More Brazilian Journalism Research In Which Brazilian Journalism Is Not Actually Discussed

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What to do about Brazilian journalism? Diagnosis: The ratio of academic journalism researchers to journalistic practicioners is higher than the cholesterol of a circus fat lady. Less theory, more
praxis. This is not, after all, rocket science.

BRAZILIAN JOURNALISM RESEARCH comes out with its Christmas edition and announces it has obtained an ISSN so as to be able to circulate and be catalogued worldwide.

Congratulations.

I have suggested the journal could use a good English-language translation editor — “Three Domensions [sic] of the Author-function in Journalism Practices” — and make a serious effort to firm up its editorial standards on the disclosure of institutional conflicts of interests. On which see

But I am also very supportive of any and all steps to combat the planeta Brasil effect.

The planeta Brasil effect is a certain insularity of worldview, comparable to that famous Saul Steinberg cover for The New Yorker. You know the one: a mappamundi that twits the Manhattan-centric Weltanschauung according to which the world beyond 11th Avenue is a nebulous realm of “here be monsters”; cf. Sônia Virgínia Moreira, “Images of The World in Brazil: International News in Two Daily Newspapers in 2006.”

I also support any and all efforts to prove the point that you can think and write extremely well in New World Portuguese.

Many New World Lusophones do.

Getting those thoughts and writings published and out to readers is another story, unfortunately. Which is just terrible. Generally speaking, you simply cannot make an independent living from thinking and writing in Brazil. There are rock stars, there are greenhorn, tabula rasa content management interns from the Masters [sic] em Jornalismo program, and then are there are the vast armies of unemployed starving nobodies. There is no criticial mass of technically competent midcareer journeymen with job security a realistic hope of advancing into management on their own merits, with a mandate to implement their own independent ideas.

It is a system that notably tends to promote gabbling bajuladores to the level of their incompetence, and well beyond.

See also

I would like to see that change. If I am going to live in this country, I am going to need a lot more decent reading material to keep me from getting bored.

The planeta Brasil effect often assumes comic dimensions. See

Mauro P. Porto of Tulane University reviews a new book offering an empirical (only not so much so) typology of relationships between the press and political and economic establishments:

Three Models of Media and Politics
Daniel Hallin and Paolo Mancini
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004, 342 p

The book follows in the footsteps of

Four Theories of the Press: The Authoritarian, Libertarian, Social Responsibility and Soviet Communist Concepts of What the Press Should Be and Do (1956)

Four dimensions, three models:

While developing a sophisticated analysis of patterns of media and politics interaction in 18 countries of Western Europe and North America, Hallin and Mancini identify three basic models of political communication. To distinguish these models, the authors use four main dimensions, according to which media systems can be compared. First, the development of media markets, with a special focus on the development of a mass circulation press. Second, political parallelism, or the links between the media and major divisions in society, including political parties. Third, the development of journalistic professionalization. And finally, the degree and nature of state intervention in the media system.

Interesting. How, specifically, do they measure and analyze “the nature and degree of state intervention”? What is their model for that dimension? I would really be interested to know that.

Four dimensions, three models:

Based on these four dimensions, the authors identify three basic models of the relationship between media and political systems. The “Polarized Pluralist Model,” found in the Mediterranean area of Southern Europe (France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain), is characterized by low levels of newspaper circulation and journalistic professionalization, as well as by high levels of political parallelism and state intervention. The “Democratic Corporatist Model” of Central and Northern Europe (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland) is characterized by high levels of the four dimensions (newspaper circulation, parallelism, professionalization, and state intervention). Finally, Hallin and Mancini identify the “Liberal Model” of the North Atlantic region (Britain, Canada, Ireland, and United States), which presents medium levels of newspaper circulation, strong professionalization, and low levels of parallelism (with the exception of Britain) and state intervention.

Literacy rates and educational levels, as a function of economic development, might have provided for a meaningful fifth dimension.

Fox News does not count as a not so cryptic form of “the Party is the State” intervention?

