No news on corruption : Journalistic information about corruption in municipal government websites

Objective: This article examines the information published by municipal government websites on the subject of government corruption. Its objectives are to evaluate how cases of government corruption are reported by media which are themselves government-run and to test and validate the role played by city councils as providers of reliable documentary sources.

Methodology: The study is the result of the combined findings of two national research projects which have analyzed the city council websites of Spain's 8,122 municipalities on several occasions between 2011 and 2017. The provisional data, which are constantly updated, are interactively mapped online. Following the publication of a repertory of 52 indicators to measure transparency, we qualitatively evaluated the information in the news sections of seven city council websites where these websites reported on changes in council personnel prompted by cases of corruption.

Results: News reporting by city council websites lacks professional criteria and an overall journalistic mission. Two of the seven sites do not consider that reporting on cases of government corruption falls within their remit. Other sites publish isolated facts on such cases without indicating their sources or providing supporting detail. None of the sites offer the non-governing political parties an opportunity to voice their opinion. There is no evidence of journalistic technique informing the different stages of report writing and no acknowledgement of the importance of basic documentary sources. The study confirms our hypothesis that municipal journalism lacks professional criteria and that its dissemination of news content is undermined by political interference.