Brazilian startup launches journalism program, emphasizes diversity and announces new type of national coverage

With the objective of training a diverse group of professionals and forming a network of collaborators throughout Brazil, journalist Alecsandra Zapparoli created the first edition of the Jornada Galápagos de Jornalismo. Founder of a new media startup called Galápagos Newsmaking, the former Abril executive had the idea of creating a program to recruit people who can produce quality content from the country’s regions that today have no place in the press.

Alecsandra Zapparoli

Journalist Alecsandra Zapparoli has created the first edition of the Jornada Galápagos de Jornalismo program to train a diverse group of journalists from around Brazil. (Courtesy)

According to Zapparolli, the pillars of the program’s menu are credibility, content and audience. Within these areas, there are classes on entrepreneurship, ethics, data journalism, and storytelling, for example. There will also be discussion of current issues in the profession, such as fake news, polarization and transparency. "We talked to a lot of people in the market to build this syllabus," Zapparolli told the Knight Center.

Lectures and workshops for the Jornada Galápagos de Jornalismo will be based in the offices of major technology companies: Amazon, Google, LinkedIn and Twitter. In addition to giving up their spaces, the idea is that these brands also contribute knowledge and tools.

The free face-to-face training will be in São Paulo, between July 21 and Aug. 1, for 30 people. Another 170 will be able to follow classes remotely. Registration is open at this link and will go until April 30th. Anyone over 18 who is attending university or already graduated, in any area, can participate. Those selected will have travel, lodging and meal expenses coveredThe course is sponsored by Ambev, Nestlé and Gol.

Graduates of the program will be able to participate in the future network of freelance collaborators of Galápagos Newsmaking, a new media startup founded by Zapparoli, former publisher of the publishing company Abril. The aim is for this contact to encourage the production of stories and continue the training of students.

The manager of this alumni community from the program will be journalist Giuliana Bergamo, who also stresses to the Knight Center the importance of a very diverse group of professionals.

"We want to know the people and their realities. If we have the goal of shedding light on those corners of Brazil that are not being covered, with a different look from ours, we have to listen," she said.

To ensure diversity in this selection, the Galápagos has partnered with the human resources company Mais Diversidade. This characteristic of plurality is linked to one of the elements fundamental to the new communication startup’s concept of journalism: the regionalization of themes and the preference for humanized stories.

"The more diverse the group, the more diverse my coverage will be," Zapparoli said. "We do not want to take away all the special characteristics from the way people communicate. The idea is that it be more authorial (content), within the premises of professional journalism. The challenge for these people (who leave the program) will be to present stories of national interest that are regional. The idea is for them to be the ones who suggest stories.”

Evolutionary journalism: how will Galápagos Newsmaking work

Zapparoli decided to start a medium-sized media company after August when she left the Abril publishing company, which would undergo judicial reorganization shortly after. She says she has talked to almost 70 professionals in the area to shape what would be the soul of her new endeavor, "evolutionary journalism."

Jornada Galápagos de Jornalismo


"This came from my experience as a manager at Abril and from feeling in the press a lack of diversity, regionalization, connection through artificial intelligence and in favor of journalism and transparency,” Zapparoli said.

The idea is to launch four different brands of journalism. The first of them, to open in August, is Darwin News, which aims to cover hard news in a more in-depth way. Galápagos will also have verticals concentrating on mental health (FelizMente), healthy gastronomy (Sabor4Life) and entrepreneurship (PMEvolución).

One of the aspects in which Zapparoli intends to innovate is in content format, which aims to be adaptable for each audience. For example, a podcast listener can decide whether to listen to a 20-minute or 45-minute version. "We want to give the public the option of whether or not to go deeper into the content, without scaring the guy who does not have the time," she said.

The distribution of this content is also intended to be different. The founder of Galápagos explains that her site will not work in the traditional sense, with a home where the reports are accessed. The goal is for the audience to reach these stories primarily through social networking and messaging applications. "We do not want to develop a platform, but adapt the content to the platform where people are," Zapparoli explained.

For this, the journalist is betting on the use of artificial intelligence to use chatbots in Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, the most used messenger for Brazilians. The technology company Pontomobi will offer consultancy in this area. With this, Zaparoli said, the goal is to have a public that is very engaged with the brand.

The company currently has six employees, but the founder has ambition to grow to 52 people in three years. There are two business models, based on "founding patrons": one for companies, which commit to a two-year partnership in exchange for customized content; and one for individuals, consumers who believe in Galápagos’ journalism.

Despite knowing she has come up with a huge challenge, Zapparoli says she believes it is a good time to open new media initiatives, as there is a need for the audience to connect with journalistic content. The businesswoman also comments on launching this venture amid the government of President Jair Bolsonaro.

"When we have a government that does not care about the press, you have to fortify," she said. "Our role is fundamental, it is to make right to show that there are people who do right. We want to have a point of view, but not something strident or militant, but intelligent and that sheds light on matters in some way."

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