As in the rest of the world, the media landscape in Venezuela has shifted in recent years with the rise of the internet. The “communicational hegemony,” though, has forced many journalists to find other options beside newsprint-starved newspapers and self-muzzled broadcasting stations; NGO Medianálisis just released this short documentary about digital outlets and how they’re coping with the changing atmosphere, trying to push beyond mere news coverage. There’s La Vida de Nos, that I covered already and, today, I want to introduce you to another.

Arepita is a subscription-only newsletter that comes early in the morning, from Monday to Friday, offering a condensed view of what’s happening in Venezuela. It’s been active for over a year and it’s already getting attention not only for the newsletter itself, but also for its content in social networks.

Dariela Sosa, Arepita’s director, told me that back when she lived in Washington D.C., she was subscribed to The Skimm, a newsletter summarizing the news, primarily marketed to women. After returning to Venezuela, she developed the Arepita idea on her own, gathering later a group of people who shared her same concerns and interests.

Two of them told me why they joined: Sociologist and co-author of “Caracas a pie”, Juancho Pinto, found a pleasant work atmosphere and an attractive business model. Alexis Correia, who previously wrote for Caracas-based newspaper El Nacional and other digital outlets, was convinced by Dariela’s leadership and the fact that Arepita was “a very different project compared to the rest” in local media.

Arepita is a subscription-only newsletter that comes early in the morning, from Monday to Friday, offering a condensed view of what’s happening in Venezuela.

Because Arepita is not just a quick digest of the relevant news in Venezuela, it’s both a curating effort of quality local news sources (which are getting harder to find), and a creative, amusing way to present current events and trends. The newsletter is a real team effort, with no individual credit given in the final product (following the model of The Economist).

How that little arepa is made? It ain’t easy.

A three-phase process follows: The first draft comes at 2 p.m., from Mr. Pinto. In his view, decisions are not only about choosing highlights of the day, but also “about building a narrative that’s accessible to the reader.” He also brings his sociologist perspective in. Most calls come down to him and journalist Clavel Rangel, Arepita’s newsroom chief.

The second draft comes around 7 p.m.; the night editor makes the necessary changes, focusing on the creative writing aspect. As Correia told me, “(Arepita) isn’t just a news service, it also takes care of the wording style.”

The third and final review comes at 5:30 a.m., before the bulletin is distributed to all subscribers.

This triple check system is quality-conscious and innovative work-wise, especially when the damaging effects of the “hegemony” and “fake news” collide.

Arepita’s newsletter format presents its content under a well-developed structure that resembles, well, an arepa: the main news (filling), context articles (dough), other diverse notes (the cream and butter) and the curious image, or story of the day (crust).

This triple check system is quality-conscious and innovative work-wise, especially when the damaging effects of the “hegemony” and “fake news” collide.

And speaking of arepas, you might have noticed how Arepita shares a connection with us regarding its logo, even if they take the arepa theme deeper. Dariela admits the choice isn’t quite original and it comes from the fact that there hasn’t been, in her view, a wide public discussion about the few Venezuelan symbols out there. They also included the budare, to better reflect “a country currently under construction.”

Another relevant Arepita aspect is its social media (you can’t miss their Twitter and Instagram accounts). According to Correia, in charge of this content, “It’s important to keep a good spirit regarding our current situation.” The combination of curiosities and attractive language and imagery wants to appeal especially to younger readers. “We want to use history, so we connect ourselves to who we were and who we are now,” adds Sosa.

They still face plenty of challenges, like many other Venezuelan digital media outlets: The hegemony continues to ramp up the pressure with online blockades and even arrests, and the crisis forces everyone to look for innovative ways to get funding (Arepita is free for subscribers, but sells advertising).

On his Journalists’ Day, I wanted to show another face of what independent Venezuelan media is doing, in the face of very tough circumstances. If last year was about the risks of covering the street protests, this year is about finding effective ways to inform a news-hungry citizenry, when mainstream media fails to do so.

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