Lies, damned lies, and statistics: why thinking critically about numbers is imperative

There is a popular sentence that says: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Well, as an MA student trying to pursue a career in data journalism I don’t entirely agree with the statement. But the phrase, popularized by the great Mark Twain, is a remind that when dealing with numbers a good dose of skepticism and critical thinking is imperative.

Recently when analysing datasets I could experience how you can create incorrect conclusions when manipulating numbers with not enough thought.

The first dataset was about HIV in the UK. After Nigel Farage’s polemic statement, I wanted to check what was the incidence of new HIV infections while patients were in the UK.

Proportion: a basic and useful concept of statistics

I downloaded a dataset from Public Health England (PHE) about the last nine years of HIV infections and care in the UK.

The dataset specifies the proportion of infections acquired while the patient were in the UK per category: men who have sex with men, heterosexual contact, drug injecting use and “others”. My goal was to find out if there was a trend in HIV infections – and if so, what it was.

I started my analysis focusing on the number of infections per category per year. Then problems appeared.

When looking at the numbers, there was a rise in the number of gay men who had been infected in the UK over the years and a sharp drop of heterosexual people who had contracted the virus while in the country.


It seemed that more gay people were acquiring the disease in this country and less heterosexuals were being infected while being here.

That would be completely fine if not for one reason: it was not telling the whole story.

The big drop in diagnosis amongst heterosexual people was due to a sharp fall in the number of infections amongst this group. It did not mean that less heterosexual people were being infected in the UK.

In fact, the proportion of heterosexual people infected in this country has risen sharply over the past years, from 31 per cent in 2004 to 57 per cent in 2013. And despite the uptrend for gay men seen in the graphic, the proportion of cases UK-acquired had diminished.

In 2013 the proportion of total infections UK-acquired was 66% – an increase from the 48% in 2004. The proportion had increased, despite the fact that the number of infections had dropped.

The correct analysis is here.

Comparisons: getting the numbers right

Recently I have done an analysis about the homicide rate in Brazil. My goal was to check if there was any difference in the way violent crimes affect white and black people.

Again a notion of proportion, a fairly basic principle of statistics, was very necessary.

The dataset I was analyzing had the number of homicides per colour per year from 2010 to 2012 for 5565 municipalities in Brazil. I did a quick pivot table to get the homicide numbers per state and per skin colour.


The numbers were shocking in itself. More than 23,000 thousand young black people were killed in Brazil in 2013. The total number was visibly higher than the 6.806 white young people killed in the same year.

But being Brazil a country with a larger population of black people, how could I compare the two values?

I used the rate formula “fact per 100,000 population“, which is a rate used by demographers in Brazil and by the United Nations when analyzing certain stats, as crimes one.

However, dividing the total number of homicide by 100,000 people wouldn’t neutralize incorrect conclusions. The rule with rates is that, to be a true rate we must try to have only those at risk in the denominator.

There are states in Brazil, such as Bahia, Amazonas e Pará, where the black population accounts for 80 per cent of the inhabitants. In such places, crimes were likely to affect more black people simply because they were the majority.

The solution for a more accurate picture: compare the crimes against black people within the black population and compare the crimes against white people within the white population.

Such analysis made possible, for example, to see that, in the state of Santa Catarina, even though the total number of homicides against white people were three times higher than the number against black people, the homicide rate per 100,000 was still higher for black people.


What I learnt from these episodes: numbers can’t be detached from the whole picture. Proportions are more important than real numbers and you may mislead your audience if you don’t present the context where your numbers are inserted.

Want to know more?
Here are some resources:

How to lie with statistics. Darrell Huff (1950, still relevant).
Basics of statistics.Jarkko Isotalo (2007).
The essential concepts of statistics. Scott Adams.   


The Deadly Reality for Young Black People in Brazil

If you are a young black citizen in Brazil, your chance to be killed is 282 per cent more if you were born white.

Depending on where you live, the chance is 10 times higher.

According to the latest data available about homicides in Brazil, 23,140 black people aged 15-29 were killed in the country in 2012. That means 82 black young people were murdered in every 100,000 black inhabitants.

The rate for young white people is equally alarming: 29 people in every 100,000 white population were killed in the country in 2012.

