Two years after his Alfred Friendly fellowship, in the middle of a pandemic, Juan Luis Garcia joined two colleagues to create a news platform that overcomes free-speech barriers and provides an independent, fresh perspective on life in Mexico.

Their nonprofit organization will launch with an online event on Friday, Jan. 30.

The news portal mixes a youthful presentation with tough reporting and pledges to “sail against the current” in this new wave of digital journalism. Their focus will be on how regular people live in Mexico and how they are affected by policies and problems.

“We have in mind the daily dramas Mexicans are going through, so you will find stories on emigration, the drug wars, gender violence, the pandemic and more,” Garcia said.

During the fellowship training at the Missouri School of Journalism, Garcia learned how to use digital journalism tools that they are using to inform their audience, including data visualization.

“Once I came back from the U.S., my first interest was to pass the message to other colleagues, share what I learned,” Garcia said. “I kept applying the new methods in my work, but now I think it’s a great chance to use it on a whole platform level.”

During his fellowship in 2018 sponsored by the Patrick and Janna Stueve Foundation, Garcia worked at Miami Herald’s sister publication, El Nuevo Herald, and the Texas Tribune, a highly successful member-supported, digital-first, nonpartisan media organization

“My experience in the Texas Tribune was a key to falling in love with nonprofit media,” Garcia said. “Of course, they have many resources and much support, even by U.S. standards, but the main thing for me is that they have been able to save their editorial line from business distortions.”

“We are in a different situation here in Mexico, but we would like to follow The Texas Tribune’s good practices in our work,” he said. “Putting the readers first, and covering stories some big media wouldn’t, maybe because they are too centered in the breaking news.

Some of Aguamala’s stories are directly related to the United States, including those about emigration and bilateral security. One of the members of Aguamala, Marco Lopez, is based on the southwest border, in Ciudad Juarez.One of Garcia’s stories in the inaugural issue is an interview with an international security consultant about corruption and impunity related to the capture in the United States and subsequent return to Mexico of Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos, a former defense minister accused of drug trafficking.

“So what we have here is a combination of literary journalism, data journalism, and investigation,” Garcia said. “We intend to give voice to the poorest and, at the same time, scrutinize decision-makers. The pandemic presents tough conditions to report, but we are optimistic.”

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