How Much Does Journalism Cost?

A lot and it will get more expensive in 2022, when it promises to be violent

A Reporters without Borders (RSF) report, released on Thursday (16), shows that 488 journalists around the world are imprisoned at the moment, a record in the count started in 1995. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 293 professionals are incarcerated. The disparity between the numbers is explained by the criteria used in each case, but the lowest figure is also the highest in the history of the entity, which has monitored the subject for more than four decades.

The committee counts 24 journalists killed this year in the exercise of their profession, against 46 registered by the RSF. Of these, 7 were murdered in Mexico, one of the most dangerous countries for those who embraced the job of informing, according to the data. CPJ's coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, Natalie Southwick, told Folha that the region is worried about repeatedly recording more deaths than arrests of media professionals.

In an interview with this newspaper, published on Tuesday (14), political scientist Fernando Abrucio analyzed Jair Bolsonaro's options until the October elections. Those who did not read the text or did not reach the end may have missed this important passage: "The level of debate in 2022 will be frightening and violent. It will be a dirty campaign, in the style of the Mexican elections at the time of the PRI, with attacks, candidate assassinations and a climate of terror."

In 2018, according to an article published at the time by Folha, 46 pre-candidates and candidates were killed in Mexico. In the 12 months prior to the election, 122 mayors, councilors and former mayors were also killed. In another account of the violence, compiled by BBC Brasil, 351 non-elected public servants were killed, 307 of them from the security forces.

Are we far from it? Maybe, but maybe it's a case of asking someone who works at ANVISA what it's like to feel with one's head on a prize, offered by the President of the Republic, in the coliseum of the social media of Bolsonaro supporters.

Journalists already know the answer. We have been in the crosshairs for three years, literally. The upcoming election year will be the most difficult for generations and will take professional practice to extremes. Abrucio predicts a Bolsonaro at a big disadvantage going for the all or nothing in a second round against Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. "Bolsonaro will crusade for victory," he predicted. I go further and ask what will become of this country if the president, dehydrated in the polls, finds himself out of the second round in the early months of 2022.

Bolsonaro disdains research, while the market prefers to study them. Purse and dollar soured after Datafolha. Not because of Lula's perspective to win in the first round, but because of Bolsonaro's panic, going out burning money and further deteriorating the fiscal scenario.

Financial agents have long recognized the value of voting intention surveys and bankroll much of the 20 or so institutes that have sprung up in recent years. Some of these agents even have financial information websites. Verticalization, apparently, is a good deal. Journalism not always.

The time of clone surveys, in vogue in past elections, seems to have passed, when groups funded surveys that emulated those of traditional institutes, obliged by law to register characteristics such as the counting period and questionnaires in the TSE. The objective was to anticipate for themselves or for clients something close to the result that would be published by the press.

The strategy may be different now, but this hectic research market still lives with the false dilemma of obtaining and disclosing information of public interest after serving private interests. This explains why Datafolha does not conduct a public opinion poll for financial institutions and only offers it to media outlets.

Exemption is not whimsy. It is expensive, but it makes a big difference. As it did last week, when the numbers of the institute and those of IPEC (founded by former professionals from IBOPE) put some water in the boil that was created around Sergio Moro's pre-candidacy, which until then had been put on high heat by media and market sectors. How it will make a difference next year, when misinformation and all sorts of manipulated data will spring up on cell phones' screens with the naturalness of WhatsApp stickers.

It will also be costly, and not just for Folha, to protect journalists from the obvious risk of violence in fieldwork, as well as in the digital spheres. The mess that is the Bolsonaro government blurs the perception of the facts, but the recent hacker attack suffered by the Ministry of Health was very serious. Would any newspaper in the country be prepared for such a blow?

Fair, quality journalism is costly. Election coverage is very expensive. In 2022, even more so. The financial health of the press will be critical.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon