Veja magazine, March 2002: “The Dossier Wars: Politicians and spies have set up a slander industry in Brazil.” Right: And Veja is that industry’s Yoyodyne. Ask Veja about the work that Jairo Martins later did for it (and testified to a congressional committee about).
Brazilian journalist Luis Nassif has mounted an incredible army of Internet Brancaleones to severely criticize the neo-Lacerdist style of journalism practiced at Veja magazine (Grupo Abril) — what Mr. Nassif has described, with good reason, as an attempt to import the “neocon style” into Brazilian journalism.
I personally think the neocons got their style from the kind of banana-republican fascists in whose footsteps Veja follows, but that is a subtle historical debate for another time.
One of the hallmarks of that journalism is the use of anonymous sourcing as the rule, rather than the very carefully pondered exception.
Anyone who has ever read a manual of good journalistic practice knows that you can save yourself the embarrassment of running gabbling, unsubstantiated rumors and vouching for nonsense (the “Jayson Blair-Judy Miller syndrome”) by observing a couple of simple rules of thumb: (1) think twice about granting anonymity to sources, explain why you granted it, and give as much information about the source as possible; and (2) in any event, always corroborate what your Deep Throat is telling you six ways from Sunday before running it, or else make it very explicit that the information you are presenting has not been corroborated.
Unless, of course, running unsubstantiated rumor does not embarrass you.
The case that always comes to mind — I have been doing a fair amount of reading up on the history of this sort of thing here in Brazil — is that of an accusatory scandal story about a politician whom Veja reported had US$1 million in a (bribe-stuffed, allegedly) bank account.
At the last minute, those snotty little know-it-alls in the fact-checking department discovered that the account actually only contained R$1,000.
So Veja, which already had the scandalous cover printed up, started calling around to try to get a source to “confirm” the US$1 million figure.
It found one in a bitter political adversary of the target. So it ran with the US$1 million figure, even though it had information to the contrary. And did not identify the source of the US$1 million figure, to boot.
It later apologized — sort of — for getting the story wrong. See
It also later abolished its fact-checking department.
In a related story, I wish very much not to owe any taxes this year. So I shop around for an accountant who will sign off on the proposition that my taxable income last year was, not $1 gazillion (would that it were), but $0.
So who was Veja‘s source on the rumor that a government minister “rigged up a blackmail dossier” against former President Cardoso?
A member of the Brancaleones writes in to say we now know. It is not quite crystal-clear to me that we do, but it does seem that Veja has some explaining to do.
A fonte da Veja
De Flávio Cantu
By Flávio Cantu
Me desculpe o “off-topic”, mas o Senador Alvaro Dias confirmou que foi a fonte da Revista Veja.
Pardon my “off-topic” posting, but Senator Dias has confirmed being the source of that report in Veja magazine.
Sort of. Current reports are that he has denied publicly that he passed along the documents facsimiles of which were printed in the magazine, but admits that he himself was passed copies from a source he says he cannot reveal.
Um amigo de uma emissora de TV me disse no domingo que o serviço de inteligência do Governo sabia quem estava com cópias dos três falsos dossiês e que sua emissora estava no encalço destas pessoas.
A friend of mine at a TV channel told me Sunday that the government’s intelligence service knew who had copies of three phony dossiers, and that his news organization was on the trail of these persons.
Mas me parece que o “furo” do Noblat também furou a emissora que estava pronta para dar a notícia do vazamento do “dossiê” pelo Senador do PSDB.
But it seems that Noblat’s “scoop” also scooped this TV channel, which was ready to put the story on the air about the leaking of the “dossier” by the PSDB senator.
Foi uma maneira de manter aquela máxima do jornalismo:
It was a way of observing that maxim of journalism:
“Vamos dar primeiro a notícia para não sermos furados pela concorrência”
“Let us run the story first so as not to be scooped by the competition.”
Do Terra Magazine
From Terra Magazine:
O senhor admitiu que viu as informações antes de elas serem tornadas públicas. Em que circunstâncias isso aconteceu?
You have admitted that you saw this information before it was made public. In what circumstances did this occur?
Álvaro Dias – Olha, o jornalismo investigativo tem prestado um grande serviço ao País, seria muito pior a degradação das instituições, não fosse a competência e a ousadia do nosso jornalismo de investigação. E isso se dá em razão de fontes. O jornalistas se utiliza de muitas fontes. Uma revista do porte da Veja, que só no escândalo do mensalão divulgou, se não me falha a memória, matérias de capa 17 vezes, não contou com apenas uma fonte. Certamente valeu-se de muitas fontes de informação. Eu tenho sido ouvido por muitos jornalistas, do Terra, de outros sites, de jornais, emissoras de TV e certamente outros parlamentares da mesma forma. Esse é o caminho para se produzir a informação.
Álvaro Dias: Look here, investigative journalism has done this country a great service, the degradation of its would be much worse if it were not for the competence and daring of our investigative journalists.
He is changing the subject while filibustering, note.
And this is because of sources. Journalists use many sources. A magazine of Veja‘s stature, which on the “big monthly allowance” affair ran, if memory serves, 17 cover stories, does not use just one source.