In 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Check Global program supported our partner Agencia Mural to expand their work in the peripheries of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and to pilot a new chapter in the city of Salvador, almost 2000km away. Agencia Mural has an ever evolving methodology for training local correspondents in the outskirts of Brazil’s major urban areas to cover their own stories from perspectives not represented in the mainstream media. 

It was through this support that Entre Becos, a newsletter and a collective of social communicators, was launched. The collective was founded by Brenda Gomes, Gabrielle Guido, Rosana Silva and Bruna Rocha, who have lived in the same city their whole lives, but met for the first time for this project. The four launched the newsletter in 2022, and have since become the first team to have created a hyperlocal news product from Agencia Mural’s Salvador´s cohort.

Mural's online training addresses topics such as investigation principles, use of data in reporting on the suburbs, photography, ethical principles, digital security and credibility techniques for refining and selecting agendas, as well as editorial principles that restrict coverage of public safety or welfare. 

Entre Becos has since produced hyperlocal reports with content sourced and produced by correspondents in several neighborhoods of Salvador. They have also received an award for their coverage of health and had their work translated to 4 languages. In this short interview, the members of the collective share their experiences of creating a new journalistic product, the importance of mentorship, and their constraints in reaching their audiences via WhatsApp. 

Entre Becos Founders, Rosana Silva, Brenda Gomes, Gabrielle Guido and Bruna Rocha.

What was the impact of Agencia Mural's methodology and mentorship in training you to set up a local reporting project? 

 Rosana: It was important to learn from Mural, how to do neighborhood journalism, how to look at the places around us, see them through a different lens and try to create new perceptions. Usually, reports on the neighborhood focus on tragedy. Through this mentorship we learned how to expand the main editorial focus beyond this and to talk about our neighborhoods by covering local economy, education and cultural issues. It was really interesting to learn from them and work with the residents to contribute to the local agendas, articles and construction of different narratives.

Gabrielle: The experience of the Mural mentorship was like that of an incubator, every meeting and session was eye opening. The newsletter is the MVP (minimum viable product) we could make. It was a formative process, both as an entrepreneurship venture and as a new way of doing things. It was certainly a way to improve our confidence and self esteem as journalists. 

 Brenda: During the training, we understood how important it is to have a correspondent from the place that is being reported on, and to have the point of view of the residents whose idea of newsworthiness is unique and may not be reflected in mainstream media. 

How are the needs of the local community driving the Entre Becos Collective forward?

Brenda: We are aware that it will be difficult to reach our audience. They continue to consume content produced by mainstream media who are not familiar with the local circumstances and context and seek stories from the local communities as just another source of violent entertainment.

Rosana: This is a time of discovery and understanding. We want to expand our work, and given that the newsletter does not reach our public directly, we want to explore the possible formats using WhatsApp. The main goal is to produce credible journalism that the public can have access to and can use to seek their rights, contributing directly to our democracy. 

What challenges have you seen when it comes to adopting new formats and working with a hyperlocal audience?

Gabrielle: Through researching with our audience, we understand that WhatsApp is a channel we can use to reach them. There is a limitation in using a newsletter. While we publish the newsletter on Substack for ease of generating mini websites for each report, we also distribute it on WhatsApp with an image and text. One problem with this is that as the article is hosted elsewhere, and people without internet access or limited data cannot access it in this format. We have tried to reduce the image sizes, but we still need to do more to find new ways to reach our target audience.

Brenda: It is very important for us to exchange knowledge with others who do local journalism because what we are building is very new for everyone.

The collective was selected to participate in the Accelerating Digital Transformation program - a partnership between the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (ABRAJI), Meta Journalism Project and the International Center Four Journalists (ICFJ) - which aims to strengthen local and independent journalism in Brazilian municipalities. Here in this link you can subscribe to Entre Muros and support their work.