We Don't Love Paraisópolis

The press has cultivated an attitude of indifference to the peripheries and it needs to rebuild the relationship

A military police operation early Sunday morning (1) at an outdoor funk party in the community of Paraisópolis, in São Paulo, resulted in the death of nine young people.

News outlets made the tragedy its top news story. In an attempt to understand the perverse outcome of the party, these outlets also listened to residents and shared video from community members.

Folha published an editorial about the tragedy only on Wednesday (4). Before then, it reported the divergent stories from the police about the deaths and published a profile of the young people in Folha Group's Agora newspaper.

But Folha screwed up in a short article ("Even after the deaths, knocking continued for another 5 hours (LINK)") that addressed the deaths along with the problem of loud sound from slum parties, drinks, drugs, and even the CCP faction.

If the police operation had taken place at a party in a central location, the newsroom would likely have thought better of it before publishing it.

The physical and emotional distance between the prominent newspapers and the peripheries is still vast, which is an obstacle because, in general, it is possible to reflect with more empathy on the problems and places we know.

How many times does the reporter have ideas for stories roaming around Perdizes, in Sao Paulo, or across the tony south zone of Rio?

Let's not forget that the people who live in the outskirts and work in major newspaper newsrooms are in the minority.

I suspect that even among those who live in the most remote neighborhoods there is self-censorship, a prior understanding that certain subjects are not of interest to the reader.

The result is that alternative outlets, more concerned with showing what is happening in communities, have easier access to testimonials and videos.

Have there been advances in coverage? Of course, there has been.

Television programs that promote degrading images of the poor survive, but the approach to this reality has improved, especially in print journalism.

A few years ago, when violence happened on the outskirts of the city, newspapers described only the name and age of the victims. Reporters ignored other details. Why offer them if the situations were recurring?

Social media has changed this game a little. It shows that what happens in the "favelópolis" Brazil and compels the traditional press to pursue the facts.
A search of the Folha website shows that ten years ago, between December 2008 and 2009, the Guaianases neighborhood, in the far east of São Paulo, appeared in about 70 articles published on Folha's platforms and, above all, in Agora.

The stories featured flooding, problems with public transportation, and crime. During the period, there were only two positive stories about the region, including a profile of an artist born there.

Over the last 12 months, the number of mentions of the region has been roughly the same. The number of positive subjects, however, rose to 15.

Among them is the dissemination of courses, shows, and restaurants in the region, most of them produced by Agência Mural - partner of the newspaper whose focus is the coverage of the outskirts of Greater São Paulo.

It is worth noting that, in the same period, the Pinheiros neighborhood is cited more than a thousand times in all types of articles.

Absent from the peripheries, the press reinforces a kind of line between us, the civilization, and them, the barbarians.

In building these barriers, it leaves no place for diversity. How many articles have tried to connect funk parties to unwanted pregnancies?

Some parts of the press, the political class and society flirt with the depiction of funk as the soundtrack of crime, underpinned by stigmatized representations of poor and black youth living in slums. Samba and rap have already occupied this place.

Much of the news coverage spread the idea that the "problem" of the slums can be solved by the police, whose repressive presence responds to the wishes of the population.

Few question the institutional culture of the police, which is guided by principles that legitimize violence. A police officer is blamed, but there is no question of how this violence came to be accepted.

The press has cultivated and reflected this atavistic callousness of the wealthier classes concerning the peripheral population. Its simplified reporting suggested that there is nothing to worry about here.

It is necessary to reconstruct this relationship and show the peripheries all its complexity: the peripheries are not only the territory of insecurity and lack of public policies but also a place of work, political clash, and leisure.

Flavia lima
A reporter specializing in economics, she holds a degree in social science from USP and a law degree from Mackenzie. She has been the ombudsman for Folha since May 2019.


Translated by Kiratiana Freelon