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Key links:
Primary website:
elfaro.net
Primary Twitter:
@_ElFaro_

Editor’s Note: Encyclo has not been regularly updated since August 2014, so information posted here is likely to be out of date and may be no longer accurate. It’s best used as a snapshot of the media landscape at that point in time.

El Faro is the first web-only news organization launched in Central America, and it is based in El Salvador.

It was founded in 1998, as an independent alternative to traditional media outlets, then perceived as highly partisan or corrupt. The original idea was it to be a printed newspaper, but its founders -Carlos Dada and Jorge Siman- didn’t have enough money to run an expensive operation like producing and distributing a daily paper.

What Dada and Siman did have was experience working with Internet, so they decided to launch a website while they could afford to print El Faro. It was a risky idea because in 1998, only 2% of El Salvador’s population had access to the Internet.  It was risky, too, because back then most of the newspapers websites were just a mere copy of the printed edition. So, why would you want to produce original content for the Internet? It was more a matter of principles than of  business (although the founders wanted El Faro to be self-sustainable.)

El Faro (The Beacon) started to shed light over issues constantly overlooked by mainstream media. However, the business model didn’t take off from there. During 5 years, El Faro relied on unpaid staff and on Journalism students who wanted to learn from Dada, a well respected reporter in El Salvador.

During that period of time, Dada and Siman agreed not to accept funds from NGO’s. El Faro didn’t want to depend solely on one source of funding because other media outlets that did so, were not able to continue working after the foundations drew the support. Finally, the website accepted – and still does – money from aid agencies, (like the Open Society Foundations) but only to develop specific projects (elections coverage, e.g.)

El Faro is not profitable but it attracts advertisers. The challenge is big because they cannot compete with newspapers that give advertisers free web ads when they buy ads on the printed edition. However, according to Dada, up to 50% of the website expenses is covered with advertising money.  That revenue stream has helped hiring reporters, editors and photographers. In 2012, the newsroom is formed by 20 members.

The main focus of this news organization is investigative reporting, but also shows how much you can do with very few resources.

Peers, allies, & competitors:

Recent Nieman Lab coverage:
Jan. 13, 2022 / Hanaa' Tameez
35 journalists and activists in El Salvador were spied on — possibly by their own government — About 35 journalists and activists in El Salvador were spied on via phone hacking, according to a new report published Wednesday by El Faro and The Citizen Lab in Toronto, Canada, and the digital rights organization Acce...
Jan. 13, 2022 / Anita Zielina
Can U.S. journalism truly serve global audiences? Not if it treats them like an afterthought — 2022 started off with some high-profile movement in the media entrepreneurship space, when Ben Smith, the media columnist for The New York Times and former editor of BuzzFeed News, announced he was leaving the Times to s...
Jan. 13, 2022 / Janelle Salanga
“The idea and techniques of investigative reporting can be done by anyone anywhere”: How Francisco Vara-Orta wants to change IRE’s mission — When Francisco Vara-Orta went to the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) conference in 2013, he said “he knew his place.” And it wasn’t as part of IRE. “I wasn’t an investigative reporter — I didn’t ...
Jan. 12, 2022 / Laura Hazard Owen
Should we spend less time fighting misinformation and more time “fighting for information”? — Misinformation makes up a teeny-tiny share of what most people read, and we might want to worry a little less about debunking it or trying to get people not to read it, argue the authors of a research note published Wedn...
Jan. 12, 2022 / Tony Marcano
KPCC and LAist are shifting the focus of their politics coverage from politicians to voters. Here’s why. — In the year since the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, there’s been a renewed focus on how news coverage has contributed to the overall political divide in the nation. And, yes, that includes the media’s c...

Recently around the web, from Mediagazer:

Primary author: Antonio Jiménez. Main text last updated: June 12, 2014.
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