Independence or Revolt! Jacobin Journos Go Hunting Heads!

Anglo-Normans find a common gestural language in this rough equivalent to the Italo-Brazilian figa. See Sarkozy: “Not Getting the Internet” in The Language of Molière.

Press releases are not news; they can form the point of departure for a news report, but nly so long as they are substantially followed up on. They can never be published without a substantial effort to research, corroborate and complement the information they contain. –Editorial manual of Último Segundo (Brazil)

Glittering generalities are emotionally appealing words so closely associated with highly valued concepts and beliefs that they carry conviction without supporting information or reason. Such highly valued concepts attract general approval and acclaim. The appeal is to emotions such as love of country, home; desire for peace, freedom, glory, honor, etc. They ask for approval without examination of the reason. They are typically used by politicians and propagandists. The term may have originated with the Institute for Propaganda Analysis.

The Brazilian journalist does not feel free to write. More than just having to follow the editorial line of the publications they work for, the complaints principally have to do with coercion by political and business groups.“A Profile of the Brazilian Journalist.”

File under “plagiarisms of the press release that actually contain less information than the press release itself does.”

Writing for the Observatório da Imprensa (Brazil), “journalist and translator” Leneide Duarte-Plon describes a campaign by six French journalists’ unions against “the press barons.”

And alleged attempts by the Sarkozy government to pressure and control the free press.

Describes it in the vaguest possible terms.

See also her earlier article, “Sarkozy is the candidate of the press barons.”

And compare

… seis sindicatos de jornalistas convocaram a imprensa na segunda-feira (24/9), em Paris, para dar início a um movimento de resistência contra o controle da mídia pelo capital e pelo poder político. Este, na avaliação dos jornalistas, exerce pressões pela proximidade entre o novo presidente da República, Nicolas Sarkozy, e os barões da imprensa. Os exemplos de matérias censuradas são numerosos.

Six journalists’ unions held a press conference on September 24 to inaugurate a movement in resistance to the control of the media by capital and political power. These forces, the journalists say, having been putting pressure on journalists due to the close relations between the new President, Sarkozy, and the barons of the press. The examples of censorship are numerous.

Name one.

Ms. Duarte-Plon does not provide a single example.

Or identify the six unions by name.

How many journalists’ unions are there in France?

How many adhered?

How many did not?

Only one spokesman for this movement is quoted, briefly — saying something noble-sounding and utterly tautological — and identified by name.

Demands for new legislation are mentioned, but there is no explanation of the  specific provisions being lobbied for; the issue is glossed over with vague references to principles that very few people oppose: liberté, egalité, fraternité.

Quoi ! Des cohortes étrangères
Feraient la loi dans nos foyers !
Quoi ! Des phalanges mercenaires
Terrasseraient nos fiers guerriers !

The evocation of emotionally charged principles, evoked without reference to concrete facts: a textbook case of “journalism” based on glittering generalities.

When journalists utterly and systematically fail to provide me with the most minimal answers to the Five Ws, I tend to suspect they are trying to pull the wool over my eyes.

I mean, after all, the French NGO Reporters Sans Frontieres was guilty of one of the most astonishing pieces of journalistic malpractice we have seen all year.


And Sarkozy himself was allegedly the victim of an astonishing media-driven ratfink — the Clearstream Scandal II — by a “spies and mafias” cabal in his own political party. See

I do know of one instance myself, by the way, of concerns over editorial independence: the sale of Les Echos, a case similar to that of the Wall Street Journal acquisition by Murdoch in some interesting ways. See

Furthermore, the campaign by the Grupo Abril here in Brazil against changes in public policy that would affect its business model (death to competition, basically) has used many of the same glittering generalities.

See, for example, this commentary by Observatório regular Luiz Weis:

And the Lula government has engaged in quite a bit of rapprochement with the Sarkozy government on the diplomatic front, too.

To recapitulate: If you want me to get excited about horrifying facts — repression of my brother and sister journalists around the world! — you have to give me those facts first.

Failure to do so is not conclusive evidence that you are trying to bullshit me, but it sets off warning bells that say, “Boil this content thoroughly before consuming.”

I translate the translator who translates nothing:

A tendência do novo governo francês é confundir informação e comunicação. Para tentar dirigir o noticiário da imprensa, por exemplo, foi montada uma assessoria de comunicação da qual fazem parte jornalistas conhecidos, egressos de grandes jornais e revistas. Alguns jornais noticiam com freqüência as pressões exercidas sobre jornalistas – “dignas de uma república de banana”, como assinala o texto dos seis sindicatos de jornalistas. As entidades convocam um debate para o dia 4 de outubro, cuja pauta é a discussão da luta pela manutenção da independência e por novas garantias legais para o exercício da profissão, como a independência jurídica das redações.

