August 10, 2016

Americans are most likely getting their Olympics news from U.S.-based outlets. But what’s the media like in Brazil?

Do journalists there face the dangers of simply reporting, as they do in Turkey? Are they pioneering micropayments, like journalists in the Netherlands? Are they shifting toward a more open media landscape, like journalists in Cuba?

We asked Rosental Alves, director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. Alves spent more than 20 years of his career as a journalist in Brazil, and he’s also currently a Knight Chair in Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. He spoke to Poynter via phone before heading to Brazil last week.

1. They’re robust in print, online and in broadcast

“We have a very strong and vibrant and very professional media in Brazil,” he said.

On Wednesday, Newseum had front pages from 56 Brazilian newspapers.

One problem, though, is the concentration of media ownership, he said, “which is a problem everywhere including here in the United States.”

2. But they’re also about 10 years behind the U.S. on the business front

And that means they’re just now being hit by the same woes as shrinking American newspapers, Alves said. He pointed to newspapers in Sao Paulo and Rio, including Jornal O Globo, that are getting smaller but still strong. The newspaper Folha, for instance, sent 75 people to cover the Olympics.

“Having said that, there are many Brazils,” Alves said. “It’s a huge country.”

Often, he said, regional media organizations are controlled by local politicians.

“This is really a problem.”

3. They’re not new to digital

In 1994, Alves launched Brazil’s first online newspaper, the online edition of Jornal do Brasil.

“A year and a half before The New York Times, we had our newspaper online,” he said.

Most news sites have paywalls. As in the U.S., journalists in Brazil use social media, and messaging apps in particular, to connect with the audience.

4. One news organization offered foreign journalists a place to crash

The investigative nonprofit Agencia Publica offered a home to foreign reporters covering issues around the Olympics. According to Agencia Publica, 177 people from 42 countries applied for a fellowship to stay at the public house, the nonprofit’s residence and innovation hub. Four were chosen.

5. Brazil is undergoing a wave of fact-checking right now

Lupa launched earlier this year to monitor the runup to the Olympics. And as Poynter’s Alexios Mantzarlis reported in February, there’s also Agência Pública’s Truco and Aos Fatos.

Lupa director Cristina Tardáguila is a 2016 Poynter international fact-checking fellow.

The new sites fit into a broader picture of the growth of fact-checking in Latin America, Mantzarlis said.

“It is still early(ish) days for external fact-checking in the country,” he said. “But the commitment behind the three projects and the focus on making engaging content and strong visualization indicates the field should have promise in Brazil.”

6. It’s still one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in Latin America

“This is a real problem that I have been following very closely because of the work of the Knight Center,” Alves said.

Often, crimes against journalists get more coverage from organizations such as Committee to Protect Journalists or Reporters Without Borders than it does from big media in Brazil, he said.

CPJ reports that 38 journalists have been killed in the country since 1992. Reporters Without Borders ranked Brazil 104 out of 180 in the 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

Protecting reporters is made much harder by the lack of a national mechanism for their protection and by a climate of impunity fueled by the ubiquitous corruption. Media ownership continues to be very concentrated, especially in the hands of big industrial families that are often close to the political class.

For more on the media in Brazil, check out “On the Media’s” recent deep dive.

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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