Brazilian Forest Code: 15 tips for journalists

Below are some tips directed to journalists who need to cover the Brazilian Forest Code debate.

1. Know your audience: when you take your time to write a story, there is only one person that matters. That is the reader. He is the most important person in the world. Be familiar with her level of knowledge about the Forest Code and about the issues that matter to you. Assume that your public knows nothing about the topic. But never make the mistake of taking them for fools. Do not fall in the trap of overestimating or underestimating your public’s intelligence.

2. Be suspicious about the given truths: A few months ago everyone believed that the Brazilian Forest Code was one of the best pieces of legislation in the world, and today we know that it is an impossible law to be applied, which is why the current reformist movement exists. Even the most radical environmentalist will agree that the law needs to be reformed. Such thing happened because the journalistic cover that was made in the past about the issue made mistakes and was not capable of identifying the problems in the law. For that reason you should take issue with the existing knowledge. Raise the most common statements on the topic and scrutinize them.

3. Keep your focus: remember that a story will always bring one big news only, so do not go into digressions. Never forget the broader picture. As the Forest Code is concerned, there is always the risk of an overload of information. There are many details of the topic that are ignored by urban readers, and discussing many of them in the same piece will get the reader’s mind messed up. Be aware of recurrent hidden details such as promises of an ethereal compatibility between production and preservation, or systems of payment for ecosystem services that do not have funding sources defined.

4. Leave jargon and stereotypes aside: the debate around the Forest Code is impregnated with the right x left Manichaeism. Sometimes it is difficult to tell whether discussions are in favour of environmental conservation or against monoculture slavery plantations. It is common to find generic terms that end up shaping the reader’s judgement. Terms such as “ruralist”, riverine, agribusiness, “one of the best laws in the world”, enclose meanings that impose biased judgements to the reader. Avoid them.

5. Keep your phrases short and simple: use short words, sentences and paragraphs. Nobody will ever complain that you wrote something that is too hard to understand.

6. Run away from the mainstream: We are in a period of paradigmatic shift, when everything that was known about the Forest Code could be wrong. Remember that, when Louis Pasteur presented evidence on the existence of microbes, the scientific community got together, analysed the existing knowledge, and concluded that Pasteur was wrong, that microbes did not exist. When paradigms collapse even scientists can be wrong; indeed, it is likely that they will be wrong. Be protected from this by suspecting of the most common statements on the topic. You do not need to deny them, just to suspect of them. Do not believe blindly in what others tell you… even when the source seems to be above any suspicion.

7. Try to put yourself in the position of a Brazilian rural producer: the biggest challenge for the urban population, your readers, to be able to understand the Forest Code is that they look at the issue from the perspective that problems in the application of the law are invisible. That is why they often seem to be speaking about different things, that is why the Brazilian Minister of Environment says one thing while the Minister of Agriculture says the opposite. You will only be able to understand why the Forest Code does not work, why people use areas that were supposed to be preservation areas, in the hills of Rio de Janeiro or in the lowlands of Southern states, when you look through the lenses of these people. The big challenge is to show to urban people how hard it is for the rural Brazilian to fulfil the law. Only from that understanding reasonable solutions will emerge.

8. Be visual: Many stories about the Forest Code are complex, but they are frequently photogenic or can be illustrated with contagious human histories. Use all the resources that you have available to bring the story into real life – headlines, photos, graphics, flash infographics, maps, sidebars.

9. Remember that food production is a social need: the things about which people care the most are health, their way of life and the future of their kids. The approach to the Forest Code debate has so far created an antagonism between rural producers and the environment to the point that the most radical urban readers do not care about destroying agriculture if that results in saving the planet or their own selves. People feel a certain environmental scarcity, but do not perceive food scarcity, and that makes them not to care about harming production to save the planet. But that is a false antagonism, and your role is to divert from that bias. The urban reader does not perceive that antagonism in her daily life.

10. Be well prepared for interviews: the more in advance you know about your interviewees and your topic, the better your interview will be. It will be a talk between equals, not an attempt from your side to follow what you are hearing for the first time. Explain yourself. Let your interviewee know who your public is, with whom you work, what is your deadline and what will happen to your story. And don’t forget about hint number 8.

11. Get a second opinion: and a third. For each PhD, there is one equivalent and opposed PhD. For each politician there is one tax payer. Your interviewees may be mistaken. They may be biased. They may have their own stake. Ask yourself why they are saying what they are saying and if they have anything to gain with your publishing their words. Look for the opinions of other experts in the topic. Your commitment as a journalist is with the truth.

12. Look for the truth. Always be sceptical, but never cynic, towards the people that you meet and what is said to you. Do not refuse to believe in what someone told you, but ask her for evidence to support her claim. Watch out for hidden stakes and remember that people lie, even those who seem to be on the good side. Everyone has a reason to lie or to tell just part of the truth. Remember this classic advice to journalists: something that journalists must ask themselves when interviewing a politician is: “why is this bastard liar telling me this lie at this particular moment?”. Extend this question to environmentalists and ruralists. Do not be Manichaeist, there are no good and evil in this debate.

13. Facts do not belong to anyone: remember that balance is not the same as impartiality and that everyone owns opinions, but not facts.

14. Do not get seduced by press communicates... make them justice. Very often, journalists copy and paste press communicates and only add their names to the signature lists. In doing that, they are paying a disservice to readers. A press publication is not a story. It is only information that contains the seeds of a story that you should nourish. NGOs, deputies and senators release press communicates every day and each one of them has a stake behind.

15. Remember your public. Before finishing your story, you must revise it. Place yourself at the position of a typical member of your public and imagine what issues they may raise about your story. Then, answer those questions before concluding.

This text is based on the idea and text 25 tips for climate change journalists originally published at the Under The Banyan blog. But it was altered and adapted by this blogger, as well as translated by Petterson Molina Vale. The Picture that illustrates the post belongs to the Galeria de . SantiMB . no Flickr under Creative Comons. There are other nice photos over there.

Comentários

CURRENT ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT IS PART OF PREPARATION OF THE NEW SATANIC SYSTEM REVEALED IN THE NEW WORLD ORDER. IN REALITY, IT IS A PLAN OF SATAN TO ENSURE THAT MOST OF NATURAL RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO BE USED BY HIM ALL OVER THE EARTH AS THE ANTICHRIST. By controlling natural resources, it will be much easier to dominate people and force them to accept the mark of the beast.
HEY, YOU!!

I AM TALKING TO YOU!

IF YOU DON'T HAVE FOREST IN YOUR COUNTRY ANYMORE...

FIX YOUR PROBLEM FIRST BEFORE CRITICIZING COUNTRY LIKE BRAZIL, OR SHUT YOUR MOUTH UP!!!