Both numbers are much higher than the acceptable rate of 10 cases in every 100,000 people by the World Health Organization (WHO). Above this rate, the organization considers violence to be epidemic.


Brazil crime rate is astonishingly high: 56,337 citizens were killed in the country in 2012. That means 156 people were murdered every day, a number that makes Brazil one of the most violent in the world. Young people have accounted for almost half of the victims.

The map of violence

Homicides affect young black and white people in different ways depending on where they live.

In Alagoas State, in the Northeast of Brazil, the homicide rate is of 192 cases in every 100,000 black young people. That is 10 times higher than the rate registered among the young white population. Alagoas is also the third poorest state in Brazil, and ranks 25th amongst the 27 federative units in the list of GDP per person.

In the map bellow it is possible to see what are the states with higher homicide rates. Check the interactive version for visualizing numbers and rates for each state.  


The disparity in how crimes affect more dramatically black communities has led the International Annisty to create the campaign “Jovem Negro Vivo” (Young Black Alive) to fight what the organization calls “indifference” in the Brazilian society.

In the video, youths who are murdered become merely invisible.

The high rate of crimes involving black and poor communities is being analyzed by the Lower Chamber. A Commission has been installed based on the Map of Violence, a study conducted by Julio Jacobo Waiselfisz, from Flacso Brasil.

Waiselfisz said about the commission:

“The majority of homicides [in Brazil] happens among relatives, neighbors and friends for trivial reasons. With the wide circulation of weapons, any conflict becomes lethal. And, most seriously, there is the institutional tolerance to blame the victim. We are unable to institutionally address violence. Rates [of  murder] are only increasing.”

The Commission has been installed in a moment that the Senate tries to change the law to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 16.

Waiselfisz believes changing the law is not a solution for violence in Brazil:

“We have about 600,000 people jailed in Brazil and more killings. We never had so many prisoners and have more homicides. Changing the law isn’t effective. We have very good laws, such as the Statute of Children and Adolescents, but these laws are not applied.”

HIV in the UK: what you need to know

When Nigel Farage recently talked on TV about the costs HIV has in the NHS, he used that old anti-immigrant rhetoric to say millions of pounds were being spent on treating non-Brits.

Last year he also said that Britain should not let in migrants if they had HIV.

Farage’s comments have caused outrage, but it has also brought the term HIV to the headlines and opened up an space for debating what the disease is really like in the UK in 2015.

Here is what you need to know:

1) HIV is everyone’s problem:

An estimated 107,800 people were living with HIV in the UK in 2013, according to Public Health England’s latest data about the disease. A quarter of people estimated to be living with HIV were unaware of their infection in 2013 and remain at risk of passing on their infection if having sex without condoms. 

In 2013 alone, 6,000 new cases were identified in the UK. Of those cases, 38.2 per cent affected people born in the UK.

Considering HIV is a communicable disease, focusing on geographic discrimination, not on treating all people infected will cause the epidemic to soar, not to refrain.

Planilha 7

2) The proportion of HIV infections acquired in the UK is actually rising

If considering not the place of birth from people newly infected, but actually where they have contracted the virus, the official data shows that the proportion of infections acquired in the UK has risen over the past decade.

In 2004, 48 per cent of the total number of new diagnosis (7.700) had been acquired in the UK. In 2013, this number has risen to 66 per cent of the total (6.000).

You can explore the data yourself. Click here to check the interactive version of the graphic bellow:


3) HIV has no face – and misconceptions only cause the virus to spread

The greatest enemy for fighting HIV is certainly stigma and misinformation. Believing that HIV only affects an specific sexual group or people with a certain sexual behaviour is an utter misconception.

These are the groups diagnosed with HIV in the UK in 2013 considering the probable form of contact with the virus:


4) Prevention and education should be the focus

Despite the fact that HIV is entirely preventable, education programs in the UK receive a tiny amount of the budget for fighting HIV.

A report by the House of Lords in 2011 revealed that only £2.9m was spent on national prevention programmes in 2011/12. The amount is less than half a percent of the £762m spent on treatment and care in England in that year. The report said: 

“Spending on prevention is seriously inadequate. HIV is entirely preventable but the latest figures show that the Government spent only £2.9 million on national prevention programmes, compared with £762 million on treatment. In a number of cases general sexual health campaigns have made no mention of HIV.”

