São Paulo's journalism school proves that if you can tell a story you can control the world.
When we communicate, we participate in the ongoing characterization of everything around us, allowing us to define our own reality, instead of having it dictated to us by others. Enois, a free journalism school in São Paulo, Brazil, is using this truth to spawn a new generation of cub reporters, teaching them to investigate the world they know, and helping them turn their findings into viable media projects like magazines, newspapers, and video documentaries. For its students, Enois supplements an ailing and underfunded Brazilian school system, providing not only an education in critical thinking, but also an afterschool job: Enois is a business, not an NGO, and its young journalists and designers are paid for their work.
“When they ask questions, everything changes—their posture, the way they think…,” says Nina Weingrill, co-founder of Enois, from her office in sunny downtown São Paulo. “One student came to us, and said ‘OK, I want to write an article about the bad teachers at school, because they suck,’” she remembers, laughing. “And we said, ‘OK, is that true? Do they suck, really? You have to investigate.’ So we asked him to find one teacher he could follow around throughout his whole day, through all the work that he has to do. Well, he saw how much the teacher suffered. From lack of structure, from being paid very low. He realized the scenario was not how he thought it was.”
Back in 2009, Weingrill and her partner, Amanda Rahra, were working journalists, looking for new, more fulfilling ways to practice their profession. “I could use my editorial skills not to fulfill the traditional role of a gatekeeper,” Weingrill says, “but to teach these rare skills to unprivileged kids.” They teamed up with an existing NGO to teach children in Capão Redondo, considered one of the most dangerous of São Paulo’s favela neighborhoods, staying for six months and producing a magazine that reflected the real, complicated lives of local kids. From there, the rest is history; the duo left the non-profit, and formed Enois shortly after, with a larger mission—complimenting an evolution that had begun with the internet—of democratizing and localizing media, taking it from the hands of a privileged few, and making it a tool accessible to everyone.
But, to achieve that goal would take more than just teaching a few classes; they had to think bigger. Weingrill and company began to develop journalism courses, available online through the Udemy online learning platform, and intended to be used by kids and teachers all over the world. More than 2,500 users have signed up so far. “We had our methodology for face-to-face,” she explains. “But we had to figure out how to make it work online; learning and producing at the same time. The youth want something fast, that they absorb rapidly. We’ve now seen how scalable this model is—in three years, we capacitated 200, and in three months we capacitated 2,000.”
Due to the success of the magazines it was publishing, Enois was able to break away from its NGO umbrella and become a real business. The effect has had a lot to do with the organization’s growth. “These kids—they have to start working to get money to their parents, so they were in this scenario, and we started to realize that we were losing the best ones to work. They had lousy jobs, so we thought we could make a business model where we could make money for everyone, and in the process they would be learning how to do things. We started to work as a school/agency, where we would go after companies and foundations and say, ‘Look, we have these guys that create content, and they’re brilliant, and they understand a lot of things about lower classes, and your brand is trying to talk to them. So why don’t you let them talk for themselves? You pay them, and they talk for themselves.’”
Weingrill takes great pride in her first generation of students, as many of them are still working in design and journalism. She mentions how the program helped them turn around their academic lives. “In school,” she says, “people want to tell you what to do, what you have to say, and how to act. Journalism…just goes BOOM!” She pauses for a moment, collecting her thoughts: “You have this whole world in front of you, different from anything you’ve seen before. These kids get this image, like [their] community sucks, because that’s what the media says. Media itself needs more representation from these communities. You’d have less of a one-sided story. You’d have a 10,000-sided story. The real Brazil.”
This 3-part editorial series is brought to you by GOOD, in partnership with Target. We’ve teamed up to explore educational projects that are creatively engaging students outside of a traditional classroom environment. Learn how you can help Target help schools here.