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In Brazil the Press Is a Sacred and Untouchable Cow to the Press

Brazil's O Globo front page

A recent edition of Rio’s daily O Globo reprinted a vehement indictment
authored by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman on the purchase of the Wall
Street Journal by media shark Rupert Murdoch (“The Murdoch factor in U.S.
media”).

The story deserves three cheers: a) for its content; b) for revealing that the NY Times is talking in the open about the business of its competitor and c) for the fact that it made a big traditional Brazilian paper publicly discuss the issue of ownership of communication companies. Albeit in another market, in the northern hemisphere.


The press in Brazil has been hiding from public opinion. It brings up everything except the inner life of newspaper organizations. The press in Brazil has quit fighting for the integrity of the press in Brazil. But what goes on inside a newspaper company is of interest to society. 


Pact of Silence
 
If Murdoch actually buys the powerful Wall Street Journal, he will end up with two newspapers in New York – the New York Post, of the popular segment, and the big traditional business paper, one of the most influential dailies in the world, the WSJ.


The NY Times has the obligation to publicly discuss this matter because Murdoch, besides being a shark, is one of the most reactionary figures in the media world. He has no respect for exemption principles, not a drop of appreciation for balance in the media outlets that he collects and, besides, he despises the opinions of his employees. Even those who work in his inner circle.


The purchase of the WSJ is being discussed in the U.S. and also within British public opinion, since Murdoch already owns The Times, in London, and will be invincible with an old big U.S. newspaper in his formidable portfolio.


If it had decided not to discuss the purchase of its competitor, the NY Times would be betraying the interests of its readers and advertisers. If it had decided to neglect it, it would have been accused of complicity and irresponsibility. The biography of the newspaper would be indelibly compromised.


It is different in Brazil. The press is one of the few taboos of our press. A pact of silence was established around the media in general and newspapers in particular. The National Newspaper Association (ANJ), which transcends the dailies segment and also embraces weeklies in some issues in spite of the existence of ANER (the magazine organization), adopts strict codes of conduct.
 
First Magnitude
 
The plurality and diversity of our media are conditioned by the collectivism of this same media. The subjects developed by Brazilian newspapers have very few limitations, theoretically – in principle, the greater press covers everything. The reality, though, is different: a sacred and truly untouchable cow has been placed in the heart of our press and it does not let society be informed about what goes on inside its walls.


This means that our journalism – regardless of its high quality and brilliance in all formal, intellectual and operational aspects – is prohibited from being absolutely transparent. In certain subjects, it is self-confessedly opaque. Not by fault of powerful governments or delirious caudillos, but by its own choice. A suicidal calling. Our press voluntarily transgresses one of its principal roles and is unable to realize that it loses the right to demand transparency and clarity from the different spheres of society.


When journalist-entrepreneur Ary de Carvalho seized O Dia newspaper from congressman-entrepreneur Chagas Freitas (who in turn had seized it from late politician Ademar de Barros), the story never leaked and remained circumscribed to bar conversations.


Chagas Freitas was for two decades president of the Rio de Janeiro Newspaper Company Owners Union, a precursor of ANJ. Nevertheless, it was run over by the pragmatism and collectivism of its former partners – “the king is dead, hail to the king”. The American press would never have kept this story in the drawer – or the English, the German, the French or the Spanish press, for that matter. 


The conduct and dealings of entrepreneur Nelson Tanure were never examined by his peers. Not even his exotic hobby of collecting or leasing dying organizations (Jornal do Brasil, Gazeta Mercantil, CNT, Isto É) can turn on the interest of a press otherwise so sensitive to scandals.


O Globo has started a formidable series of stories about “Impunity”. More than a mere investigation, it is a magnificent exhibit of one of the main attributes and duties of the press: its ability to remember and to reference events.


July 1st, a Sunday, on page 3, a simple and frightening scenario: the ten scandals of the last ten years, all scot-free. Starting with the precatórios (1997) and ending with the sanguessugas (bloodsuckers) (2006).


 
Left out was the scandal of the Dossier Vedoin purchase, to be published in the weekly Isto É, one of the only cases in which the infallible Federal Police has acknowledged its fallibility. An electoral crime of the first magnitude, which central factor was a journalistic organization. Simply left out. Media scandals are not good enough for our media. 


Ignored Interview 


On Sunday June 24th, Folha de S. Paulo published with huge headlines an interview with the woman who would rank herself the very next day “Muse of the Scandal”: Mônica Veloso, former girlfriend of Senator Renan Calheiros.


With subtlety and some degree of tongue in cheek, the newspaper disclosed the profile of the key witness in Veja magazine without disqualifying the serious accusations against the Senator. The girl wanted notoriety and Folha was happy to comply by showing her off.


And they regretted it: the interview remained completely ignored for an entire week by the extremely agile and attentive readers of Folha de S. Paulo. Unbelievable: from Monday (June 25th) to Monday (July 2nd), one of the most dynamic readers corners of the great Brazilian press left a super hyped, juicy, vibrant, politically incorrect but very revealing story about the backstage of our investigative journalism completely alone.


Rupert Murdoch, the king of manipulation, would never approve this silence.


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. You can reach him by email at obsimp@ig.com.br.


Translated by Tereza Braga. Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based in Dallas. She is a certified member of the American Translators Association. Contact: terezab@sbcglobal.net.

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