BRAZIL BLOG: Jane O’Neill on pasties and newspapers – Brazilian style

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REPORTER Jane O’Neill has swapped reporting from Sunderland’s city centre to the depths of Latin America. Along with three other young professionals and a group leader, she is part of a Rotary-funded Group Study Exchange (GSE) trip to Ribeirão Preto in Brazil.

Tudo bem, amigos? Nearly a week into my month-long tour and life in Brazil seems a little less, well... foreign.

I’ve picked up a smattering of Portuguese, even giving a presentation to a city Rotary Club in their native tongue and not everything here is so different.

Discovering that I miss my usual exercise routine of bootcamps and dance classes, my host family come to the rescue with morning visits to the gym in our apartment block, accompanied by host mother Alessandra and runs in the park with husband Davi.

Keeping fit is hard work in the heat, although the Brazilians are preparing for winter, which begins in June.

The quantity and quality of food is also a pleasant problem - from buffet restaurants where you flip a token from red to green to show you want more meltingly-tender meat piling on your plate, to the street vendors blending up fresh fruit smoothies to sip with pastéis – deep-fried pasties.

Food and fitness takes up most of my limited spare time, as our schedules are tightly-packed.

Rotary International, which has co-ordinated the GSE trip, has ensured each of the team spend time in their relevant professions.

For me, this means a visit to a TV station, newspaper and journalism degree course at University Ribeirão Preto.

Chatting with journalists at daily paper A Citade, I discover more similarities between Brazil and the UK.

A Citade has a daily circulation of around just 25,000 in a city of more than 750,000 people.

There is a ‘cultural problem’, they say, with people not reading newspapers. Evening papers are rare – there are none in Ribeirão Preto – and most people who do take a daily paper have it delivered.

Journalists say this is because their newspapers are ‘Berlin-sized’ - somewhere between tabloid and broadsheet - too unwieldy to read on the bus.

Poor public transport is also blamed on a lack of newspaper sales, as commuters chose cars over buses.

News editor Rosana Zaidan tells me they have a 50-strong editorial team, including photographers and sub-editors.

Brazilian journalists don’t have to sit specific qualifications like their British counterparts, but many have degrees.

They don’t use shorthand, however, and peer at my notebook in confusion.

Unlike the UK, there are no laws governing what can be reported in the run up to court cases.

In the studio at Record TV, images of a suspect’s criminal record flash up on screen along with details of the crime he has alleged to have committed.

But there are still similarities with the UK’s media.

Professional curiosity: every journalist I meet has a host of questions about the UK - how is the European economic crisis affecting us? Is it true audiences will be banned from taking cameras into the Olympic? How are we using green energy to tackle rising fuel costs?

Newsrooms are familiarly untidy, a barrage of suspect jokes are translated for me and work stops for a coffee.

Everyone seems genuinely interested in who I am and why I’m in their country. I even appear briefly on high-energy TV news show Balanceo General.

When the fast-talking presenter learns there is a British journalist in the studio, cameras swoop round to me and he encourages viewers to ring in for a date with ‘chiquita Inglaterra Janey’.

Red-cheeked, I comfort myself with the thought no-one will have seen me on TV thousands of miles from home, but when I return home that night, my host mother Alessandra squeals ‘TV! TV Janey!’ and son Lucas laughs as he explains how my 15 seconds of shame were spotted.

Oh well, finque tranquilo as they say in Brazil – why worry?

You can follow Jane’s trip on Twitter at @janethejourno #EchoinBrazil.