Journalists create Brazil’s first open journalism school for youth

To make communication a tool for young people to read and produce critical content and give a voice to their communities: this is the purpose that drove journalists Amanda Rahra and Nina Weingrill, who are responsible for Énois – Agência Escola de Conteúdo Jovem, located in São Paulo, Brazil.

The project, born in 2009 from a job-training program in Capão Redondo, one of the most violent neighborhoods in the city’s outskirts, promotes teaching journalism to young people who are entering the job market. After educating 150 students in classroom courses, the duo decided to keep moving forward to reach a larger number of people by creating the first free journalism school for youth in Brazil this past October.

“Nowadays, the democratization of access to education, culture and information is facilitated in large part by the internet. This is not so for the democratization of its production. It continues to be the purview of those who can go to universities, to good schools. For this reason, when we give young people tools we believe we are helping close this gap,” explained Weingrill to the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.

The school will offer free online video courses, expert instructors and reference materials. The first course is already available in the platform Udemy: a module on producing video documentaries. It is divided into four sections teaching journalistic concepts, the process of creating a program, how to search for information and how to create a script.

After only three months online the course already has more than 1,600 registered students. Rahra and Weingrill hope Énois will have a similar impact in the lives of young people as the classroom courses. “Seventy percent of those that studied classroom courses are currently enrolled in a university. We believe this is because journalism deals with issues tied to language, reading comprehension, writing and clarity of expression. Some of them have entered the job market and work in agencies and/or the communication departments of NGOs and companies,” Weingrill said.

According to her, the methodology used in this training is different from classic education in communication universities. She believes journalism education must be alive and bet on “production based on learning concepts.” The idea is to encourage young people to get their hands dirty.

“We don’t know if this is the ideal way of learning journalism, but it has worked primarily with this audience, which is eager to understand how things really work. I think journalism needs more of that in the classroom. The new journalist must also be an entrepreneur. We must ask students how they wish to learn and what it is they want to build,” Weingrill explained.

It was with this entrepreneurial mindset that Rahra and Weingrill saw an opportunity in a volunteer-based journalism workshop offered to a group of teens from Capão Redondo. The initial goal was to produce a Fanzine, but what was meant to last only a few weeks was prolonged for months and spontaneously generated essays by youth who were motivated to explore the world and write about their discoveries.

This is how Énois was born, focused on content production by young minds. Through its training programs, the initiative created a network of young people who were experimenting with constructing innovative communication projects. This network has already resulted in the creation of magazines Na Responsa and Zzine, the channel Cultura de Ponta, which gathers fringe cultural programming, and the website Geral Na Sáude, an investigative communication project that maps health data onto the UBSs of São Paulo’s southern zone.

This semester, the journalists intend to launch a platform to host all their courses. “The next modules will be available in the new platform. Our goal is to have 30 new courses by the end of 2014,” Weingrill said.

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.