Peruvian journalist launches first collaborative journalism platform on public health in Latin America

Salud con Lupa is the first platform in Latin America dedicated to collaborative journalism covering topics related to public health.

The platform was launched in early July with a regional series of journalistic reports produced by collaborators from Peru, Chile, Colombia and Mexico. “La Salud en la Mesa de Poder” (Health at the Table of Power) investigated the dealings of food and medicine corporations to influence government decisions and public policies.

The brains behind the project is Peruvian investigative journalist Fabiola Torres, who finalized the project as part of her work as a Knight Fellow with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ). Torres previously worked as a journalist for and was co-founder of Peruvian investigative journalism site Ojo Público.

Salud con Lupa (Screenshot)

Salud con Lupa’s first investigative report focused on food and medicine corporations. (Screenshot)

It all started in 2016, when Torres call together her colleagues in the region who were interested in health through a Facebook group. The result of this call was the founding of the Red Latinoamericana de Periodistas en Salud in June 2016. This network evolved into what is now Salud con Lupa.

"I think a Latin American space was needed to motivate journalists who cover several issues that are health-related from the investigative side, but that need to be deepened, that need to have reporting to go beyond the local case, so that it is seen in a more global context," Torres told the Knight Center.

According to the journalist, Salud con Lupa functions first by forming teams, bringing together journalists who work on a common theme within public health and subsequently monitoring and editing their work in a counseling kind of function. Finally, the goal is to be able to publish reports on the platform and in various media allies.

For example, the collaborators in Mexico who participated in the series have published their stories on the sites Pie de Página, México Social, among others. In Chile, they counted on the collaboration of Ciper to publish the articles of their collaborators. In Colombia, an ally was Cuestión Pública, a new digital investigative site that also does this kind of in-depth investigation.

"One of the things about this digital platform is that it is a space to do two things, fundamentally: reports, which can be transnational reports, a series, with several countries, as it is already a dynamic of collaborative journalism; and to inaugurate a section where we can contribute to verifying false data or false health news, which abounds on Facebook, on Twitter, on Whatsapp,” the journalist said.

What they are looking for are collaborators, journalists and other platforms that will publish their stories. The aim is to publish on the platform and also on other sites in order to reach more people, the journalist said.

Peruvian journalist Jaime Cordero is collaborating editor of the platform and participated in the first investigative series.

Salud con Lupa “is a regional project in which journalists from different places participate. We are not all in a newsroom, there is therefore no coordination in person, there is no defined style,” Cordero told the Knight Center.

In addition to a reporting section, Salud con Lupa does fact-checking in its section titled Comprueba. In that section, the team will verify health information consumed by users on a weekly basis. This space seeks to demystify false news about health and alternative methods that have no scientific support or citations from sources, and that circulate in social networks across Latin America. The team also hopes to call for the participation not only of journalists, but of doctors, scientists and professionals from other disciplines.

"The objective of that section is to become a repository of several checks that cyclically rotate, such as the subject of vaccines," Torres said. "Measles is now a warning situation, because measles has already come back in 53 countries. Then, from that point of view, we believe that having a space like that will also be a service, to demystify things that people might be interested in," she added.

Fabiola Torres from Peru. (Courtesy)

Fabiola Torres finalized Salud con Lupa as part of her work as an ICFJ Knight Fellow. (Courtesy)

The platform does not seek to become a scientific space, according to Torres, but to do journalistic investigations on public health issues that are of public interest and have an important impact on people's lives.

"Public health is transversal, it goes through political decisions, economic decisions and, obviously, it goes through everything that is evolving in science. We want it to be understood that way, that we are a space that can contribute to that," the journalist said.

Within the subject of public health, they plan to address a variety of issues such as access to health services, the cost of medicine, obstetric violence, and also how climate change affects the health of populations.

Currently, the team at Salud con Lupa is developing a protocol that serves as a kind of manual on collaborative investigation, so that the process of how to publish in networks, terms to use, etc., can be standardized.

According to Cordero, they hope to perfect the style of the platform so that it has its own, a common language.

“That [the reports] have a uniformity, not a total homogeneity but that they can be understood by any Latin American reader as if it were their own, whether published in Chile, or in Mexico, Peru or Colombia, and also that is can be clear that it is a text from Salud con Lupa,” he said.

This platform has the support of the ICFJ for all journalistic investigations that are carried out until the end of 2019. Then, Torres said, they hope to have funding from other foundations that are encouraged to support them.

The next series of reports, made with the collaboration of a group of Venezuelan journalists, will address the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and will be published in August.