14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, April 3, 2019 — All over the world, young journalists hope to be published in prestigious media, to be in contact with recognized professionals and to have alternatives in order to better themselves, but frequently there are more obstacles than support. in the case of Cuba, the situation is complicated.
The independent press on the Island is illegal and has been officially stigmatized. Journalists have had to sort out problems of connectivity and, on more than one occasion, several have been prohibited from traveling outside the country as reprisal for their work.
For this reason Factual, founded in Mexico in 2014, decided to take a chance on Cuba, in order to smooth the way for more reporters. The project is the creation of the Latin American Network of Young Journalists, which organizes a forum of digital media and maintains a web platform where reporters can make their work known and develop networks of contacts.
Xochiketzalli Rosas and Jordy Meléndez, two of its principal founders, told 14ymedio that “Our main goal is to identify this talent in the under-30 group who are barely known.” The support includes “an educational process and learning sessions with some of the best journalists in the digital sphere in Latin America.”
Menéndez confesses that when they initiated the network, they had barely defined its purpose. “We didn’t have a clear idea of how we were going to finance it or what programs we would develop. We only counted on the desire to generate interaction, networks, communities and, above all, learning.”
Up until now, Factual has had three open calls to join the network. In 2014, 150 journalists applied, from which 16, between the ages of 20 and 28, were selected, coming from 11 countries. In the second round in 2016, there were 315 candidates, and 28 between the ages of 20 and 29 were selected, from 14 countries.
Rosas explains that they missed something in their projects. “We talked a lot about Latin America as if the Caribbean didn’t exist, and the most notable absence was Cuba.”
This omission was resolved with a call for applications that the promoters of the initiative called “the third generation.” At this time, 220 journalists from 21 countries, between the ages of 22 and 32, applied, and at the end of October, 2018, it was announced that 42 had been selected, among them several Cubans.
Mendéndez explains that up until the last minute they were not sure if the Cubans would be able to attend the virtual meetings. “We know the difficulties with connectivity on the Island, but we’re very happy to see that, in spite of the problems, the Cubans have had a good presence in the meetings.“
“Beginning with this, the regional character of our meetings was enriched, because in any analysis about Latin America, it’s essential to know what is happening in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba,” Rosas points out.
Factual has helped its members publish in 28 international media, and, in addition, it sustains a web platform where more than 40 reports, the fruit of the work done in the workshops, can be read.
Every Saturday, online learning sessions take place with highly-qualified professionals (Yina Morelos, Javier Sinay, winner of the 2015 Gabo Prize, or Pablo Rivero), an opportunity to express their experiences and expand themes, focuses and ways of constructing an informative text.
They work on creating a micro-profile in order to capture the essence starting with the description of physical and psychological features. “Some of the best profiles are created by them,” says Meléndez.
”How much of Cuba is there in Latin America?” we ask.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re in San Salvador, Buenos Aires or México City. It’s a matter of ascertaining the connection you can maintain in spite of the distance, through music, gastronomy, history or politics,” says Rosas.
The third program of the Factual project is the Latin American Forum of Digital Media and Journalism, which has taken place for seven consecutive years in Mexico City, and will happen again in 2019. Cuba was present for the first time last year, and its attendance was inaugurated with a table dedicated to independent journalism.
Factual, a context where the press media isn’t controlled by the Communist Party, will gain space on the Island. Its initiatives and projects help elevate the quality of reporting, and it connects journalists with other professionals in the hemisphere and promotes new informative subject matter, resulting in an injection of life for the sector.
Translated by Regina Anavy
The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.