English-language journalists often use the hackneyed headline “Pain in Spain.” Especially now, given the magnitude of the ongoing economic crisis ─ after a € 100 billion bailout and with unemployment close to 25 percent.
Despite the severe state of affairs, a small team of professionals are venturing to launch in November 2012 the first ever Masters Degree in Investigative Reporting, Data Journalism and Visualization in Spanish. Behind it lies the idea that this current “pain” is partially due to the lack of investment in independent, investigative journalism in Spain. A costly shortcoming for the entire society.
Investigative reporting in Spain has had its wings clipped due to political and banking interference in the traditional media, which is highly subsidized by central or regional governments. Consequently, there is not a proper watchdog culture in the newsrooms. Hardly any paper has reporters who permanently do investigative reporting and there’s no professional association for investigative journalism.
In fact, there’s currently no Freedom of Information Act, and reporters rely on secondary sources and leaks to have access to public records.
With this Masters we want to train a new generation of truth-seeker Spanish-speaking journalists who desire to be watchdogs of the corrupt figures in power; professionals who do not look at Excel as their enemy but their pet; ready to cope with data as their friends, to create multimedia journalism, and to get into the habit of requesting public records. There’s no other way they could survive in a very competitive cross-border environment.
The new program is organized by the media group Unidad Editorial –El Mundo, Marca, Expansión, among its most popular mastheads ─, and the University Rey Juan Carlos of Madrid. Google will fund six promising students with a scholarship of 80 percent of the tuition.
Senior investigative reporter Antonio Rubio will direct the pioneering curriculum in Spanish that aspires to excellence from the very beginning, with ICIJ member Marcos García Rey in charge of the day-to-day. Among the many professors, Mar Cabra, Director of Fundación Ciudadana Civio and an ICIJ member, will be overseeing the data journalism courses and Victoria Anderica, Legal Researcher and Campaigner with Access Info Europe, will promote the use of FOI.
Our student outreach is not only limited to train Spaniards but also Latin Americans. Those democratic and journalistic deficits found in Spain are also quite common in many Latin American countries. We do find some hopeful teams of reporters at media such as La Nación (Costa Rica), Clarín (Argentina), or Semana (Colombia). For that reason, the interest already shown by several candidates of the region to our project is absolutely stimulating for us.