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The Stampede in the Streets

03/19/2018 - 10h26

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PAULA CESARINO COSTA

The Death of Councilwoman Marielle demonstrates the urgent need for hearing voices outside of the offices of politicians and qualifying digital coverage.

The shots that killed councilwoman Marielle France and driver Anderson Gomes were slow to awaken Folha. On Wednesday night (the 14th), when the car they both - as well as an aide - were in, was hit by at least nine shots, the newspaper didn't seem to pay attention to the importance of the episode. Readers didn't receive any notification.

On the front page of the print edition the next day there was only a small title, with no highlight and no text: "City Councilwoman Marielle Franco Killed by Gunshots in Rio de Janeiro".

At the time that the crime happened it may have been difficult to publish a piece of journalistic excellence, but that isn't justification.

Murder of Councilwoman Marielle Franco (PSOL Party)

The seeming political and journalistic insensitivity continued throughout the day following Marielle and Anderson's deaths. The *Folha*'s digital coverage on Wednesday (the 15th) was timid and lukewarm, giving excessive weight to the palatial aspects, without looking into things that happened before or after the crime.

For many hours the following headline was stamped on the newspaper's site: "Marielle's murder mobilizes Planalto Palace to combat fallout". The article didn't reflect the many ramifications of the theme.

The climate, the orders given, the emotions in the streets were hardly reflected. Who were those thousands of demonstrators? Which entities were mobilizing in the country? What were the ramifications outside of the country?

No analyses nor even canned testimonies were offered. Only a few columnists wrote about the theme out of their own initiative and two of these were from the economics section.

Images were published practically without any accompanying text, and only one live video was put up on the site without any special production. Only on Friday (the 16th) did the newspaper put a video online - of excellent quality, it should be noted - that showed who Marlelle was through the voice of other women.

Folha took until São Paulo's Friday edition to complete a better-quality article, offering readers in Rio (who get the finished edition earlier) a newspaper with nothing to add to what they had read the evening before.

According to Editor in Chief Vinicius Mota, on balance the *Folha*'s coverage was positive, even though there had been gaps, like the low visibility given to the crime on the night of the 14th and lack of highlight given on the printed front page on the 15th.

"We had hot coverage, with the climate in the street and new information being released from the investigation the whole time. The palatial side only got covered on Thursday and it was an important differential for readers because only Folha produced with this level of mooring".

He cited articles published immediately after been concluded: Profiles of Marielle and Anderson, an x-ray analysis of the Military Police Battalion that Marielle criticized in the debate concerning the risk of 'Colombianization'.

Mota was right when he reminded us that on Friday the newspaper managed to provide readers with exclusive up-to-the-moment information.

"It was Folha who ran the scoop regarding the police's identification of the license plate from a vehicle used in the crime. The information that the production lot number for rifle shells used in the murder had also been identified in the Osasco and Barueri massacre in August 2015 was also first reported in *Folha,* he said.

These examples, however, are insufficient leverage for coverage of this magnitude. This incident demands the mobilization of editorial resources that give muscle and personality to the newspaper's focus and approach.

As a professional colleague of mine aptly observed, the impression given is that if something similar had happened with a black American councilwoman, Folha would have provided better and more consistent coverage.

The are many dimensions to Marielle Franco's death: The palatial dimension, the political dimension, the institutional dimension for democracy, the police dimension, the slum-dweller's dimension, the black movement dimension, the LGBT dimension, the woman in politics dimension.

Folha seems to be a long way from many of them. It missed the community dimension, that of the demonstrators, what is conventionally referred to as the voice from the streets. Without this voice, what remains - as always - is the palatial aspect, the boring narrative from political offices in Brasília.

There is no way to predict whether Marielle's murder will be the fuse that sets off something bigger nor whether the spontaneous demonstrations that took place last Thursday and Friday in different parts of the country will have repercussions or consequences in the 2018 elections.

The demonstrations in July of 2013, for example, started with a call for a R$ 0.20 (US$ 0.05 [five cents]) reduction in the bus rate in São Paulo e then transformed themselves into a national revolt with undisputable political effects.

The first lesson to be taken is that the newspaper needs to be connected to what is going on in the streets, on social networks, outside of formal and traditional institutions.

The challenge is immense, the pathways are uncertain, and the editorial and business options and varied and unsure.

The second is that the quality and agility that used to be hallmarks of Folha in the print era need to be urgently re-established in the era of digital journalism.

It is necessary here to correct a serious omission from the last column. In the list of interviews that went down in history, I forgot to mention the one that was conducted by Renata Lo Preto with Roberto Jefferson, a congressman at the time, which was published in Folha on June of 2005.

Paula Cesarino Costa
Is a journalist and has been the newspaper's Ombudsman since April of 2016. She has been with the Folha since 1987.

Translated by LLOYD HARDER

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