It continues:

“Widespread public ignorance must be tackled. […] A better understanding of HIV would also help tackle persisting stigma and discrimination – which prevents people coming forward for testing. The teaching of issues related to HIV and AIDS in schools is inadequate, with one survey showing that a quarter of young people had not learnt about HIV and AIDS in the classroom. New measures need to be pursued urgently.”

5) Public ignorance is causing new infections among young men to soar

The number of new infections amongst young gay men in the UK, aged 15-24, is the highest since 1998, according to official data. Considering the last decade alone, the number of infections affecting this group almost doubled. There has also been a rise in diagnosis among those aged 25-34.

Campaign groups attribute the numbers to a lack of adequate sexual education and information at schools. A recent study by National Aids Trust with young gay men aged 14-19 has showed that over a quarter (27%) did not know how HIV was passed on.


6) Only two things can help stop HIV: information and condom

HIV has no vaccine, it has no cure, but it is preventable. Research has showed that safe sex is crucial for preventing the disease.

Information is also key. According to HIV Prevention England, “HIV stigma still plays a large part in reluctance both to test and to disclose a positive diagnosis, leading to poor personal and public health.”

With a quarter of the people living with HIV in the UK unaware of their condition, improving testing is highly important as it prevents ongoing transmission of the virus.

In a report from November 2014, Dr Valerie Delpech, head of PHE ‘s national HIV surveillance, said:

“People diagnosed promptly with HIV infection can expect to live long and healthy lives. However, in 2013 people diagnosed with HIV late were 10 times more likely to die in the first year of diagnosis compared to those diagnosed promptly. People who remain unaware of their infection are also at risk of transmitting HIV to others.”

Less stigma and more information is what UK needs to fight HIV.

Mapped: The #BooDilma on Twitter


For those outside Brazil, it went probably unnoticed the flood of messages on Twitter last night with the hashtag #vaiadilma (Boo Dilma, in English).

Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff (PT, Workers’ Party) went to national television on Sunday (8) for a 15-minutes pronouncement, where she asked Brazilians for patience with the austerity measures adopted by the government and the weak economy.

The reaction was not all positive, especially in some regions of the country. In protest, residents of cities such as São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, Vila Velha and Brasília shouted from their balconies and bang pots and pans.

What has been called “balcony protest” made its way to Twitter: last night, #VaiaDilma was in the trending topics in Brazil and amongst the most talked topics on Twitter worldwide.

Some have argued that the reactions were isolated and that they were concentrated in posh neighborhoods of rich capitals.

By analyzing* the tweets posted over the past days with the hashtags #vaiaDilma, #ForaPT (Get out PT) and ForaDilma (Get out Dilma), it is possible to see concentration, specially in the Southeast of the country – but not isolation.

(If you want to see the full map, click here.)


The volume of messages are higher in the states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais, with the predominance of São Paulo city. The more you zoom in the map, the more you see that São Paulo have concentrated the posts. If you want to zoom in in the map, click here.

What’s next?

The atmosphere of animosity may be concentrated, but it is growing. Next Sunday (15) a march is expected from those who support an impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, despite the unlikeliness of the procedure.

An event on Facebook, called “Vemprarua” (Come to the Streets), run by an unknown institution, has 272,545 members at the moment. The community posts videos and convocations asking Brazilians to march on the 15th.

It is important to put numbers in perspective: Brazil is a massive country, with more than 200 million people. The universe of 272,545 members does not represent a significant amount of the population.

However, the narrow margin of victory Dilma had just five months ago in the presidential elections might play a role.

Some influential voices, as journalist Bruno Torturra, called attention to the insensitiveness of Dilma: appearing on television one week before the march without addressing hot topics, as corruption scandals that members of the government coalition are involved into, was not the best political decision.

Dilma’s opponent in the last election, Eduardo Jorge (Partido Verde, Green Party) said Dilma’s speech in national TV was actually the convocation for the 15th March:

If the president’s speech was a “shoot in the foot”, we are yet to see.

*Sample: 25,000 tweets collected, 800 posts visualized.  

The Brazilian government in the epicentre of a dramatic crisis

Dilma Rousseff

The political landscape in Brazil has never been peaceful, but some ingredients are bringing a dramatic tone to the scene this time. The main one is a corruption scandal involving the largest Brazilian company, Petrobras, a state-controlled oil-giant caught in a billionaire bribe-scheme last year. Other ingredients are an economic downturn, with forecast pointing to a GDP growth of only 0.55 per cent this year, and a crisis between government and congress.

