By Grace Zimlich
Transparency is an essential value in any successful business, but particularly in Ernesto Núñez Chacón’s Costa Rican news media organization. International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) Professional Fellows Program alumni Ernesto, founder and director of La Doble Tracción, offers transparent business models through unique forms of content, such as podcasts, TV specials, games, blog posts, debates, and radio interviews in order to make news accessible and fun. Founded in 2014, La Doble Tracción uses games and satire to create a community of citizens excited to learn more about local politics and current events.
The YLAI Network spoke with Ernesto about avoiding corruption with humor and transparency and the role citizens have in fighting misinformation.
Your vision is very creative. What is the mission of La Doble Tracción and how do you feel humor helps to get your overall message across?
La Doble Tracción seeks to create a population of informed voters, giving individuals all the relevant information they need to make informed decisions at the polls. The main mission of La Doble Tracción is to provide current and relevant information citizens would need to create healthy decision-making processes. La Doble Tracción does not aim to influence anyone’s specific political views or endorse any specific candidates. It only seeks to provide true and relevant information about all candidates.
Applying game dynamics to enrich information should be a norm. It is essential for the survival of journalism and it makes it more fun. We need to design our information in ways that are engaging; it turns the process of gathering information from homework to something citizens want to continue doing.
Corruption and misinformation have the capability to have major impacts on small businesses. How have you been able to counteract this within your own business?
One of the most innovative things that La Doble Tracción has used to avoid corruption is opening up the organization to the public. For example, we allow citizens to play a big role and have a voice in how the newsroom is used.
This type of transparent model allows communities to vote in and decide that the newsroom should reserve a certain quota for particular information or sponsors and even who the sponsors are in the first place. This is also a way to hold citizens accountable because given the opportunity to participate, they are voting for what they want to see and are less likely to have complaints.
Do you feel that younger generations are better or worse at spotting misinformation?
Young people have much more access to information; however, sometimes there is a resistance from young people to consume journalism. Opinion can be much more popular than journalism. Journalism is not supposed to take one stand on issues, it’s supposed to take all stances and provide true data to let the audience consume all points of view.
For years now, La Doble Tracción has been successful in providing relevant voter education to a number of constituents, including young voters. Our transparent models and the influence we allow viewers to have plays a huge role in this success.
How do you believe social media helps, or harms, the spread of misinformation?
Misinformation has always been present online. It can go from a misleading opinion to content that is intentionally designed to trick people, and it can come from everywhere, including newsrooms and journalists. Social media has enhanced this and has made it much easier to access information and to access misinformation.
In Costa Rica, there are few local newsrooms and there are many counties that don’t have any source of local news. These communities are much more vulnerable to misinformation from social media. This can create a bad dynamic where citizens want to know what is going on in their communities, and when there is no local news source they turn to alternative measures.
The role of local journalism should be to empower and give citizens an option and a role to play. An initiative started by La Doble Tracción called Wakalatector aims to detect journalism that doesn’t abide by journalistic principles and trains local journalists to [identify] misinformation and disinformation.
Thank you, Ernesto! Read more about La Doble Tracción and access other #YLAIforIntegrity resources.
The Emerging Media Leaders Professional Fellows Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by ICFJ.
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author or interviewees and do not necessarily reflect those of the YLAI Network or the U.S. government.