Folha and USP Launch Otavio Frias Filho Academic Chair

Center for studies on journalism, diversity, and democracy pays tribute to the newspaper's 1984-2018 editorial director

Folha and the University of São Paulo (USP) will launch this Friday (19th), the centenary anniversary of the newspaper, the Otavio Frias Filho of Studies in Communication, Democracy, and Diversity academic chair, which will be linked to the Institute for Advanced Studies (IEA) at USP.

The chair's title honors Folha's managing editor, who held the position from 1984 to 2018 when he died of cancer. The partnership was made official in a virtual event on Wednesday (17) with Luiz Frias, publisher of Folha, and Vahan Agopyan, dean of USP.

The initiative is a response from the newspaper and the university to the national and international political scenario. On the one hand, the advancement of minority rights are celebrated; on the other, obscurantist practices weaken democratic institutions and threaten free-thinking and a diverse society.

Folha's longest running Managing Editor, mentor of the Folha Project and defender of critical, non-partisan and pluralist journalism - Lenise Pinheiro/Folhapress

“Otavio is responsible for the Folha Project, which transformed modern journalism in Brazil. We thank USP and hope to be even closer to the university after this initiative,” said Luiz Frias.

For Agopyan, the creation of academic chairs is of paramount importance for the university, as they bring personalities outside of the academic world to discuss topics dear to society. “The genesis of our institution is to be a locus for the discussion of ideas, and the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us the increasing need for researchers to work together,” he said.

“I am sure that the Otavio Frias Filho Chair, due to its multidisciplinary character, will soon become a reference in studies on communication, democracy, and diversity. USP is honored to enter into this partnership with Folha, as it celebrates 100 years of existence.”

The chair is an autonomous research center with its own structure. Its activities are proposed and developed by the two parties involved in advancing the understanding of the relationships among communication, democracy and diversity, the three pillars of the chair.

With an initial duration of five years, extendable for the same period at the end of each contract, the initiative will annually invite a person responsible for organizing thematic cycles of monthly lectures, which will be transformed into articles and books. The professor may be Brazilian or foreign and will preferably be a professional who is active in the defense of rights and against discrimination and racism.

The variety of themes is reflected in the ten permanent researchers of the chair, who are not restricted to journalism and come from departments as diverse as the Institute of Biosciences (IB) and the Polytechnic School of USP.

In addition, the work plan also includes the creation of a graduate course on communication, diversity, and democracy.

Otavio Frias Filho's Life Story

Otavio Frias Filho poses at home on the occasion of the launch of the book "Cinco Peças e Uma Farsa," in 2013.

The chair's project will consist of three management bodies: a governance committee, another executive, and an advisory board, all with participation from both Folha and USP.

The committees will meet soon after the signing of the partnership and are expected to define the first guest to hold the chair in mid-2021.

It is part of the proposal to create the Otavio Frias Filho Journalism Award, for academic and communication works related to the theme.

"It is not possible to imagine democratic societies today without a free and pulsating press and without respect for human rights and diversity," says André Chaves de Melo, chair coordinator, and professor at USP's School of Communication and Arts (ECA).

“Otavio encouraged the cultural character of reporters and always wanted to bring plural debates, from the left or the right,” says Cláudio Tognolli, who was a reporter for Folha and is now a professor at ECA and chair coordinator

When he was managing editor—in partnership with his brother, Luiz, and under the guidance of his father, Octavio Frias de Oliveira (1912-2007)—Otavio Frias Filho (1957-2018) led the implementation of the Folha Project, a series of editorial guidelines, technical and organizational skills that paved the way for critical, non-partisan, modern and diverse journalism. This project led Folha to become the largest newspaper in the country.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon