There Is No Autopilot

Accident with ex-BBB contestant shows how easy it is for the media to miss the focus of the news

"BBB 22: Slovenia and Rodrigo shower together and sister's mother vibrates." Yes, Folha published a title like that in January. The photo is innocent enough, the two of them in the shower more concerned with showing the shampoo that sponsors the program. According to the newspaper's index, in a short time, Rodrigo went from hero to villain in the game. He ended up eliminated from reality in February. It became real news at the end of March. While riding in an app car, he was projected from the backseat after the car crashed into the back of a truck. He was not wearing a seat belt. The driver didn't make excuses, he simply said he dozed off at the wheel.

For most readers, the previous paragraph brings little news. Since the accident, the former BBB, now called Rodrigo Mussi, because his name became a search anchor in the race for audience, is mandatory news on almost all websites and TV news. He's still in the ICU, he's making progress, he moves his arms and legs, he was sad, he's agitated, he squeezed his brother's finger, opens his eyes, opens his eyes again, shakes hands with the family. Only in Folha, more than 20 headlines of the tragedy were posted by Friday (8).

I ask, however, that the reader and the reader go back to the first paragraph, put the tragedy aside and seek the news. Journalism is often the exercise of having a bunch of stuff in front of you and realizing there's more behind it.

Folha took almost a week to publish an article outside the drama: "Using a seat belt in the back seat reduces the risk of death by up to 43%. A Google search shows the newspaper even ranked high on the subject, which many competitors ignored. A report by 99, about allowing drivers to cancel trips for those who refuse to use the device, had notable support from newsrooms.

There is an even bigger story in the accident, picked up by Juliano Spyer, an anthropologist who has been writing on the Folha website since February. "The sleep of app drivers," the title of his column, just doesn't say more than the subtitle: "Who has bills coming in and children to feed or has insomnia in bed, or sleeps on the wheel from exhaustion."

Spyer departs the episode for a social perspective; App drivers' accounts have not been closed for a long time, and working hours are increasingly longer so that they can earn some income. The tragedy of Kaique Reis, Rodrigo Mussi's driver was not noticed by most of the media, but it is there, in the streets, invisible, alongside countless others.

As they say in the BBB, Brazil is watching, but only what it wants, on the cell phone screen, pretending that the pilot is automatic. Is not. Neither can journalism be.


Still on apps, one of the great stories of the week was published by Agência Pública on Monday (4). Advertising agencies at the service of iFood have created fake profiles on social networks and infiltrated an agent in a demonstration to demobilize the delivery movement.

The company denies this.

"The model was B-side propaganda. Like what Bolsonaro does with the hate office, but that agencies have been doing for a long time," says a source in the article. "Every big campaign has a B-side team that basically makes content about an enemy. Always without signing." The production described was sophisticated, with everything designed to look like content made by the couriers themselves, complete with jokes and memes.

News reports from Folha about the actions appear in excerpts of the report. In one of the quotes, the newspaper, along with other vehicles, puts in the title precisely what would have been inseminated by the agencies in one of the demonstrations.

The case ended up in the Applications CPI, underway in the São Paulo Chamber, reported Folha on Thursday (7).

iFood made institutional advertising in the newspaper in recent months. Serial ads about social responsibility were contested by the workers' association. A reader referred the matter to the ombudsman, asking the newspaper to act. The complaint was forwarded to the company.

Newspaper advertising is always identified. The advertiser and outlet put their faces to fight, and not infrequently get beaten up, as in the case of the ads defending the Covid kit, a stain that will haunt Folha whenever there is talk of a pandemic.

It is very different from what flashes on a cell phone, with no signature or apparent reason. Being on the A side, however, does not exempt the newspaper from responsibilities.


The New York Times asked its journalists to step away from Twitter. Among the reasons, time and mental health. It is the opposite of what it preached in 2014, when it started his digital revolution and asked everyone to throw themselves into the networks. If fashion catches on here, there will be a lot of people who don't know what to do to find out about a news story.

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