[A propósito de las diversas formas que toma la discusión sobre la economía en la esfera pública, aquí presento una breve introducción sobre el rol del periodismo en la discusión económica en Brasil, parte de la investigación que realizo en el contexto del proyecto ECONPUBLIC. La nota es en inglés, pero comentarios en español y portugués son muy bienvenidos]
Journalism has been a topic of intensive research in Brazil over the last decades. A diverse group of scholars – including journalists, historians and sociologists – have focused their investigations on the relationships between the media, political power and economic affairs. Broadly speaking, three lines of investigation are identifiable.
First, scholars have studied the role of the media in shaping the country’s key political-economic events since the 1980s. In particular, the active role played by the press in the transition to democracy, the ‘service role’ played by journalists in explaining Brazil’s inflation crises and the consecutive monetary plans implemented to cope with them, as well as in shaping public perception of main political controversies such as President Collor’s impeachment, have all been foci of concern. Conti, 1991; Nassif, 2003; Lene, 2009; Matos, 2008 are some examples.
Second, in line with Bourdieu’s approach, scholars have examined recent transformations of the journalistic field as well as leading journalists who have helped shape this occupation in Brazil. The professionalization of journalists, their intellectual formation and political commitments, as well as their habitus and social practices, have all been topics of investigation. The oral history work of Alzira Alves de Abreu and scholars at CPDOC / FGV is prominent in this regard – e.g. Alves de Abreu et al., 1996; Alves de Abreu, Lattman-Weltman & Rocha, 2003; Alves de Abreu, 2005. Other interesting contributions are Pereira, 2011; Caldas, 2003; Pedroso, 2012, among many others.
A third line of study tends to criticize the role played by economic journalism in facilitating the expansion of financial capitalism and the rule of markets in Brazil. Kucisnki, 1996; Fonseca, 2003, Dantas, 2012 and Puliti, 2013 represent some good examples. In this vein, it is argued that the ‘grande imprensa’ has played a key political/ideological role in promoting a liberalising agenda, which in turn has significantly altered the Brazilian public sphere. The rising role of financial market agents and consultants as main sources of information would transform the way in which the economy is discussed.
In spite of the wealth of perspectives offered by studies following these three lines, to date there have been relatively few ethnographic studies exploring newsrooms as sites of knowledge production in Brazil. Thiago de Mello (2009) and Silva (2007) stand out for their contributions in this regard. While Silva explores newsroom coverage of public safety and security, Mello looks at ritual interactions, social arrangements and devices in everyday newsroom practices. The present research seeks to expand on these studies, aiming in particular to explore the production of economic news.
Acknowledging the recent history of economic reporting in Brazil is a good starting point. Some clear steps are the political role played by economic journalism during the dictatorship – e.g. disputing the notion of economic miracle claimed by the military, its key role in mediating public awareness of the inflation crises in the 1980s, and the power it gained to scrutinize political authority in the 1990s. As Nassif (2003: 13) puts it, “at the end of the 1960s, the press discovered economic journalism; at the beginning of the 1970s, business journalism; at the end of the 1970s, critical journalism; in the 1980s, a journalism of service and in the 1990s, a journalism of denunciation”.
Journalism across the world faces new and distinctive challenges. Brazil is not an exception in this regard. The worldwide crisis facing the print press, the convergence of digital media formats and the democratization of reporting – i.e. the massification of street broadcasting and blogs – have all put pressure on the traditional work of journalists. Digital technology has increased access to information and quickened the pace of reporting as real time events unfold, and this, in turn, has multiplied the workload of journalists. There is increasing need to feed online news coverage, report from different media platforms, and produce a 24 hours news-cycle. These new demands are in tension with traditional journalistic practices and values. Independent, carefully researched reporting requires time for verifying sources, for editing, and for producing polished prose. This research aims, in part, to understand how contemporary journalistic practices in Brazil are adapting to this new working environment, and how these adaptations are effecting the discussion of the economy in the public sphere.