Diogo Mainardi of Veja magazine (Brazil), in his most recent podcast, cites a column by Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell — “An Obama Tilt in Campaign Coverage” — in support of a familiar excuse for the viciously slanted and disinformation-plagued news coverage purveyed by his employer: They call us viciously slanted, but the U.S. press is no better!
In his paraphrase of Howell’s conclusions, Mainardi uses highly selective quotation and distorts Howell’s analysis in order to describe coverage by U.S. media as chapa-branca — a hysterically exaggerated conclusion not supported by a full reading of Howell’s analysis of the paper’s coverage.
He also cites The Economist as rebuking the “dirty game” played by the U.S. news media to get Obama elected.
He seems — although he is not specific on this point — to be referring to A biased market: Skewed news reporting is taken as a sign of a dysfunctional media. In fact, it may be a sign of healthy competition (October 30 2008). That article makes no such moral judgment about any “dirty game” played by the U.S. press in a supposed conspiracy to elect Obama.
Chapa-branca, a metaphor for “bought and sold” or biased coverage, comes from a Brazilian expression meaning
a public service car, with a white license plate
The metaphor is outdated, as all newly-issued Brazilian license plates are now white (there are still some old orange ones circulating. Anyone remember when California license plates were black with orange lettering?).
In other words, then, a press that is chapa-branca is one that simply uncritically parrots the government line, that serves as an extension of political and private interest groups, lacking critical independence.
For Mainardi to characterize the U.S. media in this way is for the pot to call the kettle black.
Howell, for example, explains the apparent pro-Obama bias in her paper as an artifact of the unfortunate predominance of “horse-race” campaign coverage over issues coverage.
She endorses the findings of a broader study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) (summary of analysis shown above):
One question likely to be posed is whether these findings provide evidence that the news media are pro-Obama. Is there some element in these numbers that reflects a rooting by journalists for Obama and against McCain, unconscious or otherwise? The data do not provide conclusive answers. They do offer a strong suggestion that winning in politics begat winning coverage, thanks in part to the relentless tendency of the press to frame its coverage of national elections as running narratives about the relative position of the candidates in the polls and internal tactical maneuvering to alter those positions. Obama’s coverage was negative in tone when he was dropping in the polls, and became positive when he began to rise, and it was just so for McCain as well. Nor are these numbers different than what we have seen before. Obama’s numbers are similar to what we saw for John Kerry four years ago as he began rising in the polls, and McCain’s numbers are almost identical to what we saw eight years ago for Democrat Al Gore.
This analysis is too subtle for Mainardi, however, who presents us with a conspiratorial narrative according to which Obama is the American Fernando Collor — notoriously elected to the Brazilian presidency thanks in large part to a massive propaganda campaign mounted by the (monopolistic) Globo network.
Filed under: Brazil, Journalism, Media, Politics | Tagged: bias, diogo mainardi, editora abril, impartiality, new york times, ombusdman, slant, The Economist, veja, Washtington Post | Leave a Comment »