Daniel Gerardo Raviolo, an Argentine living in Brazil, has established a newspool, publishing, and advertising joint venture for small community and social organization newsletters.
The New Idea
Since Brazil's return to democracy, countless community groups, residents' associations, and social change organizations have sprung up. These groups frequently go unreported in the main media, and they are hard-pressed to develop and pay for their own newsletters and journals.
Daniel has found a solution through the establishment of a publication network-cooperative and newspool for community and social movement newspapers, pooling the resources of some twenty-five grassroots organizations (so far) in his home city of Fortaleza. By producing publications centrally, the managers of the different organizations are spared much of the problems and cost of producing their own newsletters.
Daniel believes that this cooperative approach will allow small grassroots newsletters an economic viability and greater leverage of dissemination, which in turn should give the popular movement a far bigger voice, both with its immediate constituents and with policy makers.
Brazil's mainstream media are narrowly controlled. The TV Globo network, the largest in Brazil and the fourth largest in the world (after ABC, CBS, and NBC), holds seventy percent of the national audience nightly. Editora Abril, the country's principal print media conglomerate, controls fifty-four percent of all magazine sales. Stimulated by loans and favorable legislation during the years of the dictatorship, these media conglomerates have developed a top-down flow of information, with national production and distribution centered in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
This narrow, monopolistic ownership pattern has left viewers with little information and less access to alternative ideas or worldviews. It also erodes local cultural traditions and greatly hampers the dissemination of local news and information.
It is this sense that the mainline media is neither sympathetic nor open to the perspectives and needs of the popular organizations that has encouraged local groups to create an alternative press. However, this is difficult, often unsuccessful work. It is hard to raise the necessary funds, especially from advertising, and even a small newsletter is enormously time-consuming.
Daniel's strategy is three-pronged: first, participating newspapers will bulk-print their publications in a cooperative aimed at reducing purchasing, printing, and publishing costs, which have been a critical deterrent to the long-term survival of community newspapers.
Second, participating newspapers will pool stories. Daniel envisions a databank to which each participating newspaper will contribute at least one article of general interest each month. From that collection, the contributing newspapers will be able to choose stories for publication in their own newspapers.Together they can attract good writers who will regularly prepare quality articles on subjects likely to interest the other members. Topics range from child health care to the history of the area's local theater traditions to AIDS. Each organization's newsletter editor submits layout sheets and complete text for the elements not drawn from the common, general articles. A day or so later, Daniel's Allied Community Newspapers delivers the printed newsletters to their organizations.
This will not only reduce the strain of composing the publication -- often a formidable obstacle for community-based editors laden with several other jobs and commitments -- but also enhance communication among community groups, residents' associations, and cultural collectives.
Third, Daniel will establish a publicity agency that will organize the centralized sale of newspaper space for advertising by interested businesses. Daniel ultimately expects a cumulative readership equal to that of Fortaleza's leading commercial paper. In approaching advertisers, he can argue that his readers are likely to read their own local or special-interest newsletter more carefully than would the average general newspaper reader. His central organization would market this space to potential advertisers and share the revenue with the participating papers. This, he believes, could eventually come to cover eighty-five percent of production costs.
Daniel will also establish training workshops and sponsor seminars for exchanging information on the establishment and operation of community newspapers. The workshops will not only address logistical and organizational issues but also aim at developing new journalistic languages that are more effective at reaching grassroots audiences.
Daniel started work in Fortaleza, the capital of Ceara State in Brazil's north, but plans to extend his model to other municipalities. Later he envisages applying the same principals to the electronic media.
Daniel Gerardo Raviolo comes to this project with years of commitment to and experience with community press. Exiled from his native Argentina for his social involvements during the military dictatorship, he was granted political asylum in France, where he edited the newsletter of the Argentine Commission on Human Rights. Through this work, Daniel was able to disseminate important but often hidden information on the flagrant human rights abuses that marked the dictatorship's "Dirty War."
In 1987, he won a fellowship from the Catholic Committee Against Hunger and for Development, which brought him to Fortaleza in northeastern Brazil. There he worked in collaboration with residents' associations in poor communities, locating and interviewing older residents in an oral history project that attempted to capture and record the rich life experiences of a population often ignored in mainstream historiography.
During this collaboration with residents' associations, some members, aware of Daniel's work in Argentina and France, approached him with an interest in establishing a community newspaper. Soon neighboring communities became interested in exploring this new tool for information dissemination. His work began to spread throughout Fortaleza --so much so, in fact, that he was able to bring together these community initiatives in the First Meeting of Community Press of Ceara State in March 1990.
In addition to his work with community newspapers, Daniel produced fifteen radio programs on Africa for broadcast on radio during the 1988 centenary commemoration of the abolition of slavery in Brazil. He also organized an exhibition on popular northeastern architecture at the Art Museum of the Federal University of Ceara.