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How Editors Choose Which Human Rights News to Cover: A Case Study of Mexican Newspapers

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Book chapter

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McPherson, EE 


While much of this book is focused on the effects of human rights coverage on mobilization, we must remember that this coverage is not produced in a vacuum. During the day-to-day practice of journalism, members of the media are affected by a variety of influences that determine not only what information they choose to report and how they report it, but also what information they choose to ignore. These choices – or, as the case may be, commands – shape the human rights information transmitted by the media, and, if we presume that this information has an effect on its audiences, shape mobilization as well. It is therefore very important to understand the influences on human rights reporting.

Through a case study of human rights reporting at Mexican newspapers, I aim to provide an overview of what journalists are trying to do when they cover human rights stories and how these aims interact with overt influences on journalism, such as economic considerations and political pressures, to produce human rights news. To do this, I have developed a framework for thinking about how the headlines are plucked from the informational ether of every news day. Specifically, information is assessed against basic criteria of newsworthiness. Of that which is considered newsworthy, the more a particular piece of information is in line with a newspaper’s journalistic, economic, and political aims relative to other bits of information, the more likely it is to be published. I explain these assessment categories in turn in this chapter, describing what kinds of human rights news survive this winnowing at Mexican newspapers.



How Editors Choose Which Human Rights News to Cover: A Case Study of Mexican Newspapers


human rights, journalism, media, Mexico, sociology

Is Part Of

Media, Mobilization, and Human Rights: Mediating Suffering

Book type


Zed Books

Publisher DOI