ROBERTO MARINHO (1904-2003)
A review of the series of necrologies written on media mogul Roberto Marinho and published in our press between
August 7th and August 11th confirm the impression of the precariousness of Brazilian (or Luso-Brazilian) biographism. Except
for special editions and a few brilliant testimonies, all the biographical profiles left much to be desired.
While obituaries deal with the deceased and biographies with lives, the two genres are in fact superimposed: both
have human tracks as their object, including the essential data about the subject's character, crucial passages in his
existence and, above all, his distinguishing traits. In the diligence to lay or remove polish, scrutinize attributes or stains, writers
leave behind the scintilla, the spark that lights up a human beinglarge or small, it doesn't matterand makes his or her
"Doutor Roberto" was above everything else a journalist, and a great journalist. Entrepreneur or empire builder
are additional qualifications: his natural way of existing and working was that of a journalist. There are activities that
transform themselves into a second naturejournalism is one of them. In the newspaper he forged his professionalism and his
creative talent. In the newsroom he developed his moral fiber; in the conviviality with colleagues, his nobility and generosity.
And because he was a journalist, he wanted to participate, influence, intervene and even be a protagonist. Today
we are discovering that these temptations can flow into omnipotence, but it's difficult to find in his generation and even in
the generations immediately closer to him any journalist who was able to resist the fascination that power brings.
Assis Chateaubriand built an empire, but he destroyed it with the same eagerness, while he was still alive. He was
not brave enough to keep it alive, and he ruined it. In spite of having presided at newspapers and written daily articles all
around the country, he didn't appreciate journalistsexcept those who agreed to join his entourage and collect the crumbs
from his shady deals.
One of these necrologies about Roberto Marinho attempted to bring back from forgetfulness the character of
Adolfo Bloch, the entrepreneur who entered the history of journalism because he was essentially a graphic designer. Many
talented journalists started in the "shops" (when part of the newspaper was made "downstairs"Irineu Marinho, Roberto's
father, started as a copy-desk writer and copy-desk writers worked next to the composition machinery).
But Adolfo Bloch was a graphic designer who had no respect for words, for the intellect, or for the moral sense
that should accompany every human act. His despise for journalists is not comparable to that of Sílvio Santos because he
needed journalists and writers to fill up the pages of his magazines and, later, the time slots of his TV stations.
Some of the stories about the political role of Roberto Marinho were written with spite and a strong dose of
amnesia. Its authors don't like to remember that
Correio da Manhã led the movement of the press to support the military
conspiracy of 1964, that the "Folhas"
(Folha de S. Paulo and the deceased Folha da
Tarde) worked for a while as extensions of
public safety departments and that the nonsense of the "Brazilian miracle" was invented at the
Manchete magazine and financed by the Finance Minister Delfim Neto courtiers who were preparing the candidacy of colonel Mário Andreazza for
President. They don't want to acknowledge that, in 1979, a daily newspaper with leftist pretensions called
Jornal da República was launched in São Paulo with monies from Paulo Maluf, via Vasp (when the airline was owned by the State government).
Such missteps committed by the sacred cows of progressive journalism do not justify the political mistakes
committed by Roberto Marinho, but they should not pass by unnoticed in media studies claiming to be above good and evil.
It's unforgivable to overlook that the only business defeat endured by Roberto Marinho was imposed on him by
the arch-Mafioso Silvio Berlusconi, who tried by all means to stop the consolidation of Telemontecarlo in Italy. In the
current scenario of globalized communications, this is a piece of information that cannot be disregarded.
Now that the man has been mourned and just homage and well-deserved tributes have been paid, the important
thing is to look to the future:
- How to create other great journalistic
corporations in this country at a time when the current ones are not only on the
verge of bankruptcy but also under the helm of administrators, financiers,
engineers, businesspeople and farmers?
- Where are the journalists who will create and
lead communications companies in the next 10 years?
- Who will compete with Organizações Globo for the hegemony of the Brazilian media?
- Which Brazilian journalistic conglomerate will
be able to get a slice of the foreign market?
- In other words, are we going to remain on the
outside of the globalization of information?
August 12, 2003.
Alberto Dines, the author, is a journalist, founder and researcher at LABJORLaboratório de Estudos Avançados
em Jornalismo (Laboratory for Advanced Studies in Journalism) at UNICAMP (University of Campinas) and editor of
the Observatório da Imprensa. He also writes a column on cultural issues for the Rio daily
Jornal do Brasil. You can reach him by email at
This article was originally published in Observatório da Imprensa
Tereza Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based in Dallas. She is an accredited member of
the American Translators Association. Contact: