La Diaria will celebrate its 10th birthday in March. The publication was created as a left-wing newspaper which is independent of all political parties and is sold by subscription at a low price in order to avoid being sold at newsstands (which, in Uruguay, normally keep close to half of the price of the newspapers they sell). Today, it has 50 worker members who are involved in the writing, distribution and administration of the newspaper.
When it was created in 2006 it had approximately one thousand subscribers and a sort of joint stock company was set up in order to enable the workers to exercise control over the company. However, some of the shares have since been sold to foreigners who were very enthusiastic about the project. Even though the possibility of establishing the newspaper in the form of a cooperative had been envisaged right from the very outset, this was only done recently, in mid-2010, when this type of working relationship was considered to both possible and desirable.
A different perspective
According to the current President of the cooperative, Pablo Tate, rather than obliging people to become a member of the cooperative, the idea is to explain that once one has joined then, after a certain amount of time, one may be invited to be part of the cooperative. “People get involved if they want to,” he says, “and they often end up becoming a member of the cooperative.”
As digital portals and internet-based communication continue to develop, the written press is experiencing a crisis worldwide. In this context and given the fact that Uruguay is a small country and therefore has a limited domestic market, these are testing times for the cooperative, which is faced with a series of economic difficulties. “Last year we experienced some tough times and had to fight hard to combat everything that the existence of these new media implies. We tried to sell ours newspaper at the newsstands but that didn’t work. We had to cut jobs and make some people redundant.
We did this because we feel that we have to continue to move forward. This type of a decision is a really difficult one for a cooperative.”
Tate explains that part of the newspaper’s income is generated by the placement of adverts and their decision to be independent limits their possibilities in this area. “We have our own rules and one of them applies to brands and companies. We refuse to help brands to launch new products. We try to adhere to our editorial line, which takes into account problems in society which are of interest to us, such as human rights, gender-related issues, people whose voice is not heard, etc.”
Today, La Diaria has 8,000 subscribers and is one of the 4 most widely read newspapers in the country. Furthermore, the cooperative launched a monthly publication, “Lento”, a few months ago and is also a part of a television project called Giro, which was successful in a tendering process and has been awarded a contract to operate a digital TV signal in the framework of the new law on audio-visual services which was approved in 2014.
Tate is optimistic about the future of La Diaria. “We have managed to survive thus far and we believe that paper-based publications will continue to exist beyond what we are currently experiencing. But we are also thinking about other formats. We have set up our website so that it can provide other forms of multi-media content. We have also embarked upon the drafting of contents for State institutions, NGOs and universities. We have even played with the possibility of a running a radio station.”
La Diaria will be 10 years old on 20 March. This is an important milestone for an independent media company which is managed by its own workers in a country which, historically, is dominated by media with close ties to political parties and to large groups. “Being an independent, self-managed media company makes us virtually unique in Uruguay, because media normally reflect the opinions of their owners in their contents. Despite the difficulties, we enjoy the complete freedom of not being accountable to anyone.”
International Organisation of Industrial, Artisanal and
Service Producers' Cooperatives
Secretariat: C/O European Cooperative House - avenue Milcamps 105
1030 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 2 543 1033, fax: +32 2 543 1037