Digital media from Venezuela launch collaborative journalism platform to join resources, investigate and circumvent censorship

To face the many challenges that currently exist in Venezuela, many journalistic media have found themselves in need of forming alliances to continue reporting and investigating.

With that objective, the digital media outlets El Pitazo, Tal Cual and Runrun.es have just launched Alianza Rebelde Investiga (ARI, or Rebel Alliance Investigates). With this alliance, they will not only continue to disseminate their content together –as part of the initial commercial alliance they established on Dec. 1, 2016– but will also work together at the editorial level.

Alianza Rebelde Investiga Logo.

Alianza Rebelde Investiga Logo.

César Batiz, director of El Pitazo, told the Knight Center that the editorial alliance progressively developed over the years, since initially, the advertising strategy of the three media outlets, called Alianza Rebelde, “was created to improve the dissemination and scope of their information, its impact and significance.”

They already coordinated coverage of political events such as protests or elections, he added, but from the investigative point of view, this is the first step.

"We also saw that we had three investigative teams that on some occasions we were investigating the same thing and we decided to take the step to integrate the three investigative teams," he said.

Lisseth Boon, coordinator of the Investigative Unit of Runrun.es, and now also editorial coordinator of ARI, told the Knight Center that this is an experimental project, located in Venezuela, which is part of the regional trend of doing investigative journalism in alliance.

And in order to have a real participation of the three media outlets, she continued, they are developing a procedural manual to delimit the functions and roles of the participants to be clear about how to distribute the work or the assignment of tasks.

According to Batiz, the idea is to publish at least one investigative report together per month

From the investigative alliance, these three media outlets agree on lines of investigation and share human resources, including 12 journalists, four infographic producers and designers, three photographers, seven editors and videographers, and a logistics person, as reported upon its launch.

With this alliance they hope to deepen and improve the quality of their investigative journalism, help the training of their teams and work on reports of “more forcefulness, more impact,” which can be disseminated to reach a greater audience of national and international users, Batiz said.

The reports will be published simultaneously, but each media outlet will adapt the content to its editorial line to respect the diversity of its audiences.

The audiences of the three media outlets are also quite diverse. According to Boon, the profile of the readers of Runrun.es is middle class and upper middle class. And, "the [profile of the reader] of Tal Cual, if you like, is also from a middle class that seeks more opinion, to form an opinion," Batiz said. “And the focus of El Pitazo is the D and E (poor social class) sectors of the population,” for which they have also had to devise some offline formats to share the information with their audience.

The number of daily views that the investigative reports published by the alliance will see, Batiz calculates, will be between 8 and 10 million by users nationally and internationally.

Since they established collaboration commercially and in terms of diffusion, the three media outlets have produce the “3 in 1” podcast. This is a weekly summary of the most outstanding news and reports of the three media outlets. Now, “3 en 1” also disseminates the joint investigations that they have begun to work on in the alliance. A week ago they simultaneously launched and published their first investigative report, "Canaima, el paraíso envenenado por el oro” (Canaima, the paradise poisoned by gold).

The next report that will be published in early December will discuss the bot farm that exists in Venezuela, Batiz said.

At the same time, they have begun an investigation into corruption in Venezuela. "We have another project on the mapping of the great corruption of these [last] twenty years," Boon said. “Venezuela has already entered the category of great corruption. It is no longer a kleptocracy, the situation already exceeds any model that exists in the world, so we want to make a great map of that.”

Regarding that investigation, Boon said that they are already building a database to collect the great cases of corruption in order to classify them and, at the same time, identify the organisms involved and the areas where there are more of these cases. “We are processing all that. This will be accompanied, of course, by reports that interpret this entire database that we are putting together.”

They plan to publish this investigation in the first months of 2020.

As for the graphic part, Elsy Torres, journalist and graphic designer at El Pitazo, will be the coordinator of the visual area of ARI. Torres told the Knight Center that her job will be to connect with the designers of the three media outlets to make the graphic pieces, such as infographics or specials, of the investigations worked on together. In addition, graphic pieces will be worked on to “translate” dense investigative data so that it can be disseminated on social networks, she added.

Regarding the expectations of this new stage in the alliance of these three media outlets, Torres said that it is an opportunity for growth from a human and journalistic point of view. As a multidisciplinary team, “we will be more critical, we will have a more timely review of things, we will be stronger (...). We believe that this will nurture us all,” she said.

In the last 20 years, Venezuela has suffered the closure of 32 radio stations and print newspapers that have run out of press supplies to continue publishing because of withholding of the same by the government, as was the case of the newspaper El Nacional. In addition, journalistic sites that had a critical opinion of the government of Hugo Chávez (1999-2013) and now toward that of Nicolás Maduro, have suffered digital blockings and attacks. Judicial harassment against journalists and repression of freedom of the press and expression also remains a constant in the country.