THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN UPDATED (*)
The Latin American Network of Health Journalists arose as a personal initiative led by Fabiola Torres, a journalist of the Peruvian digital media outlet Ojo Público, with the aim of joining journalists interested in covering health issues in Latin America.
Torres told the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas that the spirit of this group, which has the support of Ojo Público, is to promote journalistic education and specialization on health issues, both public and private (public and private companies, hospitals, clinics, doctors).
“There is a lot of unconfirmed information that misleads the public, a lot of distorted scientific knowledge,” Torres said. Additionally, there are not many journalistic spaces dedicated to this theme, she added.
This is why the Latin American Network of Health Journalists was created and started to call for members on social media.
For several months, Torres said, the network has spread the word via Facebook in order to attract journalists, institutions and non-governmental organizations from Latin America interested in themes of health and related problems in the region.
So far, the network is made of a virtual group of 12 journalists from Peru, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Colombia and Bolivia; and by two Peruvian institutions, the Medical School of Peru and the Peruvian Network for Globalization with Equity (Redge).
One of the network’s goals is to promote journalistic specialization in health issues and the production of investigative reports at the regional level at the beginning of next year, Torres said.
The team has not yet established resources when it comes to funding. The work carried out in this first stage will be “a product of the commitment of the [founding] journalists” and collaborators, she explained.
“We want to have a free space, without bias from advertising; [But] we aren’t closed to receiving support, to the extent that it is transparent,” said Torres, who expects academic and scientific associations will join the project.
By the end of this year, the network plans to have a committee and more defined shared agenda to develop investigations they have in mind, such as access to medication at the regional level.
For the moment, social networks like Facebook and Twitter will be the main platform to publish.
One of the projects that inspired Torres to create the network was “Cuidado Intensivos” (Intensive Care). According to Torres, this is the first Latin American project of investigation and data analysis that maps the private health system of a country, in this case, Peru.
This journalistic application created in 2015 by Ojo Público had the support of the Knight Foundation, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and HacksLabs.
“Intensive Care” contains databases of registered doctors, health facilities and health fund administrators in Peru. Its goal, from the beginning, was to inform the user on the good reputation or bad practices of doctors, hospitals and health insurers.
Based on this previous experience, which was also directed by Torres, and by the need to answer questions of health in the Latin American region, Ojo Público continues its call for contributors to the new journalistic network.
Questions on how to join this initiative can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
(*)UPDATE: This article was published on Sept. 14 and updated on Sept. 15 to clarify that the network originated as a personal project of journalist Fabiola Torres, with the support of Ojo Público.
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.