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Source credibility as “information subsidy”: Strategies for successful NGO journalism at Mexican human rights NGOs

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This article draws on Gandy's (1982) influential concept of “information subsidies” to examine strategies Mexican human rights NGOs employ to get their information into the news. By building their credibility as sources — through interpersonal relationships with journalists, through authority with human rights leaders, and through associations with NGO networks — NGOs provide a verification subsidy that shortens the time journalists need to evaluate the sources of their information. By playing to NGOs' strengths, namely their symbolic and social capital, this type of information subsidy holds promise for pluralism and accountability in the public sphere. This promise varies, however, according to what kind of pluralism we mean: namely, pluralism vis-à-vis the field of power, pluralism within the field of human rights NGOs, and pluralism of access to human rights accountability. It also varies according to the resources of the NGO in question, which affect the NGO's ability to demonstrate credibility and thus to provide information subsidies. The article's focus on the information subsidies provided by subordinate journalistic sources, particularly those that address information values about sources rather than about content, as well as on the centrality of credibility in communication across fields, further develops these concepts in media sociology.



Information subsidies, logics, NGO journalism, credibility, verification, human rights, Mexico, newspapers, pluralism, accountability

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Journal of Human Rights

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Informa UK Limited
ESRC (ES/K009850/1)
Isaac Newton Trust (1208(J))