Andrea Miranda is the Group Editorial Director of Debate Media, a Mexican news organisation she co-founded 20 years ago. She oversees a portfolio of 32 digital brands, six printed newspaper editions and many magazines and commercial supplements.

A vocal defender of freedom of expression and protection of journalists, her road to journalism was unusual: Miranda studied photography and industrial: “It was photography that brought me to a newsroom in 2004,” she said.

She shared with the World Editors Forum what it is like to lead a newsroom of 180 journalists in such a violent region.

You operate in the state of Sinaloa, home to the Sinaloa drug cartel, which was allegedly behind the death of one of your columnists. What is the reality of being the responsible editor in this environment?

I have never worked in another media organisation or another geographical area, so I have no point of comparison. Those who work at Debate keep a low profile, as much as possible. We try not to be the news, not to be the protagonists of a story. However, we know that our environment does not always ignore us, and sometimes forces us to write or speak in the first person.

We have suffered all kinds of attacks, threats, aggressions, intimidations, physical and verbal violence. Two of our journalists were murdered recently. The circumstances of their deaths have been written about in our pages.

Justice does not lie in arresting a culprit. Justice in these cases is something inactive; it is always unfinished business.’ 

The homes of some of the newsroom editors have been shot at, our facilities have been destroyed with grenades, the facades of our buildings have been damaged by gunshots, and so on. We retain in our memory all these events and, despite this, we continue to write, edit and publish everything that has to be said, journalistically speaking.  

How does this affect the way you live and work, and your relationships with your colleagues and staff? 

Both work and family are important. Work-related issues are solved in the newsroom. When it comes to family issues, I offer support when it is needed, and I am not the only one; there is a great spirit of solidarity within our group, which allows us to support each other, listen and share. Not everything is about wages. 

I don’t know if we live in fear, or perhaps we have normalised violence and live with it  We work and live with caution, we apply protocols. 

‘We are not brave, we are journalists.’  

My primary concern and responsibility lies in generating accurate and relevant information, ensuring and growing the values of the brands I have been entrusted to me to manage, and that each person who works at Debate, after their shift, reaches home safely.

You actively encourage the development of women in the media. How do you keep them motivated within the profession and committed to journalism? 

We have 180 people in our newsroom, 94 of whom are women. When I started working here, the gender balance was very different. Women’s opportunities were in social and local reporting. 

Today, nobody talks about gender. Everyone knows that they can aspire to lead teams or work in areas  previously considered for men. In terms of leadership positions today, between women and men, it’s 50/50. 

I believe the best way to keep a team motivated is to give them authority and creative freedom, which leads to ownership of a site, a story, or an editorial project. 

Accompanying their growth process, encouraging new goals and celebrating achievements creates long-lasting team bonds. This applies not only to women or men, but to all working groups.

Andrea Miranda with her team of editors in 2022.

What collaborations, if any, have you formed with journalists and editors from other news organisations in the region, and what are the benefits?

Given the challenging conditions of our environment, in the next few months, we will develop, together with international organisations, specific protocols for the protection of journalists.

This is the first time that two media outlets in the state, Debate and El Sol de Sinaloa, which is led by Martha Ramos (Chief Editorial Officer of Organizacion Editorial Mexicana and President of the World Editors Forum) and, at a national level, will do so. We are delighted to join this effort and it will be something to share with other newsrooms throughout Mexico. This joint initiative, years ago, was unthinkable.

Although we may have editorial differences, I maintain a respectful relationship with my colleagues in other media. Today, we have joined forces: we talk to each other, and together make information more visible in defence of journalists, news outlets or freedom of expression in any of its forms.

Over the past 10 years I have participated in dozens of talks, conferences and training sessions for editors, managers and media associations in Latin America.  I am part of Alianza de Medios Mx and the Inter American Press Association, and I am glad that these spaces exist to talk, to discuss and to reflect on the industry’s present situation, considering the common good of the society we work for.

As it was in 2016: Andrea Miranda, seated front and centre, is the lone woman surrounded by male media executives and government civil servants in Mexico.

What are your biggest issues or concerns in the newsroom, in terms of the journalism you can, or want to do? What are the successes? 

My first concern is that none of our journalists, workers or administrators at Debate experience any kind of aggression due to their work.  

As a founding leader of dozens of editorial projects and brands, I want the projects to transcend us; projects that the audience finds useful, relevant and accurate, and that the Debate brand, or any of our brands, becomes a media reference. This is what we strive for every day. Success is short-lived when we keep raising our goals each day.

‘Our success in the newsroom is to have built, with honest content, the fifth largest audience in Mexico, even though we are not “national” media, and we are not based in the country’s capital city.’

We are from the province, but we dominate the news pulse in certain sectors of society. When people need specific information, we provide concrete answers.

One achievement: to be surrounded by talented and competitive people. Another is to be one of the very few editors in Latin America who, together with her editorial team, has been able to develop such an ambitious editorial project with optimal results. I am very happy about that.

Debate’s coverage of its slain columnist Luis Enrique Ramirez Ramos, who was found wrapped in plastic on a dirt road in northern Sinaloa state in 2022.

What is the best advice you have been given and what would you most like to share with other editors in newsrooms around the world?

I was told that not a single story is worth the life of a journalist. 

I can repeat that phrase, especially in the environment in which I live, but I also suggest to other colleagues that they must give freedom to young people with a journalistic vocation, guide them in their careers, help them become the best leaders, with insatiable curiosity and strong ethics. Journalism in any city needs them.

My advice, in short, would be:

Select the best talent and trust your team.
Select the best technological partners to grow with the best foundation.
Believe that innovation must be a permanent commitment.  
Master a culture of experimentation, based on data and audience analysis.  
Accept that talent rotation exists in a borderless labour market.

Learning from mistakes is always a smart choice..

Raquel Gonzalez assisted with translation and interpretation for this interview.

The post ‘We are not brave, we are journalists’ – LATAM editor shares newsroom wins, under deadly conditions appeared first on WAN-IFRA.