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Brazzil - Media - January 2004

A Lesson of Brazil with Professor Lula

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in his State of the
Union address decided to give the press a lecture. The
presidential incursion into journalistic theory was unfortunate.
It reveals a voluntarist facet until now reserved to economic or
political analysts and it may generate dangerous confusion.

Alberto Dines


The closing ceremonies for this first year of the graduate degree in Brazilian Sciences turned into a prodigious 87-minute-long Magna Class delivered by the Head of State, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, during which its almost 176 million students learned a bunch of stuff about themselves. Including economists, philosophers, business people, statisticians, historians, geographers and political scientists.

Journalists were bestowed with at least five extremely original propositions:

1. "News is the stuff we don't want to see published. The rest is commercials."

2. "Therefore, if we talk less and say only the necessary, we will sure feel happier every morning when we open the pages of newspapers and magazines."

3. "The press is really like a mother's heart: no matter how much we fight it, we know we need her."

4. "So, instead of fighting it [the press], it's better to establish a good-neighbor policy so that everyone wins."

5. "To you, journalists, be patient with me and I will be patient with you [applause from the press bloc]."

If you look carefully, these propositions are complementary, like pieces of a single line of reasoning. Together, re-read and re-evaluated, they reveal a curious coherence that would be healthy if it were not for the candid revelation enclosed in it, almost a fixation.

It is imperative that the press say good things about the government. If the ministers say little—hiding whatever is likely to stir debate—,if the journalists are as patient with the government as the government is with journalists and if the news are still not pleasant to read or to watch, forget journalism and let's turn to advertising. If we learn to live together, everybody wins. The press must work like a mother's generous heart, ready to forget the shortcomings of the son (the government), just as the son chooses not to see the obsessions of the mother (the press).

The talk from the throne raised some interesting comments in the press:

** Comments by Teresa Cruvinel (O Globo, 12/18, page 2):

"The hurt [the president] refers to comes from the time when the PT was the opposition party and did not deserve the same space given to the government. Just like it happens today with PFL and PSDB. It is natural, although the PT has nothing to complain about, since its accusations were always published, as well as its political proposals.

Really bad was the medicine prescribed: to talk less so that the next day papers can be more pleasant. Lula and a good section of the administration insist on ignoring that, once in power, communication with the people, in order to have credibility, will have to pass through the communication media and not through the most important marketing in the campaign."

** In the story (that is, in the report that the government would rather not see in print), Estado de S. Paulo reprints excerpts of the speech in which the President mentions the press and adds some information (news?) about what Press Secretary Ricardo Kotscho does with journalists who disobey his recommendations.

** The information (news??) published in Folha de S.Paulo (same day, page A 4) has the same title used by its competitor and adds some details (newsy?) about the drafting of the speech and the event.

One thing is for sure: the presidential incursion into journalistic theory was unfortunate. It reveals a voluntarist facet until now reserved to economic or political analysts and it may generate dangerous confusion.

If the media insists in being newsy _ that is, to publish news _ it is going to generate much irritation. On the other hand, it will be privileged by commercials.

A mother is always a mother.

Alberto Dines, the author, is a journalist, founder and researcher at LABJOR—Laboratório 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 obsimp@ig.com.br
This article was originally published in Observatório da Imprensa — www.observatoriodaimprensa.com.br
Translated by Tereza Braga. Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based in Dallas. She is an accredited member of the American Translators Association. Contact: terezab@sbcglobal.net 

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