The nightclub tragedy in Santa Maria was a tragedy for British press
I understand it is difficult to cover tragedies. I covered two big ones — an airplane crash that killed almost 200 people in 2007 in Sao Paulo and landslides in Rio state that ended with more than 50 dead. The one thing then that is still wrong today is starting the blame game as the bodies are still being taken out. That is surely what local media did. But those who aren’t nuts about putting any story online within seconds surely have more time to think it over and decide what they should do in the first place.
The British press coverage of the nightclub fire in Santa Maria was also tragic. More than 230 young people lost their lives, but most of what I saw from Fleet Street were links between the World Cup being at risk because of a laid-back attitude. Brazil surely has a problem with little respect for rules, but the first signs from Santa Maria showed nothing different from what happens in clubs all over the world. Including some in London I visited myself.
There were groundless opinionated articles written by people who seem to cover Brazil from their homes. That is the only reason I find for them to go crazy for the lazy and uncaring link between a global event and an incident in a college town 300 km away from its closest World Cup host-city. A town that could be anywhere in the world, just like past incidents in clubs show.
The American media just didn’t do that. Vincent Bevins, one of the finest correspondents in Brazil (he writes mostly for the LA Times), was pretty accurate: it was a local global event. Not a national one.
Understanding Brazil is not easy. It is a gigantic country, it was never in the Commonwealth and I would say Britain is possibly the European country to which Brazil has its weakest links (we have stronger ties even with Lebanon, which is much farther). But if the British press thinks of doing a good job at the World Cup and at the Rio Olympics it needs more grip with the hosts than it has shown so far.
The FT makes a very important effort in their blog “Beyond Brics”. The Economist is spot on in many stories. But the noted economical importance is not enough to get Brazil. I really don’t understand why it is so difficult for the British press, because Brazil is their kind of Bric: a stable democracy, tolerant, racially diverse and fun loving.
To leave cliches and lazy reporting behind Fleet Street needs better efforts than the one I saw in the Santa Maria aftermath. Going for the easy way will give the readership no more than what it had gotten in those days Brazil wasn’t a global player. The world has changed, guys.