Inspiration, innovation and independence: Latin American organizations discuss collaborative journalism at festival in Brazil

At the beginning of the year, eight independent Brazilian journalism organizations started to think about how to stimulate a collaborative culture among independent journalism newsrooms in Brazil and Latin America. The result of this collective was Festival 3i, held in Rio de Janeiro from Nov. 11 to 12.

For the first time, the idea of promoting discussions about a journalism that meets the three i’s — innovative, inspiring and independent — united digital independent media outlets Agência PúblicaNexoPonteAgência LupaBrioNova EscolaRepórter Brasil and Jota, with the help of Google News Lab. The themes were decided upon from common challenges: independent financing, sustainability and business models.

The festival in Rio de Janeiro was also an opportunity for many Latin American journalists to travel to Brazil for the first time. Organizations from 'sibling' countries that inspired the independent Brazilian media were featured in 'Lightning Talks.’ Daniel Valencia (El Faro from El Salvador), Elizabeth Salazar (Ojo Público of Peru), Martín Pellecer (Nómada of Guatemala), José Luis Pardo Vieiras (En Malos Pasos of Mexico), Olivia Sohr (Chequeado of Argentina and Sembramedia) and Milagros Salazar (Convoca of Peru) presented projects from across the continent. Tamoa Yanetsy Calzadilla Lara, a special reporter for Univisión, spoke about the contexts of polarization in Venezuela and the United States at a session focusing on elections.

Guatemalan Martín Pellecer, co-founder of the sites Plaza Pública and Nómada, believes that cooperation between Brazilians and other Latin Americans should be even greater. In 2018, his media outlet will establish a partnership with the University of Pernambuco for translation and production of articles.

"There is an ignorance and lack of mutual interest between Hispanic America and Portuguese America. The main problem is language, because our challenges and issues are the same," he told the Knight Center.

Federico Amigo, from Tiempo Argentino, introduced the case of his newspaper, which, after going through financial difficulties and lack of investment, restarted as a cooperative of 100 journalists. The outlet has already inspired at least four other initiatives, and may encourage others – at the end of the talk, many Brazilian colleagues came to ask Amigo for tips on how to apply the same model.

In this sense, one of the Argentine newspaper’s projects is to create a South American managerial journalism network to exchange experiences and best practices. "Collaboration between countries is still very incipient," Amigo told the Knight Center. "Our idea is an alliance between media. It is interesting that media outlets from different countries can deal with general issues from different realities. "

According to him, the Brazilian context, which has a few voices concentrated in a corporatist environment, can favor the emergence of other cooperatives. For this, he emphasizes the importance of a network of contacts and support. "It's very interesting to connect, share experiences. Autonomous journalism compels us to be constantly learning."

Collective construction

The event marked the first time that these Brazilian organizations carried out a project together. The outlets formed a council to decide the format and questions presented as part of the festival.

"The idea is for us to collaborate more and more," Natalia Viana, co-director of Pública, told the Knight Center. "The tables we gather around here are very sincere, they bring up issues that organizations actually have. The fact that there are so many of us in the council results in this plurality.”

One of the themes of the discussion during the two days of the festival was how to move from a culture of fierce competition in traditional newsrooms to an environment of greater collaboration between independent media. Nova Escola (the New School), a site covering education, has a unique viewpoint as it transitioned from being part of a big media group to an independent publication.

Earlier this year, the digital magazine separated from Editora Abril, one of the largest media groups in Brazil. In this process, the newsroom began to have concerns beyond the production of content. The process made editor Wellington Soares a more holistic thinker and made him a more complete journalist, he said.

"In this independent structure, we can think of several processes by ourselves. We are dealing with the issues that other outlets are, too — business management, how to ensure independence, what innovation means and how to do it with a small structure," he told the Knight Center.

For Paula Miraglia, co-founder of explanatory journalism site Nexo, this independent landscape is more open to innovative ideas. "Our competitive advantage is that we can change, experiment very quickly. We are a small organization and we have a short chain of decision-makers," she said at the session “Business Model + Management."

Despite the advantages of a thriving independent structure, organizations still need to move forward in terms of collaboration, including traditional media. The editor-in-chief of El País Brasil, Carla Jimenez, called for more integration. "It takes a person dedicated to managing partnerships. They are missing arms. Many outlets are still living in the competition and not the collaboration," she noted during the "Technology and New Formats" session.

Laura Diniz, co-founder of Jota, which covers the Brazilian judiciary, recalled that this collaborative and innovative spirit must also enter the academy. "Colleges are not ready for this moment. There are no technology and management classes. Education is going through a crisis and needs to reinvent itself."

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.