2020 Shortlist

Luiz Fernando Toledo

Category: Young journalist

Country/area: Brazil

Organisation: Fiquem Sabendo, Estadão, CNN Brasil, TV Globo

Organisation size: Small

Cover letter:

I am working as a data news producer and reporter for CNN Brasil. I write about public policies and education, for both local and national stories.  My stories have been published in the most important journalistic websites in Brazil, such as Estadão, G1, UOL and TV Globo. I have also helped to find data and documents to support journalists from The Washington Post and ProPublica. I am the youngest journalist to become director of the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji), most traditional and respected NGO for investigative journalists in Brazil. I’m pursuing a master’s degree in Public Administration at Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV).
I was a visiting fellow of the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) in Washington D.C. for two months in 2018. During that time I studied entrepreneurship in digital journalism with a scholarship granted by the American government and had the opportunity to work at ProPublica, an independent investigative journalism  outlet. I worked there with research for projects related to the Freedom of Information Act. Working there was my inspiration to create Don’t LAI to Me newsletter – a sucessfull project that I started as a volunteer during my free time and was already used as a source in more than 400 articles published by national and local newspapers. We have more than 4,000 subscribers now, from all over the country.

As an activist for open government and data, I was the brazilian person who most sent FOIA requests for the federal government in Brazil, according to Controladoria-Geral da União (federal agency responsible for FOIA), with more than 2,400 requests. The data I found in those requests were used to publish my stories and many other people’s stories, since I share the data I get using the newsletter and my social media accounts. I believe that journalism is more powerful when what we get is shared.

Things I’ve learned during the last 7 years sending FOIA requests are being shared in a lot of workshops in different brazilian states. I made workshops in more than 50 universities, conferences and journalism companies since 2018. Just in 2019 I created a project with Jeduca (Brazilian Education Writters Association) and visited over 800 students from 15 universities in different parts of Brazil (Sao Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, Sergipe, Rio de Janeiro and others) to teach how to get and use data from the government.

In seven years as journalist I won 10 journalist prizes, such as Claudio Weber Abramo de Jornalismo de Dados (Open Knowledge Brasil), Estado (Estadão newspaper), ANPR (Federal Prosecutor’s Association) and Allianz-Ayrton Senna (Public Education). I also won in 2019 the main scholarship in Brazil for journalists to study in the US, granted by the Brazilian NGO Instituto Ling (Visionary Journalist Program or Jornalista de Visão).

Description of portfolio:

I created the free newsletter Don’t LAI to ME  (LAI means Lei de Acesso à Informação – FOIA in Portuguese) – https://fiquemsabendo.substack.com/, a service to spread data obtained using Freedom of Information Law in Brazil. This project was designed when I visited ProPublica as a visiting fellow in 2018 (during an International Center For Journalists’ program), when I realized journalists shouldn’t ask information for themselves, but to share data they are not using or that can be helpful for other purposes. Usually we publish our stories and forget to share what we discovered – sometime the data isn’t even part of the story, but we still keep it for tradition. I realized that when hundreds of newspapers use the data you found to build their own local or nation stories can be more satisfying than publishing a scoop. The impact is much stronger and, at the same time, affects many other audiences that wouldn’t read or watch what I produced by myself.

Don’t LAI to Me is the result of my career until now, gathering data from municipal, state and federal government to create stories that make a real impact. Stories I have published from 2013 to 2018, when I was a reporter at Estadao, made the São Paulo’s City Hall to save more than R$ 15 million, made the government fire corrupt officers and  put down many Facebook pages (with more than 4,000,000 followers together) that were responsible for spreading misinformation during the brazilian election.

Project links: