André Lahoz Mendonça de Barros, Insper’s Executive Coordinator of Marketing and Communications, talks about the importance of journalism in fighting fake news
April 7 marks the celebration of Brazil’s Journalism Day. The date was created by the Brazilian Press Association (ABI, for its acronym in Portuguese) in 1931 to honor journalist Giovanni Battista Líbero Badaró. He was one of the main oppositionists to Portuguese monarch Dom Pedro I and among the leaders of the rebellions that brought about his empire’s end.
Since then, journalism has undergone profound changes, demanding new skills from its professionals. The growth of digitalization not only has made it increasingly possible to access numerous databases for content production but also has made it much easier to spread questionable or false information. Misinformation is a widely discussed phenomenon and has gained even more attention in the face of the health crisis caused by COVID-19. During the pandemic, fact-checking platforms assessed that Brazil placed first in the ranking of disinformation/misinformation produced about the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. The country accounted for roughly a fifth of the pieces analyzed.
Amid this context of discussing the profession’s paths, Insper has been preparing its Advanced Program in Communication and Journalism. It is based on models from the leading and most influential American and European universities, exploring new world trends in communication. Also, our school offers short and medium-term open enrollment courses on Journalism.
Insper also counts on journalist André Lahóz Mendonça de Barros as its Executive Coordinator of Marketing and Communications. He worked as an economics journalist for more than 25 years, having served as Editor in Chief of Brazilian business media group Exame (which includes the Exame magazine, Exame.com website, besides Você S/A and Você RH magazines) and Director of Journalism at Jovem Pan radio network.
For André, journalism has the role of fighting misinformation and contributing to raising the quality of information brought to the public. “A well-informed society tends to choose better paths and learn from its mistakes, which are inevitable.”
Learn a little more about our Coordinator’s view on the topic:
How do you see the growth of misinformation in the current Brazilian scenario?
I see it with great concern, especially for the moment in which we live. Lies are particularly dangerous today. In fact, [misinformation is] a global problem, and, unfortunately, no one has found a way to solve it. There is a paradox here: The digital transformation has democratized information like never before, which, in theory, is great news. However, we have seen the frightening growth of fake news along with it.
Recent initiatives by social networks and search sites to remunerate journalists have been sufficient to stem the advance of fake news?
It is too early to tell, but it is great to see that a reaction to the fake news phenomenon has already begun. Society does need to react, although it is not trivial to know for sure what to do. But I am an optimist: Journalism has been attacked countless times in history and has survived. In fact, perhaps it has never been more necessary.
What is the role of journalism in the fact-checking and correction process?
It is the traditional role we have always had: Contributing to raising the quality of information for citizens. “A well-informed society tends to choose better paths and learn from its mistakes, which are inevitable.” It also tends to be less prone to extremism. Journalism does not, of course, guarantee a virtuous life, but it certainly increases its likelihood.