After being involved in covering the Swiss Leaks scandal, Peruvian data journalism project Convoca is about to publish its first investigations, reports Antia Geada.
The team formed in September 2014 when a group of Peruvian journalists decided to join forces in order to promote investigative journalism.
Led by Milagros Salazar, a pioneer in using data analysis for investigative reporting in South America, Convoca combines traditional in-depth reporting with data journalism and other new technologies to cover public interest stories.
Aramis Castro is a data analysts and one of Convoca‘s founders. He says:
“Our projects and stories are related to Peru but when we deal with certain issues like the extractive industries or some lobbies, there are always links between different countries.
“We were involved in the Swiss Leaks scandal, being one of the three media in having access to the data released. One of the stories we published was about a man based in London who had businesses all over South America.”
When they work on stories, Castro says that they try to find links between Peru and other countries.
“Convoca is not only for Peru but for the rest of the world.”
Reporting – and educating
The main goal of Convoca is to produce high quality investigative reporting, but they also aim to teach and promote the practice.
“Convoca is not only a project of investigative journalism: it also has an important educational component. We don’t want to show just our pieces of journalism but to teach how we do it.
“Sometimes there is much distrust on the part of journalists in the field to show what they have learnt. In this sense, we want to instill and promote an investigative journalism differently.
“This is why we have started this new project, teaching what we do and at the same time offering an investigative journalism with high quality standards.”
As a result, Convoca works in partnership with other independent initiatives in the media industry and in education, collaborating with students at Peruvian universities.
“Milagros Salazar is a professor at University of Lima and University of Ruiz de Montoya. She teaches her students the process of analysing data, then they propose some topics to work with.
“The idea is that the students develop different projects and they can end up publishing them in Convoca.
“We are the only project in Peru which collaborates with the students for this purpose.”
Expertise is key to Convoca’s team: as well as having specific technological skills, every reporter of the team specialises in a certain field. This helps them cover in-depth stories across a variety of topics.
“We are specialised in areas we have been covering over years,” says Castro. “Milagros Salazar is an expert in the environment. Another member covers stories related to politics and I am specialised in educational and social issues.”
Regarding the visual aspect of their content, Aramis Castro emphasises the importance of profiting from the possibilities of the web in order to engage their readers.
“When producing media content for the web, you need to add value to your stories using multimedia content like images, video or infographics. For that purpose we have an audiovisual team advising us.”
As a new non-profit project, Convoca’s main challenge is to find a business model which is sustainable in the long term. Castro says:
“Now we are organising workshops, trying to get some funds and analysing different business models. We are also looking at alliances with other media but sometimes that can be complicated if there is a certain interest within that particular media. We want to practise an independent journalism above all.
“Crowdfunding can be a good option but we have to publish our first research because here there is not that kind of culture.”
Antia Geada is a student on the MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University.