An Interview with Amalia Perez
Brown Journal of World Affairs: There has been a mass exodus in Brazil from the traditional media to the nontraditional, start-up media. Since this process has lately become relatively ubiquitous worldwide, what factors specific to Brazil might explain this shift? What advantages does this new subset of news production have over its traditional counterparts, such as your employer, the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo?
Fabiano Maisonnave: Folha, as every other newspaper in Brazil and most of the newspapers in the Western world, has been in crisis ever since the Internet became such a platform for news distribution. Brazil is currently suffering both from this newspaper crisis and an economic crisis, so the toll has been greater here than in several other countries in Latin America. All three of Brazil’s main newspapers have been shrinking considerably in both staff and in the scope of their coverage. There have consequently been a lot of layoffs at Folha. Moreover, I used to be a correspondent in Beijing for Folha, and other Brazilian newspapers had dispatches there, but all of them, including Folha’s, have since closed. This is a shame, because China is Brazil’s main trade partner. The coverage is shrinking, friends and colleagues are losing jobs, and they have to choose whether to change careers or take on new things. Many of them have bravely started new projects. This movement towards new, nontraditional news production happens in the United States, too—the Marshall Project, the Huffington Post—but in Brazil, the readership of both traditional and nontraditional news is much smaller, despite the fact that we are a country of 200 million people. So, these new outlets have to compete in a very narrow market for news production. Also, in Brazil, the funding for these new media outlets comes from U.S.-based organizations such as the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Foundation. This new sector of Brazilian news production is thus dependent on foreign money.