In the face of attacks on journalists and attempts to discredit the press, which are increasingly common in Brazil, Instituto Palavra Aberta decided to launch a web series to explain to the lay public how journalism works. The initiative is part of the media literacy actions of the institute, which works to defend freedoms of the press and of expression.
The Conhecer para Defender (Know to Defend) web series has five episodes, of about five minutes each, and conveys the whole journalistic process and method, from the idea of the story to the publication. The episodes also explain what journalism is and why it is important, how editing works and the impacts of new technologies.
In the web series, journalists give testimonies and describe their daily lives. "We joke that we want to open the kitchen of journalism, so that people can get to know and, from there, defend journalism as something crucial for democracy," the institute's president, Patricia Blanco, told the Knight Center.
The journalists who participated in the episodes are: André Borges, reporter for O Estado de S. Paulo; Antônio Gois, columnist for O Globo; Carolina Ercolin, anchor of Rádio Eldorado; Thais Folego, editor of Revista AzMina; and Valmir Salaro, reporter for TV Globo.
The format of short videos was chosen to facilitate dissemination on social networks, an environment in which a large part of the attacks against the press and disinformation circulate.
"It has greater potential to be replicated than if we made a long documentary. I have all the episodes on my cell phone and I send them via WhatsApp to everyone, to reach as many people as possible," Blanco said.
Although, often, false information circulates more than educational and factual content, Blanco argued that it is necessary to invest in campaigns to defend journalism.
"I wanted the web series to reach Twitter's trending topics," she said, laughing. "I know it can be a drop in the ocean when it comes to understanding the role of journalism, but it is something we need to start doing. We need to talk to society as news is born, and about the value of this information, which is checked, refined, done with so much method, for democracy. I hope it is part of a movement to rescue the value of journalism," she said.
The web series was also designed to function as didactic and support material in classrooms – the institute has several media literacy projects aimed at teachers and students in public schools.
"The web series is a piece of media education, because when you know how journalism is made and produced, you can have a critical analysis of the information you receive. Therefore, together with the web series, we publish a lesson plan," Blanco said. The aim is for the episodes to be broadcast to students from schools, but also from universities.
For Blanco, media literacy has become even more urgent in view of the worsening situation for freedoms of the press and of expression in the country. She said that there has always been violence against journalists in Brazil, but this has become more frequent. "As of 2019, we see an absurd growth of attacks against professionals and outlets, it is almost a campaign to break credibility," she said.
She reinforced that criticism of the work of the press is important and helps to improve the quality of journalism, but Blanco believes that there has been widespread "demonization."
"It started to become, personally speaking, unbearable, when I started to see that part of society, even the educated, was entering this wave of demonizing the press, as if it were a singular thing. And it is not, you have different nuances and different outlets. That's what needs to be explained to society," she said.
The last episode of the web series, sponsored by Facebook, was published on May 8 on social networks belonging to the institute and partner journalism organizations.
"We believe that we are supporting society to value the plurality of ideas and freedom of the press. We know that knowledge helps people make more informed decisions, so Facebook supports this initiative," said Monica Guise Rosina, public policy manager at Facebook in Brazil, in a note about the web series.