Jornal Mapa: Now you can buy a newspaper with FairCoin

Interview with Guilherme Luz

In journalism school you are told that whatever is not in the media doesn't exist. And they also teach you that the arrival of the printing press gave the bourgeoisie an important weapon to support its revolutions. Despite the important social role that the media must play, the vast majority of it is currently still in the service of capital, with a vision of the world from their biased perspective. But there are also those who dare to say what others don't. The Portuguese newspaper MAPA is one of them. 

MAPA is a 48-page quarterly newspaper with a circulation of 3,000 copies. It was born in 2012 "as an attempt to circulate a printed newspaper, generalist in character, but situated in the field of critical information". It is managed by an association (this is enough, since no one who works there gets paid) and it is the collective which takes all the decisions in assembly in a non-hierarchical way.

According to Guilherme Luz, one of the collaborators,"politically, the collective has a strong libertarian tendency, in the broadest sense of the term. It focuses on analysis, reports and articles that have an impact on issues of ecology, development, police violence..., among many other things."

One of their recent political actions has been the decision to accept FairCoin as a means of payment. As of last November, anyone can subscribe to Jornal Mapa with this currency and receive it at home.

With this decision, MAPA becomes the first newspaper which has gone out on a limb and integrated itself into the FairCoop ecosystem: this goes beyond the mere fact of giving space to FairCoop in its pages, by contributing to the growth of the ecosystem itself, and by extension to this alternative system with which we intend to prise ourselves free from the jaws of capitalism.

- Accepting FairCoin for your newspaper is a clearly political act, isn't it?

- It is a political act, no doubt. There have already been authors who have published critical analyses of cryptocurrencies in MAPA in the past, especially Bitcoin. But we are more interested in accepting FairCoin than Bitcoin.  I believe, first of all, that cooperatives can be an essential structure for organising the creation of a new economy and a new social system. In that sense, FairCoop seems to me to be a project that goes a step further, because it implies a deeper critique of capitalism. This is why it can be an example and a reference for anyone thinking of creating a cooperative or of contributing to a more cooperative world.

- At FairCoop we are based on a non-speculative currency, considered as a means of exchange that is helping us redistribute wealth in a fairer way. One of its key features is that it is decentralized and many other currencies are also being based on that idea today in order to free themselves from the control of banks and states. Your opinion about the future of cryptocurrencies in a few years' time: what role will they play in the international economy and how? Do you see a world with different blocs: anarchocapitalists, neo-liberals, anarchists...?

- I don't think anyone knows how things are going to turn out, but I think cryptos will be important in times of widespread failure or economic crisis. They also allow the implementation of local currencies and, in any case, are important in the sense that they decentralize the economy and displace it directly into the hands of whoever uses them.  On the other hand, cryptocurrency can be super speculative and totally unsustainable, as is Bitcoin in energy terms. In the end, Bitcoin concentrates wealth in the hands of those who can afford to pay for the energy it requires, and whoever is not connected to the Internet will never be able to use it. The architecture of the system in a few years is also an unknown quantity for me, but I think that climate disruption, and specifically the capacity that everyone has to adapt to it, will ultimately determine how things will be organized. In the field of provision of energy it is to be expected, for example, that the system will be organized in blocks, as you say. By extension, one can imagine that it will be possible to create economic systems that are managed locally and in varying ways.

- How do you finance your newspaper?

- Financing is the most difficult practical issue. Money is one of the main problems of many projects. Ideally, we should be able to finance ourselves with the money from sales and subscriptions, but no newspaper can survive this way, so we have to look for donations. The cost of the newspaper is 12,000€ a year, even considering that all the work is voluntary.

- In the age of the Internet, you have chosen to keep publishing on paper, when it means additional expense. Why do you do it? Maybe because it can reach different people?

- Yes, especially for that reason. The internet is an inescapable tool but its dissemination is asymmetrical. It is a mistake to think that the habit of consuming information from the internet takes place to the same degree both in the rural world and in large cities. One of the project's objectives is to reach out to small villages. With a paper newspaper there is a closer link with readers, but we can't forget that once something is on paper, it is on paper forever. On the internet we can alter articles and statements. There are many so-called traditional newspapers in Portugal and there has always been a tradition of political press. There are some specific publications of anarchist groups, communists, etc., but in recent years there has not been a generalist publication with a strong socially critical voice. That's the place we occupy, while most new projects are going digital.

- Even though we provide so much information to people... do you think that's enough? Do they need anything else? Why is it that not everyone is out on the streets, given the current situation in many countries?

- Quite frankly, I think that a plurality of information can be a catalyst for very important things, and indeed it is essential when you look at the world, especially when lying is the norm. Indeed, alternative media projects are an essential tool for social change and, nowadays, it is very important to present new narratives against an agglomerate of corporative media that is getting more powerful -mainly in the era of giants like Google and Facebook, it is of the utmost importance that other narratives win its space-. But its influence is limited in the sense that an information project does not have the same power as a project that directly affects our most immediate needs: what we eat, the energy we consume, the water we drink, etc. On the other hand, I think that the power of alternative media, despite being powered by the internet, has the problem of being rooted in the world of information overload - a paper newspaper has another presence. Although we are living in very turbulent times, we are an island of stability compared to Syria or Palestine.

-What are you going to do with the FairCoin you get from sales and subscriptions?

- We could hire hosting/information services or something similar, or use them to remunerate someone who wants to help with the distribution of MAPA beyond Portugal, for example in Galicia (Spain), where Portuguese can be perfectly understood. We always wanted to get to Galicia with the newspaper. And here you can also read press in Spanish.

In early 2018, MAPA will launch a crowdfunding campaign to be funded throughout the year. It will also join this crowdfunding campaign in FairCoop, so anyone interested in helping the newspaper can find out how to do so in jornalmapa.pt from January.

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