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BrasilWiki Allows Format for All Opinions
Brazilian citizen reporter site inspired by OhmyNews
Ana Maria Brambilla (brambilla)     Print Article 
Published 2007-04-18 11:28 (KST)   
In a recent article, Brazilian journalist Arnaldo Jabor denounced official indifference to the problem of corruption in national politics. By way of emphasis he wrote, "Let's cut to the chase -- when Lula was reelected, a criminal group infiltrated the government and diverted billions in public monies to exercise control of the State and stay in power for the next 20 years."

Published on one of the most important commercial radio newscast Web sites, Jabor's article was censured by the TSE (the Electoral Superior Court) and disappeared from public view.

At this juncture a collaborative journalism project that's been online for five months, BrasilWiki, came to the rescue. The site allows people to post any message or opinion, including a denunciation of corruption, and published the article on its own Web site.

Created by journalists Eduardo Mattos and Jose Aparecido Miguel, BrasilWiki began as a corrective to the mainline media's traditional discouragement of informational democracy. "More than 80 percent of what newspapers, magazines, and radio and TV companies publish and broadcast comes from the agenda of politics, and their op-ed material comes ultimately from the voters. Participatory journalism challenges this paradigm, said Mattos. Ana Brambilla interviewed him via email.
  <Editor's Note>
Does BrasilWiki ultimately reflect your point of view or that of the publishing team?

BrasilWiki presents the perspective of everyone posting to this Web site. In this way it's possible to display a spectrum of opinion, including divergent opinions. For example, when the Renascer Church's two bishops were detained in the United States, you could find a text criticizing and another defending the couple, and both texts were on the home page.

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Do you agree that independence is one of the main differences with collaborative journalism? What do you take to be "independence"?

I keep in mind BrasilWiki's format -- open to all, without any commitments to groups, people or ideas. That's independence.

Do you remember any instance in which independence reflected all the difference between the mainstream media and BrasilWiki?

There is a recent case, Arnaldo Jabor, who wrote a text censured by the TSE. We published all the text forbidden for CBN (the broadcaster) to make public. In another text, a colleague criticized a private bank, Unibanco, about its telemarketing practices. There are many others.

What is BrasilWiki's publishing process? Is there is an edition? Are there professional journalists on your team?

Yes, we have four journalists who analyze all the pieces published on BrasilWiki. We do minimal editing of the texts, just enough to facilitate the understanding of readers. The structure of any one piece and its associated ideas are untouchable. In our five months on line, we haven't had a claim. Each text is proofread for grammar and punctuation errors, etc.

Before you publish, do you fact-check?

We don't do any checking of the content. We offer space when there is a specific criticism -- for example, when a company and one of its product are cited. More than 90 percent of texts are opinion pieces, so there aren't lots of things to check.

How do you keep information credible on BrasilWiki?

If credibility is questioned, we fix it and do a check as soon as possible. Moreover, we have specific formats for denouncing malfeasance and abuses.

What procedural standard do BrasilWiki collaborators follow in producing content? Do they fact-check? Are opinions unrestricted?

Opinions are absolutely unrestricted. Thus, in some respects we are walking a tightrope. We don't allow prejudiced content, but recently a collaborator posted a text with a homophobic bias, which we published. But when someone else wanted to contest it, even without being registered, we provided space for a response.

How have the Brazilian media and the general public reacted to BrasilWiki?

It's difficult to evaluate the reaction of the traditional media. Some newspapers, like Estado de Sao Paulo, O Estado de Minas and Jornal do Comercio from Recife publicized our initiative. We were interviewed by Imprensa magazine and by Rede Midia, from Belo Horizonte. I feel there is some curiosity about participatory journalism. The traditional vehicles resist providing space to collaborative journalists, whom we call "lay people." This concern encompasses a lot. Their business is to sell information. BrasilWiki has been very well received by the general population. We have more than 500 registered contributors, and, after we linked to an independent Internet supplier, our exposure increased.

Do you think collaborative journalism should follow the same values as its mainline cousins: objectivity, plurality, transparency, etc.?

We can't demand of our contributors the same techniques exercised by professional journalists. The majority of the texts we publish in BrasilWiki are opinion pieces. There may not be plurality evident in them, but we hope objectivity and transparency. The Web site, however, has plurality, objectivity and clarity overall.

Have you been inspired by another collaborative-content Web site in the creation of BrasilWiki?

Our inspiration was the South Korean OhmyNews.

Finally, what is your business model?

To sustain BrasilWiki with advertising.
Ana Brambilla is Brazilian journalist in collaborative content production process.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ana Maria Brambilla

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