses Facebook, which recently becomes the most influential media, to voice their political opinion.

The Opposition party created a facebook page called “Sam Rainsy,” the name of the party leader with nearly two million Facebook users, who liked and followed this page.

It is the biggest ever result in historic Cambodia poll since 1993 when the opposition party won nearly half of the total seats in the national assembly.

I believe Cambodian young people are the most active population using facebook to engage in public affairs. More than 6.6 million eligible voters, 3.5 million were between 18 to 30 years old. As resulted, the opposition party got more than 2.9 million votes, whereas the ruling party received a dogfight result of about 3.2 million votes, according to National Election Committee statistic.

The public policy set by opposition party during the election campaign, got more attention from middle – aged voters such as, increasing salary for government officials, creating more jobs for fresh graduates and decreasing oil price, as well. When those policies were reached the voters through any means of social media, they vote for that party in hoping for a better change.

In the article published in Comunicar (2012, vol. 20) titled “Media Literacy and Its Use as a Method to Encourage Civic Engagement” composed by Culver & Jacobson, they revealed that new media education platform is very important to cultivate young people’s citizenship. “All programs used technology as a means to an end, not as the ultimate goal. In each program, students learned about new technologies and how to use them. But this use was always in the service of a broader goal, that of helping the students to become more active civic participants. Students learned how to use a particular technology so they could tell their story about a specific.

In Cambodia, in recent years, new media use among young population has increased dramatically not only for entertainment, but also for easier access to public affairs. However, it’s still a great need of media literacy education. For example, when everybody can use new media to spread information, there is a big possibility that both authentic and fake news can appear.

In the recent election, few days before the election, there was a rumor about the leading party government’s president, saying that he was dead because of disease. Immediately, Cambodian People Party, the ruling party declared it was fake information by showing their leader’s face on the TV screen.

Sam Rainsy’s Cambodian National Rescue Party president claimed that his party won election, “At least, at least 63 seat.” The statement was issued on his Facebook page on the day after the election was completely ended. However, the result was officially declared by the National Election Committee, the ruling party was still the only party which led the government.


Rally welcome for the opposition party leaders during the election campaign. Photo: Leanghort SOK

Framing a Story- Journalistic Challenge to Put Issues in Context

The article in Comunicar called Online and Mobilized Students: The Use of Facebook in the Chilean Student Protests written by Cristian (2014) demonstrated what roles Facebook plays during the 2011 Chilean student movement by analyzing Facebook’s page of the Student Federation of the University of Chile (FECH).  The findings listed the positive effects of Facebook on facilitating a sound environment to Chilean student protest. But except for acknowledging its significance, the credibility of posts on Facebook and how can journalists respond should also be concerned.

In 2011, Chile experienced massive mobilizations for seven months, where young people played a leading role in the discussion over education. During these events, Facebook was one of the digital social networks most widely used by the mobilized organizations, the messages published by FECH demonstrated that the following communication functions were used on Facebook: disseminating and framing information, responding to opponents and traditional media, counteracting official information, calling for public demonstrations and events, highlighting the positive results of the protest actions and support obtained, calling for adhesion, and finally, acknowledging and identifying the main detractors of the movement.

Compared with the protests in Chile, the sunflower movement in Taiwan in which students calls for opposing trade pact with mainland China indicates the social media could be the source of news but it lacks social credibility. It is almost a year since students and activists occupied Taiwan’s parliament, in protest at a controversial trade deal with China. The so-called Sunflower Movement was sparked by increasing public unease over China’s influence on the island’s economy (Sui, 2015). It is because posts are mostly recorded directly or comment with preference. But journalists are not only the recorders. This is what social media cannot provide. Journalist professionals will take more time to take interviews, collect data and present the piece in a proper way, while the way they frame a story to put issues in context is challengeable.

Students are calling for opposing trade pact with mainland in the sunflower movement in Taiwan.
Students are calling for opposing trade pact with mainland in the sunflower movement in Taiwan.

As journalists are asked to twitter everyday, hardcore news or soft news are usually mixed with the gossip that is difficult to discuss without basic finds.  “When ‘for Dummy’ became dominate, we, journalists must be better doorkeepers”, Yi-shan Chen, deputy editor of Taiwan’s Common Wealth magazine said on the forum. During the sunflower movement, her students attended the protests and reported. It didn’t take much time to shoot with phones and made comments but what the “reporter” perceive may not be the fact.

