Colombia Reports has seen incredible growth in 2009. There’s no reason to think that this will not continue in 2010, which means the website has the potential to become a serious player in the whole of Latin America.
To kinda understand what CR is, it’s important to explain to you how we started. The initial idea was to get a weblog and offer news in English that was left out of the international newswires and reports from international NGOs, which both cover only a part of what happens in Colombia. The newswires would focus on the big picture, leaving out issues that may not have a direct international impact on the average global reader. The NGOs would mostly denounce human rights violations and raise awareness of the things that go wrong in the country.
Both newswires and NGOs have done a great job over the years of reporting things that happen in Colombia, but in my opinion this wasn’t enough. People who have visited Colombia over the past few years did not recognize the Colombia they had come to know and love in these reports, and for investors there wasn’t enough independent information about whether investing was a good idea, or what industries they should be investing in.
In March 2008, I started a tiny weblog under the name of colombiareports.co. The idea was to report the stories left out of the newswires, to try to give a more detailed view of Colombia in all its beauty and complexity and to generate more knowledge about the problems and their possible solutions. Moreover, I felt really bad about the polarized discussions that were generally held about Colombia, and how there were so few solid facts available to support either side.
Another important thing for me in starting CR was to be able to help a long-time friend of mine, Giovanni, who I had met in Medellin long before moving here. By the time I returned here to stay for good, my friend was selling pirate cds on the streets and lived in one of those shabby rooms no bigger than a toilet. I figured it would be cool to teach him what I knew of new media and journalism. We started off with one laptop and a cramped feedreader in the bedroom of my first apartment here.
Giovanni has now become a vital part of the organization and is the kind of journalist you see very little in Colombia. You won’t see his name in any of the articles, but his research and knowledge is behind all of them.
The weblog took off pretty well, despite competition from established national media El Colombiano, RCN and Semana, who started English-language reporting shortly after we did.
In September we changed the weblog to the website as it is now, all based on open-source software and a cheap-ass server we had in the Netherlands where I am from.
I don’t know why, but the website did not just grow in visitor numbers, but also generated good-will from journalists and aspiring journalists from around the world. Students started applying for internships and professional journalists offered their help to try to make the website a success. Most importantly, over time we began to receive the voluntary help of some incredibly talented columnists who were able to provide well-researched opinion pieces that greatly contributed to the debate. Some 20 people are actively involved in the production of CR today.
The more time we spent practicing journalism here, the more we came to understand the country and the better we were able to report on it. As I am writing this we are not just the largest English-language news source on Colombia, but we’ve actually grown to be bigger (online) than, for example, the Tico Times (Costa Rica), The News (Mexico) and the Buenos Aires Herald (Argentina), all of which are media we respect for doing a great job.
So far, the whole project is basically financed by me and jobs I’ve had in the Netherlands, but in 2010, Colombia Reports will actually have to become a registered company that can at least break even. There are a few investments we would still like to make, and there’s still plenty of room to improve on the reporting, but I am honestly hopeful that we will succeed and show that a bunch of nitwits can beat the big guys when it comes to serving you, as the ones who inform you on the country you are interested in or even love.
In the coming year, you will see us reporting more from the field and doing more on the country’s cultural and travel possibilities, while improving our reporting on investment, making sure that investors are able to bring in some $$ into the Colombian economy and actually see some profit from it.
On thing that has made me very happy over the years is the involvement of readers and the regular commenters. I want to thank in particular our regular commenters like “bluebird,” “gringomedellin,” and “tomtom33” for their (at times harsh) critique on our work. It has significantly improved out conscience of who we are serving and has been of great help in the improvements we have undergone. Guys like “andrewmann” have always voiced the more leftist point of view, which has led to discussions where people from both sides of the political spectrum were forced to reconsider their ideas. This kind of respectful debate is a great help in depolarizing the political and social situation in Colombia. In the end we will all have to settle with a compromise to push Colombia a few steps ahead.
Thank you all for your support and a very happy 2010.
P.S. Any financial support for Colombia Reports is more than welcome. Please use the Paypal button on the frontpage to help us out until we are able to independently become viable.