It started with Brazil's economic "boom" and has ballooned as the World Cup draws closer: the number of foreign correspondents, sports journalists, and other gringo journalists in Brazil has grown substantially. And with the upcoming mega-events, there increasingly seem to be more "parachuters," people coming in with lots of enthusiasm but not a lot of knowledge about the country. Given the large amount of Brazil news I consume on a daily basis, I thought it might be helpful to share some tips about how to produce stories that will satisfy a foreign audience without making some common mistakes. Brazil, after all, isn't for beginners.
10. Be careful with popular topics. These topics have been covered by the English-language press ad nauseum: domestic workers advancing to more skilled jobs; maid shortages as a result; "will Brazil be ready for the World Cup"; Eike Batista; favela violence. The usual herd journalism stuff. That doesn't mean these topics aren't worth covering, it just means they require a lot more work. What are you actually contributing to the discussion? Or are you just rehashing somebody else's coverage?
9. Find a local expert. This is more than a fixer, and doesn't necessarily have to be a source. But it should be someone with strong knowledge of the city or topic who can offer a useful perspective. It should be someone who can tell you if a story is worth pursuing, and who may be able to give you tips. This may be challenging if you don't speak Portuguese, but a local expert may be a foreigner who's lived there for a long time.
8. Follow Brazilian journalists and media on Twitter. It's one of the best way to get tips and identify trends, as well as getting breaking news. I keep Twitter lists of useful news sources and journalists that can be a good starting point.
7. Learn from other foreign correspondents. Just because other outlets are doing sensationalistic stories or endlessly rehashing old news doesn't mean you have to. Similarly, you can do creative, unique, high-quality work, too. Keep an eye on what other foreign outlets are covering, and what they did well and what they didn't.
6. Eavesdrop. This requires understanding Portuguese, but it's a way to keep your ear to the street and to find out what Brazilians are talking about. This can also mean listening carefully to what your Brazilian friends are talking about, either among one another or on social media. (That's how I discovered this story before any foreign outlet.) The best story ideas come from hearing what is actually happening on the ground and not just what the big outlets are covering.
5. Find creative ways to cover clichéd topics. Sometimes you might be told to write a story about why Brazil isn't ready for the World Cup, or some other played out story that you're expected to cover. Even if you have to cover these types of topics, it doesn't mean you can get creative and find a different angle. That's where your local expert can come in handy.
4. Befriend Brazilians. This may seem obvious, but sometimes people don't make much effort to do this. If you stay in a little expat bubble, you're not going to get nearly the same perspective as if you actually immerse yourself and interact with Brazilians beyond reporting.
3. Resist stereotypes. You may not be able to write headlines, but you can avoid using samba, soccer, and Carnival metaphors in your writing or in your reports, unless you are specifically covering those topics.
2. Get your hands dirty and venture beyond your comfort zone. In Rio, for example, always reporting in Zona Sul is not acceptable; you've got to get out to the other parts of the city, even if some are gritty or less safe. That doesn't just mean favelas, but also some of the working-class neighborhoods. If you're staying for longer and have the budget, this also means you should get out of the city you're based in: venture to the Northeast, to Minas, or to Mato Grosso; try to escape the Rio-São Paulo bubble.
1. Learn Portuguese. This should always be the number one rule for reporting from any foreign country, and it's especially true in Brazil, where English is less commonly spoken and where Portuguese is rich with expressions.You will understand so much more by using the language rather than having everything in translation. And if you're only going for a short period of time, try to find a translator who can do more than the minimum.