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2018 Has Already Begun

10/16/2017 - 11h06

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PAULA CESARINO COSTA

Many may not realize it yet, but 2018 has already begun. Less than one year from the elections, the pre-campaign is in the streets. And in the newspapers. Apparently, the earliest electoral campaign in recent history is already playing out.

The first question to be answered is what is it that determines the outcome of an election. The overall economic situation and national satisfaction, voter party affiliation or the media and marketing campaigns that the candidates employ? Probably, the best response is one that looks at all of these aspects.

Politicians and political parties are striving to show their viability in the presidential race. The so-called pre-campaign is critical for defining the players in the game. Each one will confront their own challenges.

Luiz Inácio da Silva (PT Party), Marina Silva (Rede), Jair Bolsonaro (PSC), Ciro Gomes (PDT), Geraldo Alckmin and João Dória (both from PSDB) are the ones that stand out the most, according to Datafolha. The polling and research institute is a differential for Folha and a powerful aide for guiding and measuring coverage.

In December 2015, according to Datafolha, Aécio Neves was leading in the presidential dispute, with 27% of the vote, followed by Lula (20%), Marina (19%), Ciro (6%) and Bolsonaro (4%). Alckmin was polling 14%, and Doria as a candidate didn't exist yet.

Since then, the political scenario has changed more than once. It is important to point out, however, that Lula's support continues to grow while Marina and Bolsonaro remain close to each other, with the numbers for the former falling while those for the latter are increasing.

Readers have been persistently commenting on this early campaign, with criticism of coverage - seen as excessive - for Bolsonaro and Doria and the lack of reporting on Marina and Ciro Gomes.

"What is the reason for Folha giving such excessive attention to every political step and activity by Doria while completely ignoring the political activities of Ciro Gomes? Why does Folha continue to pay attention to any action by the mayor, ignoring the other players in the game?", asked a reader.

"Folha has clearly reserved an absurd and disproportionate amount of space for Bonsonaro, compared with the other pre-candidates for the Presidency of the Republic", declared another.

To a certain degree, the readers' perceptions are supported by taking a retrospective look back through Folha's editions. Every movement by Bolsonaro has been followed, even though in the last 40 days he hasn't shown up much on the newspaper's front page.

Doria, at the same time, has been on the cover of Folha every five days - nearly half of the time being criticized. The mayor of São Paulo has had generous coverage in two sections. "Politics" and "Brazil".

One can summarize the points that warrant the reflection of those who produce the paper:

1) Jair Bolsonaro and João Doria are followed and covered intensively, while Marina Silva and Ciro Gomes are hidden in the daily news. More balance is needed;

2) Bolsonaro, similarly to Donald Trump, is treated in a flippant way, according to his supporters or condescendingly, according to his adversaries. The appropriate tone needs to be found;

3) João Doria's administration and his movements are covered more frequently than those of Alckmin. The coverage of the administration of the State government is laughable compared to the detailed coverage of the Mayor of São Paulo, which actually ends up favoring Alckmin. The name of the governor is never cited in the title of reports dealing with actions taken by the State government. Doria's, on the other hand, appears in the majority of the stories about the administration of the City of São Paulo, even when there is no reason to make the focus a personal one. Municipal and state coverage needs to be rethought.

Vinicius Mota, managing editor, believes that it is "plausible to suppose" that due to the accumulation of extraordinary political and economic developments in recent years, this pre-campaign will become even more agitated and uncertain.

"Folha strives to provide a balanced focus in its coverage, without hiding that an early dispute is under way, but at the same time not highlighting these movements excessively, as if other important issues from the national agenda weren't also being debated and are to be defined in the coming months. Folha also commits itself to practicing an unbiased, equally arms-length and non-partisan journalism, being critical and focusing on objectively describing the main facts and factors in this pre electoral race", said Mota.

A newly introduced electoral reality, the liberation of paid space on the internet, for example, will impose a new kind of coverage on social networks, in which the media will have to be alert to the role played by robots, false commentators and spreaders of fake news. The Russian interference in the American electoral campaign of 2016 serves as an example and should worry everyone, due to its potentially destabilizing effect in the dispute.

Is the press ready to document, report on, question, stimulate debate and investigate such a moment? The response will come in the following months, but Folha already needs to make some changes in direction.

Translated by LLOYD HARDER

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