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Happy 5th birthday, Mongabay-Latam

In 2016 we formally established Mongabay Latam, a Spanish-language environmental news service that aimed to improve coverage of critical planetary issues in the most biologically diverse region of the world. Five years in, Latam has greatly exceeded our hopes and expectations.

Today Latam has monthly onsite readership that regularly exceeds 600,000, a network of contributing journalists from Mexico to Chile, and partnerships with numerous media outlets that distribute our stories and collaborate on deep investigations. Most importantly, Latam has contributed to many real-world impacts, from exposing environmental crime to highlighting solutions.

Looking back at the past 5 years there are several factors I’d credit for Latam’s success.

1) Having great people. María Isabel Torres and Alexa Vélez Zuazo have been at Latam since its formal launch and their leadership is the biggest reason Latam has worked so well. They are joined by an extremely capable supporting team and a network of dedicated contributing journalists.

2) Producing high-quality original reporting. Latam has gone to incredible lengths to find underreported stories and provide context on issues that are often poorly understood. These efforts have not only yielded outstanding articles, but hard-hitting videos, compelling visualizations, and valuable repositories of information like databases on pollution and criminalization of environmental defenders.

3) Focusing on audience engagement. Latam produces content in an array of formats to reach key audiences, whether they be traditionally marginalized communities, civil society groups, or high-level government decision-makers. For example, Latam’s data-rich reporting projects have regularly been used by public prosecutors in Latin America to inform their investigations and natural resources management agencies to inform their daily work.

4) Collaborating with great partners. Latam works with numerous partners, including dozens of local, national, and regional media outlets. Other Mongabay bureaus look to Latam as a model for how to build successful partnerships that truly complement and amplify each others’ work.

5) Persistence. Enterprise reporting on environmental issues is hard: Data can be complex and hard to find, fieldwork can be difficult and even dangerous, and powerful entrenched interests can strongly resist transparency. The bravery and persistence of reporters on a day-to-day basis–at Latam and beyond–is inspiring.

So to close, I want to commend the Latam team for their incredible work and achievements over the past five years. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do.

If you’re interested in Latam’s work, visit the site or follow Latam on social media:

By Rhett Ayers Butler

Rhett Ayers Butler is the Founder and CEO of Mongabay, a non-profit conservation and environmental science news platform. He started Mongabay in 1999 with the mission of raising interest in and appreciation of wild lands and wildlife.