Why (my) research matters: Lucia Mesquita

By Gabriela Sanseverino

Our ESRs try to answer the hardest question that plagues a PhD: why their research matters. And mostly, why you should care about it. Today we look at work of Lucia Mesquita.

Can collaborative journalism reshape the way we do journalism? Our ESR, brazilian Lucia Mesquita, that joined JOLT with the mission of discussing the Political Economy of Digital Journalism in the work package of Politics, Values & Ethics, brings that debate front and center. Based at Dublin City University, at FuJo – The Institute for Future Media Democracy and Society, Lucia tries to answer the existential question of her PhD: “Why is collaborative journalism important?

“News organisations worldwide have increasingly relied on collaboration to deliver necessary investigations and coverage to the public, circumventing the journalism crisis and promoting the journalism watchdog role in society”. We have all heard of some very famous examples, such as Panama Papers, Vaza Jato and Lava Jato in Brazil and Latin America and 889 pages in Puerto Rico. Investigations that show that “collaborative journalism is an essential form of conducting journalism in countries where the context of underdevelopment and authoritarian regimes persists“.

But Lucia goes further from what we can now call these mainstream examples of collaborative journalism. She explains that news organisations, relying on philanthropic funding designed to bolster press freedom and independent journalism and on tech platforms grants, can conduct investigations and tell stories that mainstream media may not be able to – or choose not to – pursue, due a lot to their historical, political and economic dependency of authoritarian and less-democratic governments. This is specially true for regions such as Latin America, where Lucia focuses her research, reminding us all of the importance to study journalism practices in the Global South, beyond the focus of the Western-world.

A shining example of her work is the article published in partnership with ESR Mathias Felipe de Lima Santos that explores data journalism and collaborative initiatives in the Global South, Brazil, and goes further by exploring it in the context of a marginalized community: “In Brazil, inequalities are visually represented in its favelas“. The paper Data Journalism in favela: Made by, for, and about Forgotten and Marginalized Communities”, analyses three alternative media organizations (Agência Mural, data_labe, and Favela em Pauta), which proposed producing data-driven content by, for, and about favelas. And should be made mandatory reading for all social sciences researchers out there, to see digital journalism past west-centric pesperctives.

And while doing these extraordinary work, Lucia also had big changes in her personal life, having her very own pandemic – but very romantic -wedding with her long-term partner. It is worth noting that, like Samuel, she had a cellphone related incident during a JOLT meeting, this time in Pamplona; but hers was not so much of a fun-fact, since the phone was forever lost during the ESRs bar-hopping tourism excursion. What we can say is that she took it all with grace, and followed through with the party until the end of the night. If that is not absolute proof of perseverance and loyalty to her fellow jolters, I don’t know what is.

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This project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska Curie grant agreement No 765140