Fumaça is the 2020 MAZE runner - MAZE - Decoding Impact

Fumaça is the 2020 MAZE runner

Fumaça is the MAZE runner award winner of 2020.

Fumaça is an independent investigative non-profit journalism project focused on human rights.

Every year, on our anniversary, we distinguish the relentless efforts of an individual or a collective in tackling social or environmental challenges. The MAZE runner award belongs to no one, it is a rite of passage: last year’s winner passes the baton to the new winner that then keeps it for one year until we elect the new winner together. On MAZE’s 6th anniversary, André Figueiredo and Bruno Ferreira, partners at PLMJ, and last year’s winners, passed the baton to Fumaça, this year’s MAZE runner.

Fumaça is an independent investigative non-profit journalism project focused on human rights, covering topics such as racism, immigration rights, LGBTI+ people, climate change, and many others. The group publicly acknowledges that every story has more than one perspective, and none of them is impartial. Fumaça is fully transparent about their own set of values and how they shape the stories they tell.

Independent journalism is an essential cog in a functioning democracy. And it is an industry at risk for several reasons: 

  • Journalism financing models are challenging, often leading to poor work conditions for journalists and pressure from funders which can undermine independence;
  • The cost of publishing content has significantly decreased which increases the quantity produced and makes it difficult to discern information from noise;
  • Fake news and social media algorithms require news to be faster, flashier, and often shortsighted, than ever before.

Fumaça is challenging this trend. Only in 2019, Fumaça has grown 5X in paying members, produced 5+ investigative pieces and had 300K podcast listens and received four awards, including the most prestigious one in Portuguese journalism. And they managed to do all this with only three full-time workers. With only three full-time employees, the group managed to do this by delivering high-quality journalism, nurturing an open channel of communication with their community and iterating different membership models. Against all the odds, they not only survived but thrived.

For all the reasons listed above, we decided to attribute the 2020 MAZE Runner award to Fumaça. The group’s approach to stories connected well with our maze analogy: there are many paths to solve the same issue, or tell the same story; none of them is better than another as long as they delivered the desired outcome. There are fewer outcomes nobler than a healthy democracy.

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