The tendency of the new French government is to confuse information with communications. To try to control the news agenda of the French press, a press relations office was set up, and prominent journalists from big newspapers and magazines were hired to work there.

Hiring prominent journalists to do your press relations: Unheard of! Unspeakable!

Just a couple of months ago I gave a glowing recommendation to a former employee of mine who was thinking about taking a PR job.

The prospective employer thought she would make a good press liaison because of her practical knowledge of what journalists need and want from flacks.

We call this “going over to the dark side.” Bill Moyers famously did it for Lyndon Johnson. Tony Snow of Fox News did it.

It it done all the time.

Why, I myself have flacked as well as hacked.

And it can be done quite ethicially, too — provided you remember which hat you are wearing at the moment, conduct yourself accordingly, and do not try to wear two hats at the same time.

Some newspapers report often on pressures brought to bear on journalists …

Name one.

… — pressures “worthy of a banana republic,” as the manifesto of the six unions says.

“Se a informação é um direito de todo cidadão, ele começa pelo respeito ao direito de informar”, ressaltou o jornalista David Larbre durante a coletiva a que compareceram jornalistas franceses e correspondentes estrangeiros.

“If information is a right of every citizen, it begins with respect for the right to inform,” said David Larbre during a press conference at which French journalists and foreign correspondents appeared.

A noble sentiment, albeit a tautology.

Who is David Larbre?

Who does he work for?

What foreign correspondents?

What were their names?

Who do they work for?

Os exemplos de interferência e pressões sobre as redações se multiplicam desde que Nicolas Sarkozy assumiu a presidência da República, em maio deste ano. Um dos textos distribuídos à imprensa é um discurso do então candidato em que ele se comprometia a defender a independência e a liberdade de informação com proposições concretas. Agora, os jornalistas cobram as leis para garantir essa independência.

Examples of interference and pressure on newsrooms have multiplied since Sarkozy assumed the presidency in May of this year.

Cite five.

Cite two.

Hell, just pick one and work it up into a cause célèbre.

Just please state one, solitary actual fact for me to hang my indignation on.

One of the texts distributed to the press was a speech by then-candidate Sarkozy in which he promised to defend the independence and freedom of the press with concrete proposals.

What were those proposals, concretely?

Now, journalists are demanding new laws to guarantee this independence.

What do they want written into those laws?

Além disso, eles querem mais proteção legal das fontes, alinhando o direito francês ao direito europeu. Outra grande preocupação da profissão é proteger o pluralismo da informação, com a existência de uma imprensa que represente todas as correntes políticas, e garantir que as leis que protegem o trabalho dos jornalistas não vão ser mudadas, como desejam os patrões da imprensa.

Moreover, they want more legal protections for sources, aligning French law with European law. Another big concern of the profession is to protect diversity of information, with the existence of a press that represents all political currents, and guarantees that the laws regulating the work of journalists will not be changed, as the media owners want.

What laws?

What changes are sought?

Who seeks them?

Os sindicatos de jornalistas lembram que somente o reconhecimento jurídico da equipe da redação pode garantir uma informação isenta e livre num Estado de direito digno desse nome.

The journalists’ unions recalled that only [granting legal status] to editorial teams can guarantee impartial and free information in a nation with a democratic rule of law worthy of that name.

Granting what legal status? Specifically?

Para que o movimento dos jornalistas em defesa da liberdade de informar não pareça uma batalha corporativista, os jornalistas programam ações para despertar os cidadãos para a ameaça que pesa sobre a informação na França.

So that the movement of journalists in defense of the freedom to inform will not seem to be merely a self-interested strategy, the journalists are planning actions to awaken citizens to the threat that weighs on information in France.

What threat is that?

Para um povo que derrubou a Bastilha e cortou a cabeça do rei (e da rainha), uma boa batalha nas ruas contra o poder constituído não assusta nem surpreende ninguém.

For a people who overthrew the Bastille and beheaded their king (and queen), a good war in the streets against the established power would not startle or surprise anyone.

This is, of course, pure, gabbling nonsense on the face of it.

It may well be, of course, that groups of French journalists have legitimate gripes about “frequent” and “numerous” cases of censorship or systematic pressure on their reporting.

They may well have legitimate concerns about pending changes to the labor laws, which may or may not have a chance of prospering in the French legislature.

But the Paris bureau of the OI does not actually inform me about a single one of them.

Does not even link to, much less translate, the actual statements of the persons advocating this position.

Not to mention hearing from the other side of the issue.

So that if I want actual facts about this issue, in order to decide how I feel about it, I have to go and look them up myself.

Fortunately, my French reading comprehension is still pretty good.

Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I hate to say it, but I find myself less and less interested in whtat the Observatório da Imprensa — long a very fine forum for debating the press and Brazilian society — has to say.


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