Monday, November 17, 2008

O Globo - Setting a New Low in a Front Page (Non-)News Story

My favorite Brazilian media conglomeration/whipping boy, O Globo, is at it again. Among their front-page stories is the absolutely earth-shaking report that "Traffic signs with different speed limits cause confusion in Barra." Barra refers to Barra da Tijuca, one of the richest (and most disgusting) parts of Rio de Janeiro. Barra is referred to as the "Miami of Rio," and I'd totally agree, only Barra residents say that as a source of pride, whereas I say it as a source of major denigration. But this story is totally typical of O Globo. It focuses on what has to be one of the biggest non-stories I can remember reading in any language recently. Rio's a big city - 11 million people or so - and there are a lot of far more important things going on in other parts of the city, ranging from police violence to economic development to governmental issues to cultural events. Yet the one neighborhood that shows up on the front page is Barra da Tijuca, socio-economically one of the least-representative neighborhoods of Rio and of Brazil more generally. Yet in some ways, I can't fault O Globo for putting this up on the front page. One of the major roles of modern media is to cater directly to your audience, and there is no audience that is more typical of the elitist, racist, classist ideologies of O Globo than residents of Barra.

And for any residents of Barra who are reading and are confused by the signs, I'll make things really simple for you: the speed limit is usually 80 km/h (50 miles/hr), but with the construction, it slows down a little further up the road to 60 km/h. You should drive 80 until you get to the sign that reads "60 km/h," and then follow that speed limit until you see another speed limit posted.