A Look at the national media

Nobel Prize criticizes Global Study for a bias that, in Brazil, goes unnoticed

"Perhaps a foreign gaze will help to protect us from ourselves", wrote Reinaldo Azevedo about the "centrist extremists", who "sometimes cultivate a resentful idealism". He was commenting on the S&P's "positive" for Brazil's long-term outlook. The risk assessment agency is the sign of the moment. In the economic and international relations news, the external perception seems to be very different from the one hammered by the national media in these first six months of Lula 3.

It is interesting to notice that the analysis coming from abroad about the media itself does not seem to bother. Our virality is somewhat selective.

Last week, a new issue of the Reuters Institute's Digital Media Report, an annual and gigantic survey on the sector, with over 93,000 news content consumers heard around the planet, showed that the number decreased from 54% to 41% of Brazilians who avoid "depressing" information. Among global trends, TikTok's growth, Facebook's decline, and renewed challenges for an industry struggling to adapt to the fragmented absorption of news by adult digital natives.

The main fact of this issue, however, did not leave the pages of the report. Maria Ressa, 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner and one of the great voices of world activist journalism, a long-time critic of large technology companies, said that the study uses a flawed methodology and puts the independent press at risk, notably in the global south.

She also revealed that last year, she gave up a seat on the board of the Reuters Institute, linked to Oxford University, responsible for the study, awaiting changes in the work. As they did not come, she decided to go public.

Rappler, Ressa's website in the Philippines, the reason for her laurel and also for several arrest warrants, appears as the least reliable among those analyzed by the research in her country. Such a portrait, according to the journalist, is influenced by the disinformation campaigns of local governments, which even use the result as an argument against it. The methodology does not take this into account, nor does the bias that results from the almost absolute control of social networks in news distribution. The report, by the way, is partially funded by Google.

Those in charge of the institute partially recognize the limitations and regret that the results have been used to harm the activist and her project.

"We are not alone. This 'study' is like handing a loaded gun to autocratic governments trying to silence independent journalists not just in the Philippines, but in countries like Brazil and India, where information operations and lawfare are used to harass, threaten and demobilize ", said Ressa to the British newspaper The Guardian.

The mention of Brazil, obviously, is linked to the memory of the Jair Bolsonaro years, even though journalism, in much of this country, remains a high-risk activity. Anyway, it is interesting to see what the "confidence" chart contested by Ressa shows regarding the Brazilian scenario.

SBT, Band, Record, and local news programs would be the brands with the most mentions as"reliable"; Globo, O Globo, Folha, Veja, and O Estado de S.Paulo would be the ones with the most mentions of "unreliable". With due reverence from the colleagues involved, it is necessary to make an effort not to remember Ressa's warnings.

All this, however, does not seem to be a problem around here. Of the public manifestations regarding the study, most were of positive aspects, such as that of the staff of the podcast O Assunto, from the Globo Group, mentioned in the report as the most popular in the country. Despite the omission of its rival Café da Manhã, a partnership between Folha and Spotify, which does not publish audience numbers.

If particular numbers are a minor bother, the general curve of confidence in the news should draw the attention of the country's vehicles. From 62% in 2015, we reached 43% in 2023, the lowest level in the analyzed period. The first big drop, to 48%, took place in 2019, the beginning of Bolsonarism in power and its attacks against the media. After some backlash in the pandemic years, when information was a matter of life and death, the 2022 election year dropped confidence back to 48% and to 43% now. If it's any consolation, we're reaching the level of developed countries.

"Criticism of journalism is high in Brazil, with nearly two-thirds of respondents frequently hearing or seeing people targeting the press, in line with a scenario of declining confidence and high polarization", comments the study.

Perhaps it's futile to ask the national media to share Ressa's discomfort. It would be prudent, however, not to credit the latent crisis of confidence solely to the foreign gaze.

The addiction that the journalist points out and the falling credibility are symptoms of the same disease.

Jose Henrique Mariante
An engineer and journalist, he was a reporter, correspondent, editor, and secretary at Folha, where he has worked since 1991. He is the ombudsman

Translated by Cassy Dias