The drama peaked this week as Rodrigo Janot, Brazil’s chief prosecutor, sent a list of 54 people, including high profile politicians and business men, to the Supreme Court, asking permission for investigating the suspects. The “Janot List”, as the document has been called in the Brazilian press, includes names as Eduardo Cunha, the speaker of the Congress’s lower house, and Renan Calheiros, his counterpart in the senate.

The suspects’ names are still under official secret. Janot has asked the Supreme Court Justice, Teori Zavascki, to make the list public. While the Court makes a decision, Brazilians watch the news as a soap opera, waiting for the next name that is going to be leaked. What is expected is that the president’s Dilma Rousseff own party (PT – Labour Party) and her coalition to be hit hard.

Until now, Rousseff had not been named in the investigations, but it was published yesterday that her name has been mentioned by one of the executives who did a plea bargain after his arrest last year. The opposition candidate Aecio Neves, who was running for the presidential elections last October against Rousseff, has also been mentioned in the testimonies. Janot, the chief prosecutor, asked the Supreme Court not to investigate Rousseff and Neves, saying there were not enough evidences to do so.

Today, Rousseff’s first name, Dilma, was the most mentioned word in the Brazilian press*. 


Her name has appeared alongside with the name of the operation, Lava Jato (“Car Wash”, in English), and side by side with the main actors of the investigation, including the STF (which stands for Supreme Court of Justice) and Janot, the chief prosecutor. Surprisingly, the name of Neves has not received the same level of attention.

Brazilian disillusionment and the shadow of an impeachment

The Lava Jato operation is far from being the only problem to Rousseff. Brazilian economy is growing very little, inflation is at 7.4 per cent, and Brazilians see the impact on the job market and on the prices. The energy bill has risen 23,4 per cent from last year. Fuel price in São Paulo has risen 9,9% between November 2014 and February 2015, according to Bloomberg.

Disillusioned, a portion of Brazilians turned radical and the word impeachment has been resonating louder than it should.

Here is how the search of the words “impeachment dilma” evolved on Google searches in the past 12 months. The first peak came in mid-October, just after the presidential elections. Another peak was seen in February, during the epicentre of the Lava Jato operation. The searches decreased in the end of the month, but seemed to adopt an ascendent behaviour in March. GoogleTrends

On Twitter, the hashtag #impeachment shows posts full of anger and frustration at the government. Expressions encouraging Brazilians to protest, such as “Come to the streets” (Vem pra rua), share space with words such as “Out PT” (Fora PT), “impeachment dilma” and “Out Dilma” (Fora Dilma). Other expressions asked for Dilma to renounce (RenunciaDilma), while others invited Brazilians to march to Brasília, the country’s capital (Rumoabrasilia).


For the sake of our democratic institutions, all what Brazilians can hope is for an independent investigation of the corruption scandal that exposed companies, politicians and businessmen.

For the sake of the young history of democracy in Brazil, all we can hope is no disillusionment will prevent Rousseff to conclude her term of office.

*Brazilian press: analysis using the headlines of newspapers O Globo, Folha de S. Paulo and Zero Hora. 

What I learnt from Build the News

Our office during the weekend: great atmosphere at Impact Westminster Hub

Our office during the weekend: great atmosphere at Impact Westminster Hub (Credit: Keila Guimaraes)

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend Build the News 2, a hackathon promoted by The Times where journalists and programmers have the chance to meet up in order to produce digital journalism projects.

Our MA Interactive Journalism team Formula from City University London got a Special Commendation for a bookmark service we developed. The solution aims to help readers save their spot when reading long articles in a mobile device.

I was thrilled with the achievement. The winner team at the Student Category had two professional journalists and their idea was impressive. They developed an alternative commenting platform designed to engage readers in the editorial decision-making process.

For those considering taking part in the next events, here are some of the lessons I learnt from this experience:

Plan your idea in advance

This is our team in a meeting on a rainy Sunday: hours and hours of conversation

This is our team in a meeting on a rainy Sunday: hours and hours of conversation

My team was just so excited about Build the News that we did lots of meetings. LOTS. There were moments when it felt exhausting to spend hours and hours discussing ideas, but it did helped us.

