Radio Ambulante eyes expansion, win big after crowdfunding campaign

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An ambulante is a Spanish term for a street vendor, a go-getter who doesn’t wait for work but is an ambitious, small-scale entrepreneur.

That seems like an accurate description of Radio Ambulante, a small radio program and podcast that looked to the crowd to continue to tell unheard stories about Latin America.

The show launched in 2012 two months after a Kickstarter campaign to raise $46,000. Since then the show has gone from 2,000 monthly listeners to 100,000 monthly listeners who can hear versions of the show in English and Spanish.

Last week Radio Ambulante received the Gabriel García Márquez Journalism Prize in the innovation category, an annual award for journalists and media organizations that embody the ideals of the famous Latin American writer. Award ceremonies were held in Medellin, Colombia.

“It’s a validation of our efforts, and an inspiration to continue pushing ourselves to do more and do better,” the show’s executive director Carolina Guerrero told the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship program on Thursday.

Radio Ambulante currently runs on a non-profit, contribution based business model, so prize money received from the award will go directly back into the program, she said.

A 2015 JSK Fellow at Stanford University, Guerrero wants to solve “the problem of inequality of access and democratizing the kinds of stories being told across the region.”

While at Stanford she plans to focus on ways radio journalists can harness new technologies to spread information.

Guerrero created the show that’s been called This American Life for Latin America with her husband, a novelist and the show’s host Daniel Alarcón.

Radio Ambulante is based at KQED KALW in San Francisco and can be considered in the same vein as similar long form journalism programs that tap into a human element like RadioLab, This American Life and Snap Judgment.

On the other side of San Francisco Bay in Oakland, Snap Judgment closed its 30-day crowdfunding campaign Friday, raising $208,000, much more than the $150,000 goal.

Like Snap Judgment, Radio Ambulante will host a live show in San Francisco within a month. The title? “Outsiders: Stories of People Who Skirt Around the Edges.”

Two-thirds of Radio Ambulante’s audience is in the United States and one-third is scattered across the Spanish speaking world. In the future Guerrero and Alarcón hope to create partnerships with Latin American radio stations and reach parts of Brazil and the Caribbean.

Here is one of my favorite stories from Radio Ambulante:

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El fotografo / the photographer

You can also check out Radio Ambulante’s Daniel Alarcon explain more about what Radio Ambulante is all about, plus its recent partnership with PRI’s The World.

You can find more of these stories on their website in both English and Spanish or subscribe to their podcasts.

Correction: The original version of this article stated that Radio Ambulante’s home station is KQED when in fact the program is based at KALW. The error has been noted on Through the Crack’s correction page. We apologize for the inaccurate error.

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Carlos Moreno
Carlos is a freelance photojournalist and part-time fashion staff photographer at Designer Studio Inc. He is based in San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico and does freelance work across California, Baja California and beyond. Carlos is the co-founder and photography / Latin America editor of Through the Cracks. He is also a photo contributor at Getty Images. When he is not taking photos, he is a photo mentor at Las Fotos Project branch of Tijuana.

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