Our Stories

These are the stories that define us — our personal stories of determination and creativity in how we report the news, engage our readers and run our business.

In December 2011, @Verdade deployed journalists to three key central and northern Mozambican cities, where mayoral by-elections were held. The small team of three, supported by newsroom staff and editors in Maputo, were able to provide real-time coverage of these elections via mobile phone. The newspaper’s Facebook page served as the communications hub during the elections. An editor aggregated tweets into mini-posts and posted photo albums and videos that the journalists sent with their Blackberrys to over 8,000 active fans in Mozambique. Prior to the election, @Verdade’s reporters participated in a Twitter and social media crash course. Though exhausted, the feedback from peers and readers contributed to a sense that the type of reporting we’re doing is forward thinking.

@Verdade currently rents a beautiful house as its headquarters in the center of Maputo where readers come on Fridays to pick up the only copies available in the city center. (The rest go to poorer peripheral neighborhoods.) The flux of foot traffic on Friday inspired the creation of a place for people to vent and communicate with each other – and so the “People’s Wall” was constructed. The idea was inspired by the Civic Center in New Orleans, the activity on the newspaper’s vibrant Facebook wall, and something older – the socialist-era “jornal do povo” (people’s newspaper, a public bulletin board where news was shared). The “People’s Wall” was an instant hit with readers – many of whom pour their hearts out in white chalk. @Verdade’s trademark is integration of communication platforms – so handwritten “posts” on the wall are published in the weekly paper and shared online.

The newspaper could not afford cars or vans to deliver to the periphery of Maputo, and this would not even be practical in many cases. So why not tuk-tuks? (which are used in southeast Asia). They are fuel-efficient, eye-catching, rugged enough for unpaved roads, and just the right size to carry two distributors and about 300 papers each. When not in use, the tuk-tuks could be used as taxis, transporting people and making money for the newspaper.

What would people call these three-wheeled wonders, not seen since colonial times (if ever)? The Asian names were not locally appropriate. The @Verdade team named the vehicles txopela (pronounced chu-pela) – which in Shangaana, the local language, means, “to grab onto a moving vehicle to catch a lift.”

The txopela became an instant hit with the public, choosing it over the overcrowded minibus and the expensive taxicab. (Unfortunately, there is a battle over the regulation of txopela.) One thing is certain – @Verdade newspaper introduced the vehicle and the word txopela to Mozambique!

Having provided many items free to readers – posters, calendars, football schedules, even condoms – @Verdade experimented with giving a free book to readers in 2009. The successful text by Mozambican founding father Eduardo Mondlane came out over a number of weeks as an insert in the newspaper. Readers carefully cut out the pages and began assembling the book. Many readers made special trips to the newspaper’s offices if they missed an edition of the paper so they could complete the book. While it was a measure of the thirst of readers for something more lasting, more durable, @Verdade has not had the editorial capacity to publish anything in serial again.

Owner Erik Charas and Executive Director Adérito Caldeira attempted to start a column on sexual health, inspired by the popularity of a Portuguese women’s magazine in Mozambique and by the glaring lack of formal sexual education in the country. They chuckle about the beginnings of the column, saying that they were hardly prepared to deal with the kinds of questions that came. @Verdade approached Population Services International (PSI) in Mozambique about providing professional advice. Tina is not the real name of PSI’s reproductive health professional, who is a Maputo resident in her twenties with a degree in the area. She dispenses sensitive and kind advice, often encouraging readers to go to clinics and seek help in person. “Ask Tina” is very popular, receiving about 50 SMS per week, more than the “Citizen Reporter” and classifieds section combined.

All photos are taken by @Verdade unless otherwise stated.