When the hackathon started, we kind of had a route to follow. It saved us time, different from some teams that only had the opportunity to brainstorm at the event.

Know the problem you are trying to solve

City University Students (teams Formula and Interhacktives) discuss their ideas (Credit: Keila Guimaraes)

Your problem is your compass: focus on what you are trying to solve and this will keep you on track. When the hackathon started, we weren’t sure if our bookmarking idea was strong enough. We then decided to bring new options to the table. That was just a mess!

We were lucky enough though to have been asked at the very beginning by a member of The Times what was the problem we were trying to solve. That was the tip we needed.

As we knew what problem we would like to tackle [people losing their place in a long form article and unable to come back to it later], we could start working on the solution.

Have a simple and feasible idea

First stages

First stages (Credit: Keila Guimarães)

Three days before the hackathon, we had a provocative class about digital journalism projects with Adam Tinworth at City University. The tutor introduced us to the concept of “Agile Digital”, a “build and test” approach for digital projects.

In this sense, a digital project is always beta. It starts small and it evolves according to the learnings from the beta project.

Our main learning here was: don’t try developing the most innovative piece ever or inventing the wheel. Instead, prefer a simple solution for a clear problem.   

Bring together a team whose players have different skills
Team Formula brainstorming (Credit: Mattie TK)

Team Formula brainstorming (Credit: Matt Taylor)

I was lucky enough to be part of a great team. Each player had a unique set of skills that combined were crucial to the development of the project.

Hamza Ali was the creative mind. Krystina Shveda was the one making the hard questions. Ben Jackson had the esthetic eyes. Alison Benjamin, our developer, had the technical skills to bring our idea to life. I was the one trying mediating the conflicts so we could achieve a common result.

If we were all developers, or all creatives, or all designers, our team wouldn’t work.

Find a developer way in advance

Your project won’t go far without a developer as programmers are those with the technical skills to bring an idea to life.

We found Alison Benjamin only one week before Build the News and how glad we are to have her on board with us. Without her, we would showcase a concept, there wouldn’t be any prototype.

Listen, listen, listen

If you are trying solving a problem, it is essential to know what people’s problems are. As a preparatory work for the hackathon, we created a survey to listen to readers. We wanted to know what was the hardest thing when reading long articles in smartphones and tablets.

The inputs collected helped us to be precise in the solution we were prototyping. It has also provided us with solid arguments when pitching our idea and presenting the project.

That is it. If you would like to know how our weekend was, check out our Tumblr We were updating it live at the hackathon.

And remember: have fun!

A final picture: Ben Jackson on the right, me at the center and Hamza Ali on the left. Oh yeah, we did have fun!

A final picture: Ben Jackson on the right, me at the center and Hamza Ali on the left. Oh yeah, we did have fun!

International Students Face Challenges as they Seek Opportunities in the UK

London: a cosmopolitan city that attracts students from all over the world (Credits: Keila Guimaraes)

London: a cosmopolitan city that attracts students from all over the world (Credits: Keila Guimaraes)

Every year the UK welcome thousands of international students, who come to Britain attracted by its high quality education looking for boosting their career prospects.

Living abroad offers opportunities for both professional and personal development, students say, although it can also be challenging.

Hari Nayagam, 23-year-old, moved last year from Chennai, India to Cardiff to do his GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law) and is now studying at City University London to become a barrister.

“It is challenging to fight for your ambition. I’ve had a lot of struggles,” he says.

He recalls his time in Cardiff when he was planning to contest the Student Union election.

“I needed to campaign and quite a few friends said to me at that time that I was going to ‘challenge the white men.'”

His answer, he says, was joining the election anyway. “I became the Student Union representative for Cardiff University,” he recalls.

Once in London, Nayagam says one of his challenges is to balance academic and social life. “As every student in London, I thought the city would be fun. In reality, I am stuck with exams, preparations and legal stuff.”

“Cardiff was fun, but starting a professional course has changed part of my life. It made me feel proud that I could do something for society, which compelled me to get involved in different activities.”

Nayagam says he wants to become a barrister to be able “to help people in need, who I feel justice has been denied to and who I feel I should fight for their rights.” He hasn’t decided yet where he is going to be based when he finishes his masters. “People in need can be anywhere in the world.”

