Thursday, February 6, 2014

Top Latin American data journalist Giannina Segnini quits over conflict with management

Photo: Giannina Segnini
I have some bad news for data journalism and news in general: Giannina Segnini, arguably the most famous data and investigative journalist in Latin America —read a list of her accomplishments,— is quitting her job at La Nación, in Costa Rica.

(Full disclosure: I'm a friend of hers, and I'm writing this after reading just what has been published so far and what Giannina herself has revealed. Take what follows with a grain of salt.)

Being concise: Whatever it is that happened at La Nación, this is a stupid mistake on the part of its management. Period. Let's not forget that this woman leads a team that has uncovered tons of corruption scandals involving politicians and public servants. Two among those are former presidents.

When you enjoy the privilege of having talent like that in your newsroom you nurture it and protect it no matter what. You don't let it go. I'd compare this to The Washington Post forcing the resignation of Bernstein, Woodward, and Bradlee because of a petty conflict. Can you picture that? You can't, right? It'd be a scandal of epic proportions. Well, apparently, the top management at La Nación is shortsighted enough to do it. Here's what Giannina has said about the case:
The spaces to conduct independent journalism of which I’ve been thankful for and have taken advantage of at La Nación in the past 20 years have been consistently shrinking in the past two years, and especially in the past three weeks. A series of editorial decisions by this newspaper that were based on reasons I consider far from journalistic have made it impossible for me to continue working for this company.
I may be wrong, but this sounds like the traditional clash between the mandate journalists must follow (be truthful) and the commercial and political interests of the owners of news publications. It's something as old as journalism itself, but not because of that it's less worrying.

Anyway, I'm sure that Giannina will find a place to continue doing what she does best, which is to unveil wrongdoing wherever and whenever she finds it. News publications go and come, but journalism abides.