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The style is that of panegyric: In praise of a great project that progresses from victory to victory, without retreat, without error. Changes in management, for example, are invariably narrated as bringing continuity and improvement, never as changes of course. All of the tensions inherent in that process are eliminated. The result reminds one of the official history one reads in textbooks, designed more to inspire civic feeling than to provide historical understanding, and preaching the illusion of a nation without conflicts. –Luis Felipe Miguel on Jornal Nacional: A notícia faz historia

Pros:

Contrary to much of the previous comparative research, though, the authors are careful enough to avoid simplistic frameworks and normative biases. For example, they stress that the three models are “ideal types” which are aimed at identifying patterns and not homogeneous realities. They also stress that there is variation within each model and that media systems are not static. For example, one of the chapters discusses recent changes which indicate a process of global convergence toward the Liberal Model.

Yes, I know what an “ideal type” is. They made me read Weber in college.

On “a global convergence toward” a given business model for journalism, see also

Good news, everyone! The “evangelists” of “global digital convergence” tell us that “digital convergence” is an “inexorable global trend.” Don’t get left behind!

They also tell us (in a footnote) that 96% of Latin American newsrooms have as yet taken no concrete steps toward implementing “digital convergence.” Many, however — no hard numbers are provided — have plans to explore doing so “in the near, middle, or long term.”

Go figure.

Cons:

The authors could have provided more consistent empirical evidence to support some of their claims. For example, the book presents data from surveys conducted with newspaper readers in Polarized Pluralist and Democratic Corporatist models to prove that they are characterized by high levels of political parallelism. Thus, we learn that in Italy supporters of Berlusconi’s political party (Forza Italia) tend to read a Berlusconi-owned newspaper (Il Giornale), while supporters of leftist parties (Democrats of the Left and Communist Refounding) tend to read L’Unitá. Although the authors argue that we do not find such level of parallelism in the print media of the United States, no similar data is presented about the readers of the main American newspapers. For example, are most New York Times readers sympathizers of the Democratic Party? Do Republicans prefer conservative papers? No survey data is presented.

Does the silent centrist majority prefer nonpartisan news reporting? What newspapers do Ralph Nader, Ross Perot and (penitent) John Anderson voters read? If the media-mogul mayor of New York City has no partisan affiliation, is partisan-polarized coverage of his administration possible? Are Bloomberg LLC or Crain’s purveyors of partisan-polarized business journalism?

See also

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Brazilians rate the performance of their press low, in terms of “honest and accuracy,” according to the BBC-Synovate survey in question. They rate the relative priority of press freedom and social stability about the same, with a slight edge to the latter. Brazil is among those countries where respondents tended to find their news media lacking in accuracy and impartiality.

The NMM-Tabajara “banana-republicanization” theory of the U.S. news media does need reality testing.

So, how does this all apply to Latin America?

I don’t see any Latin American examples in the world geography of press models cited, do you?

Which makes it a curious subject for a journal on Brazilian journalism research, in a way: If the book deals at all with Brazilian journalism, or Latin American journalism in general, as she is practiced, the reviewer only notes it as an afterthought:

[…] Hallin and Mancini stress the similarities between the Polarized Pluralist Model of Southern Europe and the media systems of Latin American (see also HALLIN and PAPATHANASSOPOULOS, 2004). But do Latin American countries share a basic model of political communication? Or can we identify, with the same level of sophistication and rigor of Hallin and Mancini, distinct models in the region? Future research on journalism should not fail to take advantage of the promising and exciting opportunities opened by this path-breaking book.

“Sophistication and rigor” that includes failing to provide empirical evidence for some its central claims, according to this reviewer.

What I think is that what Latin American countries share are a cross-section of big media companies with one thing in common: They take advice from the same international consulting firms. See, for example,

You often read theories of “emergent” trends in media models that tend to imply that such trends are somehow “spontaneous and organic,” rather than the product of institutional reengineering by identifiable economic and political actors, all of whom tend to spout the same PowerPoint bullet points.

Such analyses beg the question of institutional agency.

This proposition needs reality-testing.

In any event, here you have a book review in a journal of Brazilian journalism research that pretty much glosses over anything the book might have to say about Brazilian journalism.

That is to say, it is not really about Brazilian journalism at all.

Which makes it not very useful for a non-Brazilian looking for information and analysis about journalism in the gigante pela própria natureza.
At the same time, it offers Brazilian journalists and journalism researchers only a perfunctory explanation of why they might be interested in reading the book.

BJR seems unclear, in general, on who it thinks its readership is, or what it might want.

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