‘London has everything’

London's skyline (Credits: Keila Guimaraes)

St. Paul’s cathedral at the center (Credits: Keila Guimaraes)

Inês Valente, 24, moved from Paris to London this September to study International Journalism at City University London. She is both French and Brazilian and wants to be an international correspondent somewhere in the world.

She came to London attracted by the cosmopolitan character of the city. “London has everything: all the big stories are here. I can’t imagine myself studying Journalism anywhere else in the UK.”

Mastering English will also be crucial in her career, she says.

“I want to work anywhere in the world and I knew that with French I couldn’t, I knew that with Portuguese I couldn’t, but English makes it possible as it allows me to communicate with people in different countries. As a journalist, this is very important.”

Valente says the positive experiences are bigger than the challenges she has been facing here, as the overwhelming volume of deadlines and activities at her masters.

“You have to be opened to meet people. For me, it is an experience both professional and cultural. It is all about being opened.”

5 reasons why this is the best of times to be a journalist


The media industry has not been very optimistic about the future, and that is understandable.

Layoffs, print readership decrease and a huge drop in advertising revenue over the past decade have all contributed to the gloominess that surrounds media outlets around the world.

Despite the crisis, I would say this is the best of times to be a journalist.

Here I list five reasons why this is a good moment for the media industry:

1. Against the odds, there is money coming to journalism. As the print model is declining, the media industry is looking for new sources of revenue. Vice Magazine flirtation with brand content is attracting a myriad of investors, from the A+E Networks to the huge British communication group WPP. After a new round of investments last month, the once hipster-underground magazine claims to be valued at more than US$ 2,5 billion. Another enterprise, Buzzfeed raised US$ 50 million at the end of August from Andreessen Horowitz, a prominent venture capital firm in Silicon Valley. These are examples of some companies that are more than just surviving.

2. This is a time of experimentation
: While ad dollars fly away from magazines and newspapers, some billionaires from the tech world are trying to reshape journalism companies. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, who bought The Washington Post last year, wants the paper to expand its reach and is soon transforming it in an Amazon product. Another billionaire, Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, has invested US$ 250 million in the new enterprise First Media Look, which has in the front Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who broke the NSA/Snowden story. As it is said in this article, Omidyar plans is to hire big names to back up a big brand, which is what First Media Look aims to be. It will be interesting to see the impact of these entrepreneurs on the media space in a few years.

3. New skills, new roles: as digital becomes more prominent, other disciplines, such as design and coding, are being embraced by the world of journalism and hacks are expected to master new skills. And new roles are emerging too: from news curators to visual storytellers, from data journalists to developers, the possibilities are much broader than it used to be. And this is good news.

4. Everyone is trying to innovate. And that’s exciting: The New York Times launched earlier this year The Upshot, a website “to help readers navigate the news”. It is a separate website from the NYT’s home webpage, mainly data-driven, and attempt to use data as a tool to help “clarify reality”. What a task! Here in Britain, the 126-year-old Financial Times is reshaping the newspaper for the digital age. Now, production journalists at the paper “publish stories to meet peak viewing times on the web rather than old print deadlines“.

5. The boundaries are blurred (and that’s good!): this is not a time for silos. There is no longer print and digital, TV and radio operating in separate universes. Have a look on what Condé Nast has done: the once magazine publisher launched last year a division focused on digital video and entertainment. The company is struggling to make that work, but that isn’t surprising: such a move couldn’t be easy. The good news is that the industry knows digital content is the future. Condé Nast will have to find the best talents to help them work it out – and there is where we, journalists who are looking attentively to the changes in our industry, will fit in.

Of course the media industry is not just about good news. Far from that. Just a week ago, NYT announced cutbacks in staff. Bezos at the Washington Post hired 100 journalists while cutting pensions and other retirement benefits for current employees.

These are tough times too, but certainly an opportunity for those who are excited about change and passionate about learning.

Featured image: Photo by Got Credit

Brazilians in London vote in presidential election hoping for change

Brazilians based in London were voting this Sunday, 5th October in one of the most unpredictable presidential elections since the re-democratization of Brazil, 25 years ago.

