American University
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PlazaPública: Igniting an Innovative Model and Ecosystem of Online News in Guatemala

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posted on 2023-10-06, 01:04 authored by Kara Andrade
This dissertation explores the success of PlazaPública’s model as an online, independent, non-profit newspaper, founded at Rafael Landívar University in Guatemala from its launch in 2011 until 2015. While PlazaPública is still in existence, this case study will only focus on the first years of its onset. The case study presented here is of a digital native online media outlet with a narrative identity based on long and deep investigations. It looks at factors that contributed to its success including: PlazaPública’s institutional support from Rafael Landívar University, support that made it possible for Plaza to innovate in ways that helped it grow and do in-depth journalism; the role of the co-founders and how their backgrounds contributed to the conceptualization and development of this unique model; the political climate within Guatemala and how PlazaPública reflected it, including the role of telecommunications; and describing the innovation that defined PlazaPública and how others understood it. This investigation uses Everett M. Roger’s Diffusion of Innovations theory to analyze the factors that contributed to PlazaPública becoming a news innovation model that diffused in its historical context. Peter F. Drucker’s work on innovation and entrepreneurship as a practice to help define the essence of PlazaPública and the innovation action and behaviors used by its founders. Lastly, the dissertation describes the emerging ecosystem of online journalism in the Guatemalan context and PlazaPública’s influence on this ecosystem. It uses the ecosystem approach as set out by Nanette Levinson who defined an ecosystem as "both the network of organisations involved in a formal alliance and the connections and characteristics of the environmental setting of each individual, participating organisation, as well as of the current (or planned) alliance as a whole" (Levinson, 2010). Levinson’s framework helps to better understand how PlazaPública’s model, set out in a formal and planned alliance with the University of Rafael Landívar, had the conducive environment to develop, grow, and gain social capital so that its reporting could have more reach. Included in this analysis is a discussion on whether the model set out in PlazaPública could provide an opportunity for alternative forms of independent or in-depth journalism in the emerging ecosystem of online journalism in the Guatemalan context and beyond.






Committee co-chairs

Kathryn Montgomery; Nanette Levinson

Committee member(s)

David Stoll; Timothy J. Smith

Degree discipline


Degree grantor

American University. School of Communication

Degree level

  • Doctoral

Degree name

Ph.D. in Communication

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175 pages

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