Newsmakers: Paula Miraglia gives news an academic view

Editor’s note: This year, we’re celebrating innovation in journalism through a series of interviews with changemakers from across the news industry. Through the Newsmakers series, you’ll get to know a few of the journalists, newsroom leaders, researchers and technologists who are shaping the future of news.

Paula Miraglia

Paula Miraglia spends much of her time working in news, as the CEO and co-founder of Nexo Jornal. But before taking that job, she didn’t have a news background at all. Much of her career was spent working in public policy, as a social scientist with a PhD in anthropology. But Paula says that her background gave her the knowledge she needs for today’s news industry.

Like Miraglia, Nexo’s coverage of current events has an academic edge. Instead of covering every update around major news event, Nexo’s reporting digs deep into issues to share comprehensive coverage on complex topics. The award-winning Brazilian digital newspaper uses maps, video, illustrations, interactive elements and even music to create lasting content the outlives traditional breaking news coverage

Paula shared with The Keyword how her commitment to supporting diverse voices, innovating with storytelling and focusing on readers is driving quality journalism at Nexo.

With your background in social sciences, how did you first get started in journalism?

During my previous career as an anthropologist, I worked on academic research and in public policy on topics related to public interest and well-being. The idea of starting Nexo and producing high-quality, balanced, accessible and evidence-based journalism, relates very much to this trajectory. Something that I share with the two other co-founders of Nexo, Renata Rizzi and Conrado Corsalette, is the idea that knowledge can change the world for the better. We believe that journalism can inform public debate, can make compelling use of evidence and data, can explain important phenomena, can illuminate issues that are relevant to the national agenda and, therefore, has the capacity of strengthening democracy.

Nexo Article

An example of recent reporting by Nexo that showed the concentration of financial assets owned by banks in Brazil when compared to banks based in other countries.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the past year?

Nexo is a young organization; we are only three and a half years old. Although we have achieved a lot in this period and established new standards in terms of content quality, user experience and many other things, it’s clear to me that in order to keep growing and to constantly innovate it's necessary to foster a culture of daily innovation within the organization. If you don’t experiment you became obsolete and conventional very quickly.

For me it’s clear now that our capacity to try new things and change fast is one of our greatest competitive advantages. But they are not givens. We need to be focusing on and stimulating them constantly.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken recently?

Nexo itself is a big risk, both from an editorial and a business perspective. We were pioneers in Brazil. Unlike traditional news organizations, we are not focused on reporting on breaking news. We are also different as subscription-based organization and that doesn’t have advertisements on our website. Although we have a number of revenue sources, subscriptions are our main one. The organization was also self funded from the start. But everyday we are reassured that it was a risk worth taking.

Nexo homepage

The homepage of Nexo

What’s one thing the news industry should stop focusing on?

Making readership numbers the main or exclusive measure of success. Although it's obviously relevant, sometimes writing for views can create traps and jeopardize the production of quality content. If you are only after the click, it may look good for a while, but in the long term it will make it harder to keep your business sustainable.

What do you think will be key to the future of your job and the news industry?

The industry has been rethinking itself in a very creative way in many senses. I believe that in terms of diversity, however, there is still a lot of room for us to improve. At Nexo we are now a 40-person newsroom with people of many different backgrounds. The more diverse our team gets, the bigger our capacity gets to tell the stories that really matter in a way that engages our audience.

We have been improving our hiring processes in order to guarantee and amplify that, and we are about to launch an annual training program that will focus on black journalism students. I believe that news organizations can benefit a lot if they commit to having diversity as one of their priorities.