“Journalism is a cursed career”

Gil Campos talks about the daily journalism practice and his professional experience

By Caroline Campos, Carolina Capucho, Bruno Lopes and Vinícius Santos

Translated by Caroline Campos

Original published on november 13th, 2019

Gil Campos in his office, which he describes as “red as hell” — Caption by Caroline Campos

“The newsroom is a crazy people factory”. That is how Gil Campos, journalist for 30 years and editorial director at the communicational group MGCom, refers to his workplace. MGCom is nowadays one of the most important groups in Sao Paulo and includes Estação and Guarulhos Hoje, both daily newspapers, and Jornal do Farol, weekly. Through pre-established contacts and availability of his reception, the interview was performed at company headquarters, in Guarulhos, city located in Metropolitan Sao Paulo. Gil is there in charge of choosing journalist content and deciding articles and releases. He has the higher position at the company, only surpassed by the company’s owner.

Every edition is free, making about four million copies a month. Estação newspaper by itself makes nearly 150 thousand copies a day, handed across the main subway stations in Sao Paulo. Generally, the agenda is regional, covering the cities where it circulates, but the articles are also national and international.

Although the huge demand for content, financial cuts led the newspaper to lose more than half of its reporters, downsizing his team from eight to two professionals. Even if it is necessary to keep the media outlet circulation, the measure is not that good because increases the need to feed the productions with content by news agencies. In MGCom case, it is used articles by Agência Estado, attached to O Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper.

Campos says the reporter’s place is on the street, running after interviewees and news with journalistc potential: “Source is source. The best one at newsroom is the one who has more sources. A reporter without a journalistc source is not a real reporter”. Therefore, he criticizes the formation of new professionals, declaring that communication schools “throws up” thousands of journalists every year, which most of them never leave computers and have zero intention to go to the street. An example given by the interviewed is that, lots of times, he hears a siren sound from his office and does not notice any change of behavior or rise of curiosity by the reporters.

Regarding the financial department, newspapers survive by selling advertisements, resulting in a lot of pressure coming from the commercial department and surveillance of articles that oppose the advertiser desire. Besides the external censorship, the editorial director also reinforces the internal interests conflict that involves members of the inner circle of the company owner. “Freedom of the press only exists until the owner says so. (…) What is a relevant news article and what is not? It is the company owner who decides. Every newspaper has its political commitments”, Campos criticizes. The journalist points out that knowing the “engines” that surrounds a newsroom, he ends up shaping by himself his articles, kind of a self-censorship.

It is not the first time that censorship is surrounding Gil’s life. Coming from Paraíba, he was a police reporter during 12 years in Campina Grande, where he denounced cases of police abuses and attempts to implement a death squad in the city. In 1995, he ran for the Esso award with his report called “Killing journalists, paying well”, cover of the Imprensa magazine about crimes against journalists in the Northeast region of Brazil. These events led to the murders of his sister and his cousin, besides two bullet attacks, that made him ran away to Sao Paulo.

Even so, the journalist did not stop his investigations and, by 2012, he made a report for the extinct Free Sao Paulo magazine about the 10 years of Celso Daniel’s death, connecting it with Workers Party. Beyond more threats, the report resulted in four lawsuits against the magazine, three of those still being processed, and in the change from magazine to Estação newspaper. Being asked about regrets, Gil surprises: “I would do it all over again, in the same way. If not to be the voice of society and the oppressed, then why are we in the profession?”.

By the end, based on personal renounces he was and he is forced to do, he concludes: “journalism, to me, is a cursed career. When you decide to be a journalist, you give up a lot. You lose your social life”. Besides the tiredness, Gil shows himself to be a hopeful and still in love professional, claiming that even with repression, the press will not die.

Free Sao Paulo cover, may 2012

Praticando o jornalismo desde 2019 — ou, até então, tentando.