Rogério Nery: The value of professional journalism in moments of tragedy

By Rogério Nery de Siqueira Silva*

The year 2022 started in an absolutely unexpected way for us at TV Integração — an affiliate of Rede Globo in Minas Gerais. Used to showing the natural beauties of the Capitólio region (MG), we faced an unprecedented tragedy in Lake Furnas, one of the largest artificial lakes on the planet, better known as “Mar de Minas”. On the 8th, last Saturday, the fall of part of a canyon directly hit two tourist boats that were in the region, causing the death of ten people – four of them from the same family. The landslide took place between 12:30 and 13:00 and Images quickly took over social media..

And it was at this moment that professional journalism, made by local TV, proved to be fundamental. The images of the fall of the wall reached us by a group of the Fire Brigade of Minas and, practically at the same time, they also started to be sent by viewers. From there, the Journalism department of Rede Integração was mobilized for tireless coverage.

One of our TV news was on, but the news was only given after accurate checking and confirmation — and this happened on national television, in Jornal Hoje, which went on the air at 1:30 pm. We entered directly from one of the station’s headquarters, in Divinópolis, and while we were doing this work from the studio, we moved teams to the region, which is 150 kilometers away. Three reporters and two cameramen were assigned with the mission of making reports and live entries. They arrived at the scene shortly after the accident, when other vehicles were retrieving information by phone or with the support of reports on social media.

In addition to journalists in the field, the support work in this coverage included dozens of professionals, mobilized for three days. Our teams took care to bring live information to viewers, who at this moment were not only from our region, but from all over Brazil. We did journalism in the heat of the facts, but in a precise, rigorous and respectful way.

At the time of a tragedy of this proportion, the watchword is checking — and this is one of the differentials of traditional means of information in relation to social networks. Check, recheck and recheck the facts, exhaustively, to avoid not only misinformation, but also the spread of fake news. And they, unfortunately, happened in this case. On a social network, a group of tourists from Espírito Santo, for example, was the target of posts and videos according to which they would have been the victims, which was later denied – they had only visited the place on the eve of the accident.

Respect for victims and viewers are fundamental values ​​of the work of a vehicle that bases its coverage on ethics. TV Integração only released the names of the people who died after the official disclosure, and only after making sure that the families had been communicated.

This beginning of 2022 is putting journalism, once again, to the test in Minas Gerais. The state is experiencing moments of tension with heavy rains, which have already caused other deaths. The force of the waters has already broken bridges, destroyed streets and avenues, invaded houses and put dams on alert. More than 145 cities are in a state of emergency.

And once again, local journalism has been taking information and providing a fundamental service that saves lives at times like this, when many people need to leave the places where they live and when solidarity is so necessary. We are the oldest affiliate of Rede Globo, present in an expressive way in the interior of Minas (Triângulo Mineiro, Alto Paranaíba, Midwest of Minas, Northwest of Minas, Zona da Mata and Campo das Vertentes / part of the South of Minas), reaching more than six million Brazilians, and we are ready to fulfill our role.

*Rogério Nery de Siqueira Silva is CEO of Grupo Integração (an affiliate of TV Globo)

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