Facts and Interpretations – 01/09/2021 – Reinaldo José Lopes

I had a colleague (not in this Folha, I might add) who one day decided to make an ode to the virtues of what he called a “stupid reporter”.

“It doesn’t solve anything that the guy understands a lot of the topics he’s dealing with. It has to be a bit stupid to ask the questions anyone would ask, otherwise no one will understand,” the guy denounced.

It appears that the aforementioned colleague in the Minister of Health, General Eduardo Pazuello, was lowered in spirit during his speech to the press when Brazil hit the 200,000 death mark from Covid-19 days ago. “We do not want any interpretation of the facts from you,” said the minister then. “Leave the interpretation to the Brazilian people.”

So that the Minister does not accuse me of an interpretive riot, I will try to disentangle the statement by saving adjectives (as recommended by journalistic practice, by the way). In fact, one thing is enough for me and only to start the conversation: What the minister demands is in principle impossible.

Just think of the amount of facts that are happening every minute in Brazil and around the world.

Even if we limit journalists’ interest to only those taking place in front of the public, it is impossible (I repeat the adjective) for them all to go to the pages of newspapers and magazines, or even to the 24-hour coverage of certain news channels fit on TV.

Even among journalists working on websites (which, in theory, have no space constraints) there won’t be enough guns to write about all of this. It is necessary to choose what should and should not be published.

Selection is a general form of interpretation. The same thing happens with the rays of light that reach the cells of the retina of all of us: the nervous system can only recognize and reconstruct part of the spectrum of luminosity around the eyes in the form of an image. (Unfortunately, none of us can see ultraviolet – that’s the envy of bees.)

There is no such thing as “fact”, although there are models in the world that create the nervous system based on facts (we hope so, at least – it’s not what happened to many fans of Pazuello’s boss).

There are more lumps in this Angu, however. Unlike people, opinions are not born with equal rights and dignity. Some make sense and are based on facts; others are guesswork; and there are those drawn from an opening in the anatomy of those who express their opinion.

It is part of the job of journalism to show that, contrary to Guimarães Rosa’s testimony, bread and bread is not just a question of opinion (the author of Minas Gerais actually wrote the word that way before accusing me of illiteracy – today, never if you know it).

And it helps a lot if the journalist in question has such a good grasp of the facts on the area he covers that he knows what makes sense and what doesn’t in the “opinions” he has gathered – including those of authorities like the Minister of Health.

Doing less means abandoning the responsibility to report responsibly, especially when certain interpretations of the facts can cost lives.

And since the minister likes the proverbs so much, here are some facts that are not discussed regardless of ideology: There is no effective early treatment for Covid-19, only treating symptoms; Masks and social distance save lives and protect public health. Vaccines don’t change DNA. Negationism kills.

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