Note from BW of Brazil: Prominent black women journalists are still a rarity in Brazil’s whitewashed media. But the black women who have managed to break through a nearly impenetrable color barrier have consistently shown how they can excel when given the opportunity. Maria Júlia Coutinho is one of the faces that brings a little color to the news journal of Brazil’s most powerful television network, Rede Globo, and after breaking through another barrier becoming the prime time news’s first black weather girl, Maria could be poised for even bigger roles in the future!
“I behave the same in the air and off the air,” says Maria Júlia Coutinho
Journalist debuted as the weathergirl on the Jornal Nacional in April. She talks about her friendship with Monalisa Perrone, ‘babbling until 4 am’.
by Letícia Mendes
“I believe that anyone whoever has worked as a street reporter, under crunch time pressure, covering various subjects, deals well with the studio environment,” says the journalist, 37.
In December, Majú went on to do the weather forecast on Hora 1, but in a different way, more conversed as if she were in the viewer’s room. Since April 27th, she’s been on Jornal Nacional.
“It was confirmation that I’m on the right path: a path that has to be constructed with honesty, accessible language and correