“Judy Millerism Kidnapped Madeleine McCann!”

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I love journalism too much to refrain from writing hard words about what they publish over there. And the worst of it is that the overwhelming majority of the “old guard” in all the newsroom agree with me. A few days ago, one of these “content managers” who earn their living laying people off in order to “enable to the company to compete,” came out in one of the “papers of record” against “this thing they call [institutional] memory.” Huffing and puffing, he wrote: “Newspapers have absolutely no need of memory.” With that attitude and style, the man is obviously nothing but a two-legged jackass. But the truth of it is as that it was the senior editors who, through their notorious subservience, gave rise to the origin of this species. –Batista Bastos, Jornal de Negócios (Portugal), February 2007. See “The Adjective Kills”: A Sonnet From the Portuguese.

From the Portal IMPRENSA (UOL, Brazil): Portuguese council publishes recommendations to journalists on the Madeleine case.

The reference is to the case of a missing little girl named Madeleine McCann which is followed with great hysteria here in Brazil, especially by TV Globo.

The article is recommended by Zé Dirceu — the Brazilian blogger, consultant-lobbyist and former reputed “Rasputin of the Planalto,” who has been subjected to a remarkable noise-machine campaign charging that he ordered an assassination on a political ally who knew too much about his dark deeds.

No, not that he killed Vince Foster.

That he ordered the political murder of the mayor of Santo Andre, Celso Daniels.

The Folha de S. Paulo worked especially hard to hammer this grotesque thesis home in its pages.

The former cabinet minister must stand trial to explain his relationship with Belo Horizonte Baldy, with whom he had reportedly had meetings during his time in his office. He will have to explain whether the business done in those meetings was kosher or not. The trial could drag on for another two or three years.

The national union of journalists in Brazil, FENAJ, has recently published new ethics guidelines, which I have been studying up on, and instituted a new professional self-regulation process.

Some excerpts:

A entidade recomenda que os jornalistas não assumam o papel de “proponentes de teses, sem fundamentação justificada, sobre a história do eventual crime”. Ou seja, os jornalistas não devem assumir papéis que cabem a outras entidades.

The body recommends that journalists do not assume the roll of “advocating theories, without adeeqaute foundation, on the history of the potential crime.” That is, journalists should not assue roles property to other bodies.

Também foi orientado que os profissionais lutem contra a falta de fontes oficiais e só divulguem informações tendo a “certeza absoluta” de sua veracidade. “Convém salientar que o uso de fontes anônimas não desresponsabiliza o jornalista; pelo contrário, obriga-o a um redobrado cuidado, pois, em caso de a informação se revelar falsa, será a credibilidade do jornalista e de seu órgão de comunicação social que está em jogo”.

Journalists were also oriented to resist the lack of official sources and only publish information when they have “absolute certainty” of their veracity. “We should underscore that the use of anonymous sources does not release the journalist from responsibility; on the contrary, it obliges the journalist to take extra care, because if the information turns out to be false, it is the credibility of the journalist and his or her news agency that is at risk.”

Os jornalistas portugueses, segundo a recomendação, também devem ter consciência do risco de divulgar informações que manchem a reputação dos envolvidos, mesmo que estes, em uma determinada fase do caso, tenham tido a condição, oficial ou não, de suspeitos ou réus. “A competição entre órgãos de comunicação e jornalistas pela audiência não deve fazer-se à custa de atropelos éticos”, diz o texto.

Portuguese journalists, according to the recommendations, also need to be aware of the risk in publishing information that stains the reputation of the parties to the case, even if at some point they become official or unofficial suspects or defendants. “The competition among journalists and news agencies for ratings and readership should not come at the cost of ethics,” the recommendations said.

Ainda foi recomendado que o jornalista salvaguarde a presunção da inocência dos envolvidos até o caso ser julgado e que se proíba que os envolvidos sejam “humilhados ou perturbados em sua dor”.

It was also recommended that journalists maintain the presumption of innocence until the case is tried, and that they be prohibited from “humiliating” the parties to the case, or “harrassing them in their pain and grief.”

I think especially of TV Globo’s money shot when TAM announced the names of the dead over the intercom at the Porto Alegre airport.

Shock! Grief! Tears! Cut to commercial!


Letter to Diego. Intrusive Globo photo popup interface is apparently designed to prevent you from actually viewing the image. This can be worked around. The house ad that appears there — “Every Sunday, an extra section for free in O Globo — is cross-branded with the tattoo: it uses a font similar to the lettering style on the man’s back. Globo: We market your suffering to boost ad sales. See Rio: “In the Favelas, A New Dictatorship”

“[Os jornalistas e veículos de comunicação] devem fazer uma análise ponderada da forma como a cobertura do caso Maddie tem sido feita para que os eventuais atropelos às regras éticas não sejam repetidos no futuro”, finaliza o Conselho Deontológico.

“Journalists and news agencies ought to look long and hard at their coverage of the Madeleine case in order to avoid repeating any eventual ethical lapses in the future,” the Ethics Council concludes.

The term Judy Millerism, of course, refers to the following little PR gambit involving aluminum tubes and mushroom clouds:

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