Citizen Journalism: From Thomas in Boston to Twitter in Tamaulipas, A Case Study

Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, Maria Fernanda Machuca, Ruth Ann Ragland


As violence spiked in Mexico in clashes between drug trafficking organizations and law enforcement, news media were systematically silenced by cartels and cowed legitimate governments. Reliable information on street battles and their consequences ceased to flow through traditional channels to an anxious citizenry on the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border 10 miles from McAllen, Texas. In Reynosa, Tamaulipas, a noted “plaza” territory contested by the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, ordinary citizens became journalists in 2010, reporting under the umbrella of the pioneer #ReynosaFollow hashtag on the Twitter social media platform. This gave frightened citizens a sense of anonymity and security in disseminating their real-time warnings to others, serving as the modern-day “underground presses” of the past signaling danger and injustice. Twitter and #ReynosaFollow have gained notoriety in mainstream media on the U.S. side of the border as useful and important news sources in territory that reporters no longer cover on a daily basis out of fear for their lives. This article chronicles how citizen journalism has developed in heavily censured states of Mexico where frequent gun battles and brutal murders still occur. Special emphasis is given to a case study of Twitter in the city of Reynosa, Tamaulipas.


Social media; citizen journalism; Tamaulipas

Full Text:



AFP. (2012, October 30). Trabajo sobre narco pudo acabar con Regina Martínez. El Economista. Retrieved February 17, 2013 fromínez

Alava, H. (2012, October 15). Amenazas de los carteles de la droga provocan que los periodistas huyan de sus hogares y trabajos. Agora. Retrieved March 1, 2013 from

Arsenault, C. (2011, June 2). Dying to cover the drug war. Al Jazeera. Retrieved February 20, 2013 from

Article 19. (2013, March 14). Brazil and Mexico: Killed for speaking out. Retrieved September 7, 2014 from

Biographical Sketch of Isaiah Thomas, Esq. (1814, Aug. 1). The Polyanthos, 4, 224. Retrieved September 25, 2015 from

Booth, W. (2010, August 25). Survivor: drug gang massacred 72 migrants in Northern Mexico. The Washington Post. Retrieved September 7, 2014 from

Carroll, R. (2013, April 3). Female founder of Mexico’s most controversial blog speaks for the first time. The Texas Observer. Retrieved April 4,2013 from

Cia, J. F. (2010, May 14). “Utilizamos Twitter para avisarnos y salvar la vida.” Retrieved February 20, 2013 from

CNN Mexico. (2010, May 21). Cuidadanos de Reynosa forman un batallón para informar sobre la violencia. Retrieved February 20, 2013 from

Correa-Cabrera, G., & Nava, J. (2013). Drug wars, social networks, and the right to information: The Rise of informal media as the freedom of press’s lifeline in northern Mexico. In Tony Payan, Kathleen Staudt, and Z. Anthony Kruszenski, eds., A war that can’t be won: Binational perspectives on the war on drugs. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press: pp. 96-118.

EFE. (2012, October 31).La policía de Veracruz detiene al presunto asesino de la periodista Regina Martínez. Retrieved February 17, 2013 fromínez/proceso-veracruz/.

Emblidge, D. (2012). Isaiah Thomas invents the bookstore chain. Publishing Research Quarterly, 28(1), 53–64.

Emery, E. (1972). The press and America: An interpretative history of the mass media. (3rd ed.) Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Emmott, R. (2010, March 11). Mexico drug gang hushes killings with news blackout. Reuters. Retrieved March 17, 2013 from

Finn, G. (2012, August 21). Topsy Pro Analytics lets users analyze over 100 billion tweets from the last 2+ years. Marketing Land. Retrieved September 5, 2015 from

Gómez Leyva, C. (2010, February 25). Twitter nos quiere matar de miedo. Milenio. Retrieved February 20, 2013 from

Guglielmo, C. (2013, December 2). Apple, not known for being socially minded, buys social media analytics firm Topsy. Forbes. Retrieved September 9, 2015 from

Hernández, D. (2013, February, 2013). Facebook page in Mexico draws attention for posts on security risks. LA Times. Retrieved March 21, 2013 from

Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI). (n.d.) México en cifras: Reynosa, Tamaulipas. Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI). Retrieved September 5, 2015 from

Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI). (n.d.) México en cifras: Nuevo León. Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI). Retrieved September 9, 2015 from

Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI). (n.d.) México en cifras: Monterrey, Nuevo León. Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI). Retrieved September 5, 2015 from

Knoll, A. (2013, May 6). One year after the murder of journalist Regina Martínez: Violence and impunity reign. Retrieved May 17, 2013 fromínez-violence-and-impunity-reign.

La Jornada. (2013, March 12). Balaceras, persecuciones y narcobloqueos sitian por horas Reynosa Tamaulipas. La Jornada. Retrieved September 5, 2015 from

Mass Moments (n.d.). “Isaiah Thomas born January 19, 1719.” Retrieved September 12, 2015 from

Monroy-Hernández, A. (2013, January 8). The new war correspondents: The rise of civic media curation in urban warfare. [Web log post]. Retrieved January 20, 2013 from

Notario, E. (2012, May 14). Mexico: Tweets y blogs contra las balaceras de los narcos y la impasividad de las autoridades. ALT1040. Retrieved February 21, 2013 from

Ortiz, I. (2013, March 11). ‘Four trucks filled with bodies’ after Reynosa firefight. The Monitor. Retrieved March 14, 2013 from

Pena, A. (2010, April 10). Mexican drug wars: When media silenced, Twitter alerts citizens. ABC News. Retrieved February 20, 2013 from

Penhaul, K. (2010a, June 21). La ley del silencio en Reynosa sola la rompe … Twitter. CNN. Retrieved February 17, 2013 from

Penhaul, K. (2010b, June 22). ¿Cómo se preparan los guaruras frente al narco? CNN. Retrieved March 20, 2013 from

Pérez-Arellano, R. (2012, March 22). “Voy a morir porque creen que soy un Zeta” [Web Log Post]. Retrieved January 11, 2013 from

Rivers, M. (2013, April 25). KSAT investigates information blackout in Reynosa, Mexico: Blackout keeps residents in dark about drug war. Retrieved April 28, 2013 from

Rodríguez, O. R. (2010, August, 12). Narco-blogger beats Mexico drug war news blackout. NBC News. Retrieved January 11, 2013 from

Scherman, A., Arriagada, A., & Valenzuela, S. (2015). Student and environmental protests in chile: The role of social media. Politics, 35 (2), 151-171.

Texas Department of Transportation. (2013). Texas-Mexico international bridges. Retrieved September 10, 2014 from

Valencia, N. (2010, March 8). Residentes de la frontera usan Internet para combatir el crimen organizado. CNN. Retrieved February 20, 2013 from

Wills, S. (2013, April 4). Writer behind infamous narco blog reveals identity. Sort of. ABC News. Retrieved April 4, 2013 from

Young, S. (2012a, November, 12). Tamaulipas-Texas information boomerang. South Notes. [Web log post]. Retrieved January 15, 2013 from

Young, S. (2012b, December 23). Advice for driver heading to Mexico for the holidays. South Notes [Web log post]. Retrieved January 15, 2013 from


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Based at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, USA, The Journal of Social Media in Society is sponsored by the Colleges of Liberal and Fine Arts, Education, Business, and Graduate Studies.