A collaborative project in Venezuela used social videos to document the death of six teenagers

by Nilsa Varela Vargas
Oct 30, 2018 in Collaborative Journalism

Six teenagers were killed during massive protests in Venezuela between April and July 2017. The stories were reported by news organizations, but La Vida de Nos (LVN) — a site dedicated to narrowing the gap between journalism and literature — investigated the stories and shed more light on the topic.

By telling the tragedy of the youngest victims out of a total of 122 fatalities, “I seek to denounce the extreme of what should have never happened,” said Albor Rodríguez, executive director and editor of LVN.

When the time came to design a storytelling format, Rodríguez wanted something that went beyond clicks and was different than infographics, interactive maps or plain text. He thought he’d try social videos, an idea that had been proposed by the director of El Pitazo, César Bátiz, when both organizations worked together on a story about Irapa, in the state of Sucre.

Rodríguez knew it was impossible to do the whole thing by themselves. “We needed four investigative journalists, six writers, one illustrator, one visual coordinator and two video editors,” he said. “Which is very expensive for an independent and new outlet like ours."

That’s how #EranSoloNiños (They were just kids) became the second collaborative journalism project between both independent publications.

Bátiz explained that — given the independent nature of El Pitazo — one of his priorities is building alliances with the aim of achieving a greater distribution of their organization’s contents, as well as content from others.

"The interesting thing about working with LVN is that we both have well-informed stories to tell,” he said. “They are good at writing and we are good at social videos.”

After first meeting, LVN and El Pitazo decided to work together to produce six interactive micro videos, less than a minute each, to post on social platforms to engage readers and guide them to the full story available on the web.

While four LVN journalists were investigating the murders, prominent Venezuelan writers were asked to participate in the project.

Writers Milagros Socorro, Federico Vegas, Ana Teresa Torres, Alberto Barrera Tyzska, Oscar Marcano and Jacqueline Goldberg, were selected to document the lives of the victims: Jean Luis Camarillo de Lugo (15), Luis Guillermo Espinoza (15), Brayan David Principal (14), José Francisco Guerrero (15),  Adrián Rodríguez (13) and Daniela Salomón Machado (15).

Prominent illustrator Ana Black also joined the project, creating key elements for the videos. Yves Briceño, head of the visual area of El Pitazo, worked with editors Oliver González and Juan Vicente Bruzual, to create a script for each story.

The innovative digital narrative of the series #EranSoloNiños was really just a preamble to "document the horror," said Rodríguez.

"The deaths were mostly accidental. These children did not participate in the protests, they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The six of them were killed by national guards or armed civilians and there is no official or opposition claim that can deny that," he said. "The prosecution has said nothing so far. The Bolivarian National Guard is also silent."

The team submitted two projects to the Cecodap Civil Association (Community Learning Centers), and #EranSoloNiños was selected. The project also garnered a lot of interest from NGOs advocating for human rights.

“It was very exciting to see the sum of talents that produced a collective project, turning reporting and storytelling into something out of the ordinary," said Rodríguez.

Main image CC-licensed by Flickr via andresAzp.