It is necessary to clarify information with mainstream media’s platform, but the ways how journalists present the news and explain to public matters more. Chen talked 3 basic requirements of her column “Economic Explanation” that how they cover the issue with problem and solutions, how they use graphics and even animations help to explain hardcore issues and how their journalist can explain the issues clearly in public. All of the forms served for a better understanding of readers towards the topic.

At the SOPA forum, winners are sharing their opinions towards journalism’s value in today’s society.
At the SOPA forum, winners are sharing their opinions towards journalism’s value in today’s society.

Another speaker Nancy C. Carvajal is a reporter for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. She talked practical skills of searching sources for news stories. “Journalist is telling the truth, we should verify all the interviewee’s saying and ask for support and further proof for our readers,” Carvajal said. When social networking sites were not used only for this counter-framing, but also for communicating the message of the mobilized students, the credibility and truth of news should come first.


Quijada, C., Cristian. (2014). Online and Mobilized Students: The Use of Facebook in the Chilean Student Protests. Comunicar Journal 43: Media Prosumers (Vol. 22 – 2014)

Sui, C. (2015). What has Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement achieved a year on? BBC

The Hacks and the Hackers

A couple of days ago, I went to the Hacks/Hackers Hong Kong Meetup. Two of the speakers are data journalists, including one from the Initium Lab ( ), the exploratory arm of the hot and local Initium Media, which is believed to have the largest data journalism team in Hong Kong. Really like the Initium Lab’s stated aim: “We aim to push the limits of Journalism with Technology.”

Hacks/Hackers is an international grassroots journalism organization to create a network of journalists (“hacks”) and technologists (“hackers”) who rethink the future of news and information. It now has more than 80 local groups. The Hong Kong Chapter had its first social gathering in April last year. You can visit to know further.

Oh yes, I should mention the meetup location for this time: Google Hong Kong, in the prestigious Times Square in Causeway Bay. Pretty nice place for such a meetup, with free snacks and soft beverage. How can I forget to say a few words about the big toy placed at the lady’s restroom: It is a toy carriage, red and chic. Sorry, no pictures to show you. Google made it clear:


Review of “Initium in the whirlpool”

“What I claim is to live to the full contradiction of my time, which may well make sarcasm the condition of truth.” —Roland Barthes, Mythologies

屏幕快照 2015-10-12 下午2.26.35

The Chinese population all around the world share the same language. But when you ask a Taiwanese and a mainland Chinese about who contributed most in the anti-Japanese war, the answers could be totally different. If you search for the keywords online, you will be overloaded with the results and opinions from netizens, media and other resources.

What is trustworthy in such an information whirlpool? Initium is trying to react to such situation. As a new media organization set up in August 2015, Initium intends to offer insights into Greater China region and international affairs with scrupulous reports and data analysis in Chinese. Its major platforms includes an app, a website, SNS accounts(Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and a newspaper to be published later on according to Annie, the executive editor of the Initium.

Headquartered in Hong Kong, Initium aims at audience in Greater China region. But in reality, it was blocked in mainland China only 12 days after its launch, which means its content is regarded as harmful to the political authorities or threatening the social stability. In Hong Kong, citizens suspect that the company is financially backed by the Chinese government. Hence, whether Initium serves as the throat of Chinese government is under debate, because people have no idea who the largest investor is. According to Annie, the boss will show up in late 2015.

In my opinion, after browsing all sorts of news platforms in everyday life, I can tell the dedication and professionalism of its staff through their works. Its news articles, approximately 800 to 1000 words in length, emphasize the original investigating reports and data-based research. On the left corner of its Facebook page, it highlights a video In Praise of Fai Ching (廢青頌)[1]. It is their most successful video so far, liked and reposted by more than 700 people. It has drawn such wide attention that below the video there are diversified and polarized comments. Annie said, it hits the emotional point of Hong Kong youngsters and got spread quickly online regardless of who the video producer is. Against the backdrop that Hong Kong youngsters have to face the increasingly unaffordable living cost, the video well responds to this cruel reality. Every story has its own life and character, and the audience is the judge of its value and newsworthiness.