The 15,967 voters registered in London gathered at the Brazilian Embassy and Consulate from morning to afternoon to choose their candidates in a moment that the country sees high inflation, slow economic growth and a sense of discontent grows among the Brazilian society.

Voters queue at the Brazilian Embassy

Voters queue at the Brazilian Embassy (Credit: Keila Guimaraes)

Quesia Lima, who lives in London since 1994, is voting for the first time since moving here because she says she wants change.

“Brazil’s situation at the moment demands us to vote. We have to take action,” she says, adding that she is supporting the environmental activist Marina Silva (PSB). “Even though I have no plans to go back to Brazil, part of my family is there. Voting is an attempt to take the country out of the hands of corrupt politicians,” Lima states.

Over the past 12 years, Brazil has been under the rule of the Worker’s Party (PT), first with Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, elected in 2002, and later with Dilma Roussef, the incumbent president since 2010 who is seeking a second term.

The party’s main legacy is social changes. In 2014, for the first time, the UN removed Brazil from the World Hunger Map. According to a report by FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), the number of people that starve in Brazil has fallen 50 per cent in 10 years. A combination of public policies for income transfer to the poorest families, direct purchases for food procurement and technical training of small producers are considered key for the results Brazil achieved.

The country has also raised millions of people out of poverty between 2001 and 2012, reducing in 75% the number of people that lives with less than US$ 1 per day, according to the report.

Despite these improvements though, Brazilians are fed up with scandals involving the government and with poor public services. Massive protests that took millions of people to the streets last year encapsulates this discontent.

“We need a president that is going to tackle corruption. Just then we will have enough money to invest in education and in public health,” says Fabiano Farias, who lives in London since 2008 and has chosen the centre-right candidate Aécio Neves (PSDB).

“Education and health are the basis for a succesful country. There is nothing worse than a citizen unaware of their rights and of how to claim them”, reflects Celia Navarro, who lives in Wales since 2001 and has travelled to London to vote.


Polls suggest Roussef is in the front, with 44 per cent of the voting intention, followed by Neves, who has 26 per cent, and by Silva, who has now 24 per cent. The race is likely to have a second run on the 26th October and Neves and Silva compete for who is going to confront Roussef.

Whoever wins, the electorate message is clear: urgent reforms are needed.

What is so exciting about Interactive Journalism?

Last week the new students of the MA Interactive Journalism at City University London received a kind message from the course’s director, Tom Felle.

In his mail, Felle congratulated us for “gaining a place on one of the most highly coveted postgraduate degree prorammes in Europe” and, after massaging our egos, he promised an intense and challenging year ahead for all of us.

I couldn’t expect less.

I come from a print newspaper background. Before moving to London, I was a reporter at a trade newspaper in São Paulo covering the advertising industry, specially its digital side. A common issue when reporting was how marketers and creative agencies were figuring out ways to deliver branding messages to a consumer that has his attention increasingly fragmented.

By covering advertising, I had the opportunity to watch closely what was going on in the Brazilian media industry, especially in the journalistic one. As elsewhere, news consumers are moving fast from print to Internet. And so are advertisers.

However, even with a consistent growth, digital revenues do not replace the losses from the print side. This great article from New York Magazine about the battle to save Time Inc., a once emperor which is struggling to figure out its future, gives an overview of what is it like to be a magazine these days, or to be any other print media outlet. It is a wicked tricky game!

When I decided to look for a masters, I felt there were a lot to be understood about digital. I also felt that news enterprises would only be successful if they embrace digitalization.

The question is, how to make it profitable? And, most of all, how to keep the core principles of journalism in the digital era instead of trading it for Likes and page views – and still keep it financially good?

The MA I choose seems to offer some answers to that. Its focus on data-journalism will help us to be able to report on a complex environment, where information is abundant, not scarce, and filtering is essential.

We will be learning about new forms of storytelling – and finding one that will get back the attention from news consumers seems the Holy Grail these days.

There will also be classes about entrepreneurial journalism and online journalism, which, I believe, will bring an interesting opportunity for students to debate new forms of funding and publishing.

Soon me and other journalists of my age will be in newsrooms in different parts of the world, forming a new generation of professionals that have many years ahead of work in the journalism industry.

We have to be prepared to contribute to the on-going transformation of the global media landscape. It means we got a lot to learn.

This is what I find so exciting about this course. I feel it is my first step into the future.