Kathy Corcoran book lunch

Why are democracies so dangerous for journalists? What is the role of the press in our country and in our democracy? Why is it important to have a free press in the United States?

These are some of the fundamental questions former Kellogg visiting fellow Katherine Corcoran asks and addresses in her new book In the Mouth of the Wolf: A Murder, a Cover-Up, and the True Cost of Silencing the Press. The book investigates the murder of legendary journalist Regina Martínez as she was on the verge of exposing government corruption in Mexico.

“She was a very tenacious reporter in a time and a place when most reporters didn’t do that kind of work,” says Corcoran, who led an award-winning team that broke major stories about cartel and state violence and abuse of authority during her tenure as Associated Press bureau chief for Mexico and Central America.

“Everyone knows she was killed to silence her because she was speaking truth to power, so I wanted to know what happened in that case, but I also thought, as an American journalist, the one thing I could do was bring the story to a wider audience, to an audience outside of Mexico,” she says.

Corcoran, a Notre Dame alumna, hopes the book will start a discussion about the key role of the press in democracy, not just in a country like Mexico, but also in other democracies, including the US. “I devoted my life to journalism because I really believe that it’s essential to maintaining our society and maintaining our freedom, not just here, but all around the world,” she says.

In spring 2017, Corcoran was the Hewlett Fellow for Public Policy – unique among Kellogg’s visiting fellowships, the Hewlett is open to a range of exceptional professionals associated with public policy. Her project fit right in with Kellogg’s themes of democracy and human development, and the fellowship allowed her time and space to work on the book, along with the opportunity to connect with researchers working on similar subjects.

At Kellogg, Corcoran worked closely with Faculty Fellow Guillermo Trejo, professor of political science. His research on violence in emerging democracies, in Mexico in particular, and other research being done under his supervision, contributed immensely to the book. She was also able to workshop chapters of her book and incorporate insightful feedback from Kellogg scholars who were investigating similar issues through academic research.

“Mexico is the most dangerous country in the world for journalists,” says Trejo. “Kathy Corcoran’s brilliant investigation of Regina Martínez’s tragic assassination helps us understand why. Her book is part of the influential research on political and criminal violence in Latin America that faculty, students, and visiting fellows have conducted at Kellogg over the past decade.”

Corcoran is returning to Kellogg to launch her book on October 11 at the University of Notre Dame Hesburgh Center for International Studies. Trejo, who is Principle Investigator for the Violence and Transitional Justice Lab, and special guest Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab Wilhelm, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist from Mexico, will offer commentary on the book, with Emeritus Professor Robert Schmuhl moderating the discussion.

“Kathy Corcoran’s career in journalism is an enduring lesson that probing, ethical newsgathering is a linchpin of democracy,” says Schmuhl, founding director of the John W. Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics & Democracy who taught Kathy when she was a Notre Dame student. “Her book provides a master class in shoe leather reporting, scholarly research, and energetic prose, proving her profession's centrality to self-governance.”

Though the situation for journalists isn’t nearly as bad in the US as it is in Mexico, she describes how “the language of repression of the press” that she’d heard during her time in Mexico is becoming more common in the US.

“It became a kind of cautionary tale as well. If you start on this path of quashing independent voices and critical voices, this is where you can end up,” says Corcoran. “When these journalists are silenced, the ultimate victim is not the journalist, it’s the public.”

Join the Kellogg Institute for an in-person and virtual book launch of In the Mouth of the Wolf on Tuesday, October 11 at 12:30pm Eastern US time.