In the age of Internet, media industries in different countries have witnessed the fading of printed media. With the popularity of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and WeChat (China), to certain extents, people have got used to fragmented news and infographics. But can we proclaim the death of investigative journalism? Can lengthy but profound reportage still attract audience and wield clout in the current age? Seeing from the case of Initium, I would say, content is still the king. The popularity gained by the video and long-form articles signifies that an inviting topic accompanied by engaging narratives can still win respect from audience.

The fading or transformation of printed media is neither simply removing the contents from paper to screen, nor mixing words with images alone. There should be a more complicated and discursive process embedded in the concrete social context. Standing along among the blossom of all sorts of new media platforms, Initium, aiming at producing serious news stories, provides an interesting case for us to ponder.

Though Initium is in an embarrassing position, Annie is positive about its future. The website traffic is more than 1.5 billion and around 60 thousand people downloaded the app in the first month. Personally, I would rather describe Initium as a social innovation lab than merely media company. Let’s wait and see what kind of chemical reaction it will create in the center of whirlpool.

Website of Initium:

[1] Fai Ching (廢青):A transliteration of wasted young persons in Hong Kong. Originally, it refers to the losers in school and workplace, unable to afford a flat in Hong Kong but like joining anti-government protest to vent the grievances. Having been approved by netizens in a popular local website( since October 2014, it is changing into a polysemous word of self-mockery, ridiculing and sacarsm.

Reflection on the Symposium on Twitter, Weibo, WeChat and the ‘We’ movement: Microblogging and Journalism in China and Australia


When you are browsing this site, you are using one type of what we call the new media – the communication device connected to the internet and with which to transmit information in immediacy. We are no longer a stranger to smart phone and tablets, in schools, workplaces and our homes. Even our four-year-old kid and eighty-year-old granny can find a way to get in touch with the new media.

With no doubt, those working in the communication industry – journalists and media practitioners, have been living a new media life. This symposium focuses on the impact brought by the new media to nowadays media industry. Most of the presented invited to the symposium are media practitioners instead of university scholars. The whole afternoon was filled with innovative ideas and thrilling challenges in front of today’s media practitioners. According to a freelance journalist based in Australia, on the one hand, the new media environment has provided a huge platform for journalists to have direct interaction with their sources and audience, as a way to getting more first hand information and feedback. On the other hand, it is also easy for him to get involved in political conflicts as their words were written publicly online. Despite of all these, the journalist still regards direct online communication a positive thing. “It is a test of your journalism!”, he said. These challenges drive journalists to carefully verify their information and make judgements reasonably.

The new media also brings unexpected challenges to magazine designers and editors. According to an editor from Guangzhou, China, through years’ experiment, his team found that an online magazine could never be only a replication of the hard-copy magazine. Even though the online version can provide more contents, a magazine is still a magazine.

After trials and errors, they gradually find a way to make breakthrough – inventing innovative activities to draw target audience’s attention. Although the magazine editor said “we just cater to our target audience’s taste”, I wonder, are they really simply following the users’ need?


From a critical perspective, the mass media, as part of the commercial world, is somewhat creating the needs for people. In this process, the mass media brings forth an illusion to the public that they “need” to have “something” in order to act like the class they are pursuing. In the presentation, the CityMagazine’s target audience is mainly the middle-class youths living an bourgeoise lifestyle – “literature youth” as people usually call them. To certain extent, this group of “literature youth” has created a lucrative economic circle, including particular types of bookstores, theaters and hand-craft stores. On the internet, there is even a list of equipments a “literature youth” should have. In this sense, I think what the CityMagazine tries to do is creating the needs for the “literature youths” situated near Guangzhou. For example, they invited bloggers to introduce Taiwan’s home-stay (“literature youths” do not believe in traditional authority but trust someone seems more “neighbourhood”). Another activity was inviting a group of “core users” to taste the magazine’s trade-mark headphone (as a by-product of their mini concert). To their surprise, the headphones were soon sold out, even the price was not cheap at all!

New media is really changing our life. Not only in a way that it fastens the information transmission or transcends the border. But also it is changing the relationship between humankind and the external environment. Reading a magazine is far beyond consuming and reading, but has become a 360-degree experience. On the one hand, people got more opportunities to explore. On the other hand, the capitalists have found more channels to earn money.

“30 rules of being a literature youth” (I am sorry, it’s in Chinese)不可不知,關於假文青的30件事-1.html