Beatriz Farrugia: “I firmly believe that journalism can change societies”

You can easily say that for Beatriz Farrugia, a journalist from São Paulo (Brazil), journalism was something she was meant to do. From a young age she loved history and writing, and thought that the best way to combine both was to become a journalist.

After graduating from a Bachelor in Journalism, and with a postgraduate in International Relations, she worked as an international reporter and editor for the Italian news agency called ANSA. She also wrote articles for the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo and for The Brazilian Report, a digital newspaper in English.

Even though she worked for different types of organizations, with different audiences to take in account, especially for a news agency where “just 3 seconds can be determinant for a world breaking news”, she mainly worked for the digital platforms at all those news organizations.

The knowledge she gained working in digital content, lead her to help develop digital projects in Buenos Aires and Rome, by training young journalists to do multiplatform content or create news websites for ANSA, through storytelling.

With almost 11 years working as a journalist, she has covered news that go from diplomatic issues, politics, economy to terrorism. With investigative projects in Brazil about corruption and political affairs.

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While working with ANSA, Beatriz visited Italy several times, here in Polignano a Mare (Bari)

She even wrote a book, with other colleagues, called 1950: O Preço De Uma Copa (1950 the price of a World Cup), about the cost of the 1950 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The idea started as a final project at the university, back in 2011, when Brazil was preparing to host the 2014 World Cup.

They realized that “nobody knew exactly what had happened in the first World Cup in Brazil, in 1950”, aside from the famous Maracanazo. An investigation began and they ended up discovering “dozens of amazing things and even crimes (corruption) related to the event”.

Then came the book, published in 2014, with an analysis of the legacy the event had on Brazil. A second book, this time centered in the 2014 World Cup, is on the way; with the same intentions as the first one, to tell “the full story about the event and investigate the real costs and its legacy”. They even made a website with some data available, such as the cost of the most recent World Cups, or the attendance since the first one in 1930.

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The cover of the book she co-wrote along Diego Salgado, Gustavo Zucchi and Murilo Ximenes

Last year she started giving classes to students aspiring to be journalists, and in her view, it is a job that “is changing every year” but if there is one advice she would like to pass on to the new generations: “my main tip to my students is to believe in our work”.

She achieved all of it by the age of 31. But probably the biggest challenge she is facing right now, is the political turmoil happening in Brazil, with the raise as president of Jair Bolsonaro in 2019. In her view, how she covers national politics has drastically changed, confidently answering with a “yes, definitely”.

And the coronavirus outbreak may have increased the tension between a president who undervalued the danger of the pandemic — even talking to the press without a face mask, even though he tested positive for coronavirus — and journalists trying to sort out the truths and the lies from the government, “nowadays I feel like Brazilian journalists are struggling to fight fake news”. Even mentioning the consequences the post-truth as in her country, and around the world for journalists.

The current situation in the United States may be a good example of the struggle the news media has been facing those past years, and it is no different in other countries, like the Philippines or Brazil for example.

One that Beatriz mentioned is “we are facing a situation where people don’t believe the press”. And where it is complicated to cover political news, without being seen as political activists instead of journalists.

Beatriz seems to enjoy learning new skills or new languages, like Arabic, which she started 4 years ago. Despite already speaking Portuguese, Italian, Spanish and English. Her next step is the MA in Data Journalism.

An area she has already worked with, as she recently published articles such as the increase of gun registry since Bolsonaro took power, or the health spending in Brazil by states.

With even some knowledge in coding too, mainly in HTML and some Python, she learned when she was a teenager.

All throughout the interview, and despite having to work at the same time, you could easily sense the passion she has for her profession, and the importance to be a journalist in this day and age, “I firmly believe that journalism can change societies”.

For Beatriz, being a journalist is not simply about delivering the news has they happen, but making sure that her readers have all the information in hand to have a clearer picture of the actual situation she and her fellow citizens are living in Brazil.

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