It's Not Easy to Kill a Queen

Folha commits a blunder by improperly publishing Elizabeth II's obituary

It was on Twitter and everywhere else. In a disastrous publication on Monday morning, Folha killed Queen Elizabeth II, "at the age of 20" (11). Her resuscitation took an absurd 25 minutes, which in internet time is eternity multiplied, like dog years. The newspaper pointed to a technical error in its apology. It also explained that it is the practice of journalism to have obituaries ready. It was badly beaten up.

Suppose the reader and the reader find the verb "to kill" inappropriate. In that case, the ombudsman commits the indiscretion to reveal that this is how newsrooms inappropriately describe the act of announcing the death of someone famous. Not out of sadism or faulty act, just to be direct and configure responsibility: it takes a lot of security to say that someone has died.

It is not the first time that Folha has killed someone prematurely. A rumored case was that of Romeu Tuma, the head of the Federal Police during the military dictatorship, later deputy and senator with a speech of order. The mistaken announcement, in 2010, resulted in firings and many beatings in this diary, even though the social networks of the time were living in another geological era.

Before the queen, it was the king. None other than Pelé has been taken from this earth for the better a few times, by CNN, O Globo, and other vehicles. In February, in the most recent wave, he took to Instagram to make fun of him: "People are saying that I'm not well. Don't you think I'm handsome?," asked the ace in a boxer pose.

Some mistakes go unnoticed. The ones from Folha, hardly. Competitors report the slip, detractors on the left and right scoff, Gregorio Duvivier jokes ("How cute that Folha didn't want to reveal how old the queen died"). The Guardian is not funny, but remembers some that circulated, such as "God save the Folha". The British newspaper also contextualizes the situation in the country, noting that most of the criticism came from supporters of Jair Bolsonaro, who "frequently attacks Folha, just as his political icon, Donald Trump, attacks CNN."

Arguing that there was a technical error seems elusive, and remembering that obituaries are done in advance is the bare minimum. Folha has around 200 articles of this type ready or forwarded. Some people, due to their importance, have editions prepared. Longevity, Oscar Niemeyer forced the newsroom to re-edit his texts several times and the graphic presentation for more than a decade. Michael Jackson, at the other extreme, took the world by surprise. In 2021, Folha published the obituary of Carlos Menem written by Clóvis Rossi, who had died two years earlier. Correspondent Sylvia Colombo updated the original.

Anything goes. It's just not worth killing first. There you see me. Good journalism is done in advance, planning, and, of course, without mistakes. Presenting material worthy of the magnitude of a public figure, locating and discussing his legacy, is the basic role of the press, the so-called historical record.

However, the hours of rumination that the print sometimes allowed, depending on the arrival time of the bad news, no longer exist. On the website, it's just a press of a button, making the idea of news made on an assembly line increasingly seductive, efficient in the race for the audience until the subsequent failure, technical or otherwise. But journalism is not a factory.

Long live the queen. And to the king.


On Monday night (11), an off-duty PM reacted to the robber carrying a toy gun. One of the three shots that the policeman fired killed a student who was passing by the place, in downtown São Paulo. The news only appeared in Folha the following morning, in the form of a photograph. The image, a mourning sign on the door of the girl's father's cafeteria, made up a gallery, "see photos from today," alongside floods in the Philippines and a sandstorm in Baghdad.

"I am not impressed with the criterion of what is news for Folha," complained a reader.

In internal criticism, I took the complaint to the newsroom. It was too little for something too strong. On Tuesday night (12), the news finally reached the website. The undignified obituary of Ingrid Reis Santos, 21, came late.

If it were a subject outside Folha, it would even be understandable, but the fear of violence in São Paulo, PM and the mental health of agents were the newspaper's agenda for the week.

Folha abdicated the news.

On the same Tuesday night, Palmeiras scored 8-1 at Independiente Petrolero de Bolivia, for Libertadores. Those who only read Folha have now learned about the score, described only as a rout in a photo caption. At where? In the same eclectic gallery of images.

Folha abdicated the reader.


The ombudsman will take two weeks off. Reader support continues. The column returns on the 8th of May.

José Henrique Mariante
Trained as an engineer and journalist, Mariante has been a reporter, correspondent, editor and editorial secretary at Folha, where he has worked since 1991. He is the ombudsman.

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon