Episode 8: Mensagem de Lisboa editor-in-chief Catarina Carvalho on independence and community engagement

In this episode we talk to Catarina Carvalho, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Mensagem de Lisboa, a community-focused newsroom in the heart of Lisbon, Portugal.

Catarina was the Executive Editor of Diário de Notícias, one of the older newspapers in Portugal. But inside this organisation she often felt she was unable to really innovate, do the journalism she wanted to do, and connect with communities. When the newsroom decided to downsize when Covid hit, Catarina decided that was the time to set up something new.

She sat down with a local entrepreneur and dreamed up the idea of a new local media project: to tell the untold stories of Lisbon, to inspire and connect people, creating empathy through knowledge, and in so doing, to change the view of what journalism can be. Bringing in a few other colleagues, they launched Mensagem during the middle of the Covid pandemic.

Mensagem now has a team of seven full-time journalists, who develop projects and stories connecting with the diverse communities of Lisbon, and often collaborating with local associations and cultural groups, and nurturing a strong connection with their audience. They believe in the power of storytelling to bring about social change and foster a sense of belonging and community among Lisbon’s residents.

Like many independent newsrooms, financial sustainability is a major concern for Mensagem. They do not have a paywall, partly due not seeing it as realistic that they would have enough paying subscribers to fund the outlet, and partly due to the value of making journalism open access. Instead, they rely on project funding, grants, and core support from their founding business backer O Valor do Tempo. But they are developing their approach to diversifying their revenue.

Listen to this episode to find out more about Mensagem’s journey developing a new community-centred local media project, their successes, and the challenges they’re navigating as they step into the future.