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Brazilian Newspapers Are Dying an Inglorious Death

Folha de S. Paulo newspaper The end of the diploma requirement to be a professional journalist in Brazil is yet another chapter in the bitter story of Brazilian printing press’ decadence. Days before the fateful decision by the Brazilian Supreme Court (STF), the Press Law had been dismantled, an act which left the sector legally vulnerable.

It should be noted that in almost every country there are legal mechanisms which regulate mass media. Here, it seems barbarity rules.

To add to the mistaken decisions by the STF – which have long contributed to the dismantling of a profession that had been regulated for 40 years –  the newspapers themselves are taking it upon themselves to end the press.

Two growing trends in the media market have become apparent. On one hand, there is the increased number of tabloids destined to the less favored sectors of the population. On the other, magazines directed to those with greater buying power treat pseudo-celebrities as news.

The first trend has the merit of attracting new readers who were not used to reading newspapers, but has the flaw of sensationalism and shallow news analysis. These tabloids are big sellers.

Nevertheless, they violate the national language with blatant mistakes and underestimate the mental capacity of its readers. The second trend magazines usually have good graphic quality, but stumble by adulating the rich who are not always newsworthy.

Macaws and Parrots

Such is the commercial environment, that profits are more important than information quality; the space for investigative journalism and offering of services to the reader is increasingly smaller. The cultural session, for example, bow to hypes dictated by the electronic media and have become event schedules for every taste without allocating a session to specialized cultural criticism.

The movie sessions proclaim the commercial productions of Hollywood and limit themselves at handing out stars, without any profound esthetic discussion. And to keep younger audiences pleased, the editors place low-quality hits at the same level as Jazz or Bossa Nova classics.

Meanwhile, the coverage of global events is limited to the news agencies monologue, foregoing plurality and different perspectives offered by international correspondents. Instead of analyzing important events, the press is rendered to sensationalism and repeating information until exhaustion in a vain attempt to beat the Internet at its own game.

If the latter wins in speed, supposedly newspapers should win in newsworthiness, with unbiased reflection and facts analysis. On the other hand, most of the weekly magazines surrendered to accusations and polemic columnists who are not always considerate.

The dramatic close to this soap opera unfolded when the news agencies began to abuse of colors on its issues. Starting in 1980’s anyone who stood before a newsstand had the feeling of contemplating a cage with macaws and parrots. Nonetheless, the advent of the color would not be enough to face the agility of cable TV, then identified as the likely rival of newspapers.

Bad Journalism

Soon after, with the arrival of the Internet, the daily newspapers got carried away by the speed of information, as if the radio had not been invented long before these new media. Cover page editors insist on publishing obvious and repetitive headlines which do not add to the facts.

The process has become mechanical to the extent that it’s commonplace for the same headline to pop up in different newspapers in a given day. Suffice it to look at the death of Michael Jackson, covered until exhaustion without revealing any novelty about the king of pop.

If the radio notifies in real time and the Internet soon after, television has the bad habit of making spectacles out of news. Then theoretically, it should be up to newspapers to analyze and investigate the events.

Nonetheless, moved by haste and mental laziness, they prefer to copy their competitors’ news. As a result, reporters no longer tell stories and the sale of newspapers plummet. Newsrooms, echoing the repetitive discourse of cutting costs, live constantly fearful of lay-offs.

It seems, newspaper owners have lost pace with history and the editors have unlearned their craft. They blame competition with the electronic media, practice bad journalism, forego criticizing the powerful and see their readers’ mediocrity as their only hope.

Jorge Fernando dos Santos writes for Observatório da Imprensa where this article appeared originally.

Translated from the Portuguese by Aldo Jansel. You may reach him at ajans001@fiu.edu.

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