The COVID-19 arrived in Brazil through the upper class but has spread like wildfire throughout the poorest communities. This multimedia comic tells the story of the grassroots initiatives that were launched by the residents of some favelas in São Paulo to face the problems caused or exacerbated by the pandemic – Paraisópolis, where community leaders were trained as the first responder; Heliopolis, using cars with megaphones and a radio show about health and Brasilândia region, raising awareness through art. It was published in English, Portuguese, Spanish and Polish and it includes a desktop version, a mobile version and Insta stories
It got: 3542 views on the website, 363 likes and 16,416 views on Instagram and 3,058 views on Facebook. Even if it is a humble repercussion since we are a small medium, one of the main satisfactions of the comic was its diffusion on social media among residents of the favelas and members of the organizations. We have received feedback from residents of these neighborhoods who are proud that their communities, which rarely appear in the press for positive reasons, serve as examples of good practices.
The idea arose after a data-journalism project, researching tons of positive responses to the effects of Covid. For three months, a cross-border team of journalists tracked positive responses to the effects of Covid-19, collecting more than 1,000 responses from around the world on Outriders project “Radar”. When we finished the project, we knew that we wanted to go further and write about those citizen networks.
Then, when we decided to write about the solidarity initiatives in some Brazilian favelas during the pandemic, we expected to respect three premises:
- Firstly, we wanted to know further details about the initiatives of these favelas but without exposing their residents to the risk of contagion
- secondly, media rarely write about the positive aspects of these neighbourhoods; we wanted to focus on the responses to difficulties rather than to show difficulties
- and finally, we wanted to talk about the pandemic, but we knew that readers were overwhelmed with news about the pandemic so the format should be engaging.
A comic seemed an ideal tool to achieve our three requirements.
This web-comic combines the foundations of traditional journalism with comic designs.
- Like other journalism stories, the first step was researching and identifying stories, scenarios and heroes we wanted to show.
- After identifying scenarios and collecting data, we used a solution story outline to structure the idea including the problem, the response, how the response works, the evidence, the insights, the limitations, the characters and thesources.
- The next step was interviewing the heroes to learn more about their initiatives.
- After designing, we created some animations on Photosop and we developed it. For developing we used WordPress as backend and Vue.js + NuxtJS for frontend.
What was the hardest part of this project?
- AVOIDING UNNECERY RISKS. As we said, the aim was to cover the initiatives of the favelas in Sao Paulo combating the pandemic but without exposing their residents to the risk of contagion, so on some occasions, the journalist and illustrator visited the places together. However, in cases where it was not necessary, the journalist interviewed some people by phone and the illustrator used photographs provided by the organizations.
- LANGUAGE. This is a cross-border story. It was written by a Brazilian journalist and illustrated by a Brazilian illustrator both based on Sao Paulo, it was coordinated by a Spanish journalist and designed and developed in Poland where our media, Outriders is based. A challenging part was communication, since the journalist and illustrator spoke in Portuguese, however we decided to use Portuguese as the first language, once we had the script it was translated into English and after that, into Spanish and Polish. That challenge become an advantade since we got to preserve the original conversation style of the comic.
What can others learn from this project?
We believe that a comic is an ideal format to cover sensitive topics, not only during a pandemic but during a conflict or harmful event. On the one hand, it seems less intrusive when it comes to portraying the reality of people than photographing or making a video; on the other hand, it has an engaging component to attract attention to important topics.