Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Boring Amazon coverage

Bloggers love to pick on reporters, so here we go.

This latest New York Times story on Brazil sliding back into deforestation oblivion is just plan dull and lazy. I would note that for a fancy newspaper correspondent it shouldn't be that tough to get on a plane and at least walk through some part of sketchy deforested southeastern Para. This most recent story seems almost entirely based on an interview with former environment minister Marina Silva and a few phone calls to some environmental types.

There are plenty of interesting ways of writing about what's going on in the Amazon, like this AP take on the success of Paragominas which I mentioned in this post last August. Notice the reporter actually went the place in question.

This Times' story is written out of Sao Paulo. It read like a lot of background paragraphs without much of a new hook or angle. And I think what bothered me most -- OK, this might sound strange for a blogger of my political persuasion -- is that just about everyone in the story is an environmental advocate. Talking to only one side makes for more of an echo chamber than a story about conflicting visions.

Despite extensive mention of the farm lobby and the "ruralists," the only actual human being remotely on that side of the fence is the head of Brazil's sugar association. Sugar cane is actaully quite far down on the list of threats to the Amazon, trailing behind cattle, soy, dams, and illegal mining. Yes, there are some Amazon areas of in the states of Piaui and Tocantins that are now are becoming new fronteirs for cane fields, but again, far down on the list. Possibly a bigger issue for sugar cane would be encroachment on the Pantanal near the border with the Bolivia (clarification: this has nothing to do with the Amazon.)

Sugar cane, it may not surprise you to know, is most concentrated in the state of Sao Paulo. Which is where this story is datelined. Oh well. I hope to see better down the road.


  1. I agree partially with your post. I agree that this story doesn't show all the successes cases of the Amazon. And, we can find many. However, the story wasn't about the successes of reforestation in the Amazon. I believe the article was fair on what wanted to show: if president Dilma decide not to veto the new proposed Forest Code, deforestation will increase in the Brazil. The rural producers are much more powerful and rich than average Brazilian citizens (and even environmentalists) who want Amazon preserved.

  2. Hi Vanessa -- Thanks for your comment, I was more focused on the writing than the content itself. And I agree about the forestry code, I just think there are more creative ways for journalists to discuss these things.