Neighborhood Journalism in Cuba / 14ymedio, Rene Gomez Manzano

Homepage of “Neighborhood Journalism.” Headline: Why do Neighborhood Journalism in Cuba today?
Homepage of “Neighborhood Journalism.” Headline: Why do Neighborhood Journalism in Cuba today?

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Rene Gomez Manzano, Havana, 24 October 2015 — Thanks to the US Embassy in Havana, which provides press briefings with national and international news to us Cubans who navigate in their internet rooms, last Monday, October 19, I learned about a new information organ. Periodismo de Barrio (Neighborhood Journalism) is the name by which the colleagues engaged in it identify themselves.

The presentation of the new digital media starts with an appealing paragraph: “Journalism is an implicit promise of change. Presenting yourself as a journalist is almost like preaching in favor of hope. When you ask someone to tell you their story, it is not just asking them to confide in you, but also to believe that sharing their story can help to change something.”

According to its statement of principles, “Neighborhood Journalism is born with the objective of bringing to the public the stories of neighborhoods affected by natural disasters, or particularly vulnerable to phenomena such as hurricanes, floods, droughts, fires, landslides or others caused by man.”

A summary of the United States press fills more than 34 pages of the first issue. In addition, there are reports – of good quality including some that are excellent, although perhaps one might consider them late – dedicated to floods suffered by different Havana neighborhoods six months ago, during the torrential rains of last April 29.

It should be clarified that the colleagues of the new media have shown a special interest in not projecting themselves as against the established government in our country. In the presentation, for example, it is bluntly stated, “We do not accept donations from any institution that seeks – or has sought – the subversion of the Cuban political system.”

Are these journalists outside the system, but who do not want to stand out as being so? “Chemically pure” informers who do not want to identify themselves with any party agenda? Agents of a new pro-government initiative to make it seem that in Cuba the press acts freely? The broad access that Neighborhood Journalism enjoys to the Castro regime’s organs and officials could suggest the latter.

But the answers to these questions do not seem to have great importance. The purpose of truthfully reflecting the realities that confront our compatriots in the face of natural disasters deserve everyone’s applause. And it is fair to say that the compañeros of Neighborhood Journalism, to achieve this purpose, have displayed objectivity and professional skill. They do not follow the easy path of limiting themselves to proclaiming “the Revolution does not abandon its children.”

The series of reports begins with a piece by Geisy Guia Delis devoted to the work of the members of the National Search and Rescue Detachment, belonging to the Fire Department. It does not lavish laudatory adjectives or trite words on them: it focuses on the facts, such as – and this is just one example – the outstanding performance of a disabled rescuer, something that is perhaps exclusively Cuban.

From the expository point of view, it might have been preferable to start the delivery of Neighborhood Journalism with another of the reports. But we should not belittle different aspects of importance. Among them, the understandable aspiration to play it safe, leading off with a laudatory work which, regardless of the humanitarian effort undertaken, is about an arm of the Ministry of the Interior, an emblematic force of the system. One more way not to alienate the powers-that-be.

The second article is a report from San Felipe by Monica Baro: probably the best of the issue. It is amazed that the dispossessed of this capital neighborhood continue to suffer the calamities described in the report, trembling with anxiety whenever the sky clouds over and threatens rain with the consequent promise of certain flooding. And this more than half a century after the proclamation of the “Revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble”…

The colleagues of Neighborhood Journalism elude political allusions like the one I just offered, but it is not necessary to make them. They describe the reality and this, in its turbidity, is more eloquent than any adjective or declarations. We await their upcoming issues.