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Lado B, a regional Mexican media outlet that tells stories of the people while still keeping an eye on the powerful



Mexican site Lado B, of Puebla, was born seven years ago with the objective of telling stories of people who are not usually within the purview of conventional newspapers. However, it is also a site that continues to be critical of those in power.

For the executive director of independent Mexican news site Animal Político, Daniel Moreno, Lado B is proof that quality regional journalism is possible, that it is not condemned to live on political advertising or be part of a political project. Lado B is at the service of readers, Moreno said.

"The National Prize for Journalism that they won this year crowns years of effort, of learning and of doing journalism. Hopefully it gives them the visibility that they deserve," Moreno reflected.

Lado B won the award for best crónica with the story “Mujeres contra la mina” (Women against the mine), written by Mely Georgina Arellano Ayala.

The Lado B team (Courtesy)
 

Lado B was born when a group of journalists who went on strike to demand better working conditions was fired from a newspaper in Puebla, according to Ernesto Aroche, co-director and founder of the site. A group of seven journalists, including Aroche, decided to create their own media outlet in 2011 in order to make good regional journalism without having to respond to any kind of power.

"We set out from the beginning, and we stay on that path, for our informative agenda to be crossed transversally by human rights. That is our central axis of work and we are moving in that direction," Aroche told the Knight Center.

They cover topics like the environment, citizen security, gender and sexual diversity, and especially the current situation that Mexico is experiencing in general, and Puebla in particular, regarding violence against women.

One of the journalists who formally joined Lado B in 2014 was Aranzazú Ayala Martínez. She highlighted the great openness of the directors to the topics proposed by her and her colleagues, and the emphasis on their frequent training.

"What I like the most is the publishing schedule we have, which is not daily, in fact we propose the topics that we want to cover, and always look for a different angle," Ayala told the Knight Center.

"I also like the ideology of the media outlet, because we are a site with a focus on gender, a feminist site, concerned with human rights, transparency, the dispensing of justice, environmental defense and democracy," she explained.

For example, in a recently published article, La Voz de los desaparecidos in Puebla (the Voice of the disappeared in Puebla), Ayala tells the story of three young friends who have been missing since April of this year. She also reports on the lack of progress from the State Attorney General’s Office to resolve this and other cases, and the suffering and efforts of families who still do not know the whereabouts of their children.

In another story, Bordando por la Paz (Embroidering for Peace), reporter María José Andrade tells about a collective of people who gather in public places to embroider the names of people who have been murdered, or who are missing, on scarves. In this way, they seek to raise awareness in society about these deaths so that they do not become just another figure of impunity.

People who read Lado B are mostly between 24 and 35 years of age, but there is also a segment between 36 and 44 that reads the site, according to Aroche. "They are people who are joining the working world or who have already spent time in it and are looking for informative options that are far from the traditional ones," he said.

According to Aroche, in Puebla there are currently around 50 media outlets, including digital natives and traditional media with a digital version. Of these media outlets, he said, some follow or republish Lado B’s stories.

Business Model

To start the media outlet, they called on partners who could invest a certain amount without affecting their editorial line, which would allow them to sustain themselves during the first year. Their goal was to get one million pesos (about US $74,000 at the time).

Lado B holds a fundraising dinner as another source of income for the publication (Screenshot)

According to Aroche, the idea of inviting partners to be part of the journalistic project was that they were partners who could not accumulate shares and who had a profile that was close to the idea of journalism that Lado B had in mind, related to human rights issues. The idea was to break with these logics of power and the subservience of media outlets to political groups, he explained.

The process took several months and they did not get even half the capital that they asked for to start. During the first year, half of the team left due to the precarious conditions they faced, and the two years that followed were difficult, despite having open spaces for the sale of advertising on the site, Aroche explained. They also tried to make content for third parties as freelancers, but it was not sufficient to maintain the whole team without suffering casualties.

Aroche now reflects that the romantic idea of opening a media outlet without strategically planning how it is going to sustain itself is a misconception.

"If we only think that journalism is what will sustain journalistic media, without thinking about the business part or the sustainability part, then we are very close to the precipice," Aroche said.

For about three years, Lado B has started to devise crowdfunding campaigns to have another source of income. Every August since 2016, on the date of their anniversary, they organize parties and fundraising dinners, forums, tables, and also paid workshops led by journalists from Puebla and other parts of Mexico.

In addition, since 2014 they have counted on advertising from the Universidad Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP). Since the state university contacted them to have a business relationship, the site gained more economic stability and could start hiring more reporters. According to Aroche, from the beginning they decided to publish the advertising amounts that the university paid them to make everything as transparent as possible, because it is public money.

Next year they plan to continue with the paid workshops and, in an attempt to further diversify their sources of income, make a couple of commercial editorial products that will be sponsored spaces.

Collaborations

Among its alliances and collaborations with other media and journalistic organizations, Lado B has a close relationship with independent sites Periodistas de a Pie and Animal Político.

With Animal Político, the site has produced several collaborative projects, one of the most recent and important was the award-winning Verificado 2018. In this project, Mexican media outlets verified public discourse of candidates for president, federal government and Congress, so that the population would be as informed as possible before voting.

According to Aroche, Animal Político is Lado's older brother, "it was always a model to follow, in every way." Aroche has collaborated with Animal Político since its beginning.

And for Animal Político, Lado B is a half-brother, said its executive director Daniel Moreno. "We work together, we share methodologies, we train, we share content and we report together. That is the level of confidence we have. We trust fully in the quality of its content. They’re family," Moreno said.

Lado B has alliances with regional and national media outlets in Mexico. (Screenshot)

Lado B is a journalism of resistance, because it has faced governors and mayors and that has cost them things, from pressure to silence or exclusion, Moreno said. The pressure with which regional news media in the States have to contend, with respect to those of Mexico City, is incomparable, he said.

Regarding its links with the network Periodistas de a Pie, both collaborate to cover topics on megaprojects or mining that have an important social, economic and environmental impact.

Additionally, it is through the network that Open Society Foundations (OSF) has an ongoing project to financially support projects from regional Mexican media outlets like Lado B. In addition, their support attempts to institutionally reinforce these independent local media so that they continue to function and make the type of journalism they do, Aroche explained.

"It's not money to do journalism, it's money to strengthen media and to begin to get us to change a bit the mindset of 'we just want to do journalism.’ To be able to do journalism first we want to be sustainable," Aroche said.

For reporter Aranzazu Ayala, the work that Lado B does is honest and professional.

"The reality is that Lado B has very good acceptance in general,” she said. “Among the journalistic community in all of Mexico it is a recognized and outstanding media outlet, not only for the prizes but for the alliances (with other media and organizations) and also for the work.”



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