Viva Favela's coverage of the aftermath following a helicopter which was shot down by drug dealers in Rio De Janeiro was featured on Global Voices earlier this month (and translated into German, French, Chinese, and Swahili). In this interview Rodrigo discusses the history, goals, and future of the organization.
My name is Rodrigo Nogueira. I'm the editor of Viva Favela. Viva Favela is a project of Viva Rio which started in 2001 with the idea to talk about the favela (slum) from a different perspective. A different perspective from the media. Talking about the people who live in the favelas and produced by people who live in the favelas too. We work on this in two ways. We have professional journalists helping community leaders that live in favelas to become amateur journalists and with the passing of time many of these community leaders became professionals and began working for news [agencies] when they left Viva Favela.
David: When people learn how to publish content online, what are some of the topics that they tend to cover? Rodrigo: We have every Monday a discussion, an editorial meeting, to talk about what subjects we are producing this week. Some subjects are very strong. For example the helicopter that was shot down by the drug dealers in Rio three weeks ago. So this was a hot topic that everyone wanted to talk about. So we have to do this our own way. How does this episode reflect the daily lives of the communities? When something of this magnitude goes to the mainstream media the state [police] go very hard at the communities. A lot of people could be shot by some police operation in the favela. And the people who live there talk about this. Especially we talk about daily life. Things that you don't see in the mainstream media. Our focus is this.
David: The content that they publish online … has that led to any changes in the community offline?
Rodrigo: Yes, because the people who produce for Viva Favela are very in touch with the issues of the community. The whole community starts to talk with them. They see it as a channel of expression for the community. For example, we did a story about a slum. They are very poor. And when this was published in Viva Favela some mainstream journalists saw the story and started to talk to the government of the state of Rio that said to the public that they are going to do something to change this slum.
David: Some of the content that they have produced has been featured on Global Voices before, right?
Rodrigo: For the first time. I think that this internet culture is very interesting because I was in a conference in Mexico and I started a conversation with the Latin America editor of Global Voices. So he introduced me to the people who are working here in Brazil. So this meeting started by email and now we're discussing this here at the Digital Culture Forum in Brazil … it's very good because something that started by email and now is [in person].
David: And what was that Global Voices story about?
Rodrigo: it was about the helicopter. The story of how the people are seeing the shooting down of the helicopter in their own community. People are very afraid because the police response is very strong in these poor communities.
David: If people had read that article on Global Voices, is that different coverage than they would see in the mainstream media?
Rodrigo: Yes, I think so. Because in this article on Global Voices I watched different perspectives from people who don't have any economical interest in talking about this. David: Now that you've already had some success training citizen journalists and getting them to produce content what are your future goals as an organization? Rodrigo: For us, our main goal is to create a collaborative platform. Because in Rio, for example, we have 1,000 favelas. And we don't have a lot of people working in the newsroom right now to cover 1,000 favelas. So our idea is to create a platform so that every person in a different favela can talk about their own reality. We want to create a network of favelas. Our expectation is to create a network of favelas that can [bring] together different people from different places so that they can discuss their own issues by their own perspectives. We want to create this platform We hope that in 2010 we already have this running and everyone can participate.