Youth Press Agency: communication, creativity, and power

A panoramic view of the International Collaborative Journalism Program’s history in Viração’s 20 Years.

By Monise Berno, Communication Coordinator at Viração and Coordinator of the Youth Press Agency in Brazil.

In the wake of Viração’s early years emerged the idea to create, with a small group of adolescents and young representatives of Viração at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, a proposal for collaborative coverage of activities in a creative and formative process designed to offer those young people a space for experimentation and exercise of the right to communication. Thus, the seed of a news agency driven by young communicators was born: the Virajovem Agency. It was the year 2005.

From this coverage and the mobilization work for the various projects that tell Viração’s story, a network of adolescents and young people was formed, engaged in the practice of learning to communicate and educating through communication.

The many hands that supported the construction of the Youth News Agency over these 20 years were fundamental to the success of the program: some journalists, communicators, educommunicators, designers, technology enthusiasts and young communicators left their mark on the history of the agency by building processes and formats as applying their knowledge and creative energy to developing digital solutions that in 18 years of existence gave AJN its main characteristic: the plurality of voices, colors and formats to address topics that were and still are relevant to youth.

Among the celebrated educommunicative coverages of AJN some deserve to be highlighted, such as the Meeting of Adolescents and Youth of the Amazon, the Pan American Games of 2007, the Campus Party and other events of regional and national projection in which Viração has always been actively involved. The emergence of the National Network of Adolescent and Youth Communicators – Renajoc that year also enabled a new expansion of the agency, which gained momentum with the action of this network in monitoring agendas and covering events made with and for the Brazilian youth network.

Since 2005 AJN has crossed borders and become a network in four languages formed by young people and strategic partners acting on behalf of educommunication and popular communication in countries such as Argentina, Colombia, Portugal and Italy. For over a decade, this diverse and powerful network has been producing content in English, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, covering internationally projected events such as the historic coverages of the UN Climate Conferences – the COPs – in which young people from Brazil and other countries have been participating for at least 10 years following the discussions and creating educommunicative content to talk about the climate crisis and its intersections with other young people.

With the support of partners, the young communicators participating in AJN are involved in a formative and educommunicative production process on events and agendas – activities in public and cultural facilities, political events, marches mobilized by social movements, parties and political agendas – rolling up their sleeves to record photographs, produce interviews, videos, journalistic and poetic texts that mark the power that a program like this has in shaping critical thinking, media literacy and the practice of exercising the right to communication for youth.

The pandemic brought undeniable challenges and it was no different for such an active program like AJN. It was necessary to seek new strategies to mobilize the network at that completely virtual moment and to ensure conditions so that they could continue their productions and reflections on the agendas that have always been discussed by the agency, but also on those related to what we were experiencing. The difficulties of the health emergency ended up becoming the driving force that propelled the Youth News Agency into the digital realm and opened even more horizons for adolescents and young people from all over Brazil to join the network.

Throughout the isolation period we discovered, together with the youth, content formats that led AJN to the moment we are in: series of articles on the pandemic in Brazil and worldwide and on other topics, content partnerships with other media outlets, organizations and institutions, reports, reviews, podcasts, photographs, videos and, as it could not be different, educommunicative coverages of events organized by climate activists, political events and globally relevant events held entirely or partially virtually, such as the Covid Inquiry and COP26.

The plurality of productions brought new formats, new readers, more followers to AJN’s digital channels, more creativity and inventiveness and, along with that, more and more dedicated young communicators to debate ideas, face disinformation, exchange knowledge and reflections related to their rights and structural issues that cross their realities as Brazilian youth, but also in connection with adolescent and young communicators from all over the world.

In 2023, we celebrate Viração’s 20th anniversary in the best possible way: with an increasingly diverse range of voices and topics from all over the country and other corners of the world, with youth mobilized on social media and in person to collectively build the beautiful task of sharing concerns and learnings about the world with other young people while empowering themselves with the exercise of the fundamental right to communication and discovering the multiple ways to leave their mark on reality and to actively participate in the spaces they occupy.

For the future, full of possibilities for innovation and technology, remains the desire for AJN to expand, renew itself and carry in its axis the youthful energy that moves, (re)thinks, creates, (re)builds and contributes to a new possible world. Bring on the new times!

Special thanks to Cristina Uchôa, friend, partner of Viração and co-founder of AJN along with others, for the rich and inspiring video call where we discussed the history of the agency. Our conversation was crucial for the elaboration of this article.

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