Periodismo de Barrio: covering natural disasters, vulnerable communities and local development in Cuba

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“Periodismo de Barrio” must try to be the kind of media outlet in which the vulnerable communities see their concerns reflected without any sensationalistic and irresponsible touch. It must try to be a means to assist local government bodies in their decision-making processes. It must become a benchmark of journalism from and for the community. Moreover, it must be a laboratory of journalistic experimentation where creative writing, the use of pictures and videos, and the introduction of roles such as fact-checking can find some room. “Periodismo de Barrio” will be “package-first”, anchored in the real situation of Cuban connectivity.

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“Periodismo de Barrio” (Community Journalism) is the result of multiple lessons learned. In 2010, as I tried to understand how the local government structures really worked in Cuba, I decided that I wanted to join them, and I run for local governor. And I won. During my two-and-a-half years in office I lost many battles in my constituency, but there were two essential moments which showed me how powerful these structures could really be.

First, and as a result of the management of its delegates and their work together with the people, Campo Florido was not included in the province of Mayabeque after the last administrative and political division, something publicly acknowledged by Cuban President Raul Castro at a televised session of the National Assembly.

Second, after more than five years and thanks to all the information collected by neighbors, we could put an end to the presence of generators in the village of Guanabo which were considerably harmful to the health of the local residents. Neither of these two small victories would have been possible, however, without the presence of a space for individual communication on Internet that makes these efforts visible at national and international level.

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As part of my work at the IPS bureau in Cuba I learned that the stories were in the civil society. Ever since it was established, IPS has promoted a journalism committed to the Global South and, in the case of Cuba, focused – since it came to Havana more than thirty years ago – on issues such as gender, population, local development and climate change, among others. This thoroughgoing dedication to public service has been especially useful to implement this project. Other Cuban state media also address topics related to local development and adaptation to climate change. In this regard, “Periodismo de Barrio” intends to continue these efforts led by other means.

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Two hours before the rains in Havana on April 29, I had donated $25 to the fundraising campaign for Nepal. It is a symbolic figure, given that country’s multiple needs, but our spirit of solidarity makes it impossible for us to sit back and do nothing. Several videos posted on the Internet by citizens and many news items have reported the huge losses that Cuba suffered as a result of the heavy rains exactly the same day. It will take years for those who were affected to recover everything that the floods took away, and the media need to follow the news cycle. This event helped gave me a better idea of the concept of “damnificado”.

Who were damnificados? A socially-disadvantaged minority that is part of the Cuban reality of life. Being damnificado is not usually a permanent condition. In Cuba, the damnificados are so as a result of an often unavoidable natural disaster and a high-risk situation that does not arise at the time of the natural disaster. In a global context where climate change cannot be gainsaid, Cuba’s insular condition turns the country into a major risk zone.

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In an attempt to keep up the personal tradition of a deeply humane and respectful journalism that is sensitive to other people’s misfortunes, “Periodismo de Barrio” will try to offer a complex perspective on this situation. Although getting access to sources in Cuba is extremely complicated, by being close to the people rather than to the institutions, as well as our access to the Municipal Assembly delegates, make it easier to develop this project.

I believe that a media outlet with such quality standards requires a working group with an excellent level of training, commitment, professional experience, skills and abilities. For that reason, our call is open to all those interested. I do not believe in a media built on loyalty among friends but on respect among colleagues. In this respect, even if the core team will be small, all its members will have equal rights in the decision-making process, setting of the agenda, funding strategies and any other thing related to the management of the media outlet.

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“Periodismo de Barrio” is committed to a good, independent and fair kind of journalism capable of harmoniously becoming a part of Cuba’s current communication channels. It is also a huge recognition of the efforts that Cuba makes when faced with disaster situations.

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3 thoughts on “Periodismo de Barrio: covering natural disasters, vulnerable communities and local development in Cuba

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  2. This is such a worthwhile project, Elaine, and I’m glad the class has been a helpful space to try out these ideas. I think the idea of going paquete first is wonderful, and I’m excited to see how that works – will the people producing the paquete be willing to carry this content? I have my fingers crossed for you with the government’s reaction to the new publication. I suspect its novelty will be somewhat threatening, but I really hope that you’ll have a good, long chance to get the project off the ground.

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