A Puerto Rican journalist is helping crowdfund independent journalism on the island

Hanaa’ Tameez reports on Camille Padilla Dalmau’s publishing and crowdfunding platform for journalists. Tameez writes, “9 Millones is a publishing and crowdfunding platform for journalists looking to investigate stories about Puerto Rico.” For full article, visit Nieman Lab. [Many thanks to David Lewis for bringing this item to our attention.]

When Camille Padilla Dalmau decided to study journalism in the United States, it was with the intention of later returning home to Puerto Rico.

After graduating from the Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism in 2014, Padilla Dalmau, who was born and raised in San Juan, landed a job as a metro reporter at El Diario, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the United States. The years on the job covering crime and the New York City Police Department were emotionally grueling. But Padilla Dalmau learned Puerto Rican history through the diaspora communities she was covering, which she had never learned about in school. She then went on to become an associate producer for NowThis en Español. But the longer she worked in the U.S., the more she started to feel news stories about Puerto Rico tended to focus on problems, without explaining how colonialism contributed to them.

“[The news media covers] Puerto Rico through this lens of ‘poor Puerto Ricans going through another hurricane,’” Padilla Dalmau said. “The problem is not [just] the hurricanes. We’ve been dealing with hurricanes for centuries. The problem is the slow response, because of the bureaucracy of the local, state, and federal governments. The biggest problem is that the [news media] shows breaking news without contextualizing the historical and socio-political reality that makes our lives here challenging.”

After seeing the coverage of Hurricane Maria in 2017, Padilla Dalmau decided to move back to the island in 2018. By 2019, she left NowThis to be a freelance video producer and take a break from journalism. Then, the pandemic hit.

In 2020, Padilla Dalmau noticed that Puerto Rican scientists all over the world were lending their expertise to help make sure the already vulnerable healthcare system in Puerto Rico wouldn’t collapse. Padilla Dalmau and fellow journalist Edmy Ayala started partnering with those scientists to publish a newsletter that delivered verified, factual information about the pandemic to Puerto Ricans in a calm, non-alarming way. They published under the name “9 Millones” (meaning “nine million”), which signifies the three million Puerto Ricans living on the island and the six million in the diaspora.

Padilla Dalmau and Ayala caught the attention of the weekly news podcast Latino USA by Futuro Media in June 2020, which then had the two produce an episode on how Puerto Rican scientists hacked the Covid-19 response on the island.

“A lot of the networks that organized during Hurricane Maria reorganized during the earthquakes that happened in 2019 in Puerto Rico, and then organized again during the pandemic,” Padilla Dalmau said. “These networks start happening, and then they become consistent and stronger.”

That episode led to a grant from the Solutions Journalism Network to cover elections in Puerto Rico, a spot in the Lion Publishers Startups Lab Bootcamp, and a grant from an accelerator program in Puerto Rico. Between those opportunities, the responses from a growing audience, and interest from other journalists, Padilla knew there was a market for new, constructive, and nuanced storytelling about Puerto Rico. Today, 9 Millones is both a publishing and crowdfunding platform for journalists looking to investigate stories about Puerto Rico that are going untold in mainstream news outlets.

With that initial support, Padilla Dalmau wanted to build a network of journalists to work with and figure out a way to nurture the communities they cover through their storytelling. One of the journalists she connected with was Bianca Graulau, an independent video journalist who left TV news in the U.S. to return to Puerto Rico and produce investigative journalism (she’s also the journalist who created the documentary portion of Bad Bunny’s docu-music video about Puerto Rico’s most pressing issues, El Apagón).

Padilla Dalmau said partnering with Graulau was a case study that proved that crowdfunding for specific stories by in dependent journalists works. [. . .]

For full article, see https://www.niemanlab.org/2023/02/a-puerto-rican-journalist-is-helping-crowdfund-independent-journalism-on-the-island/

[Photo above by J. Amill Santiago.]

One thought on “A Puerto Rican journalist is helping crowdfund independent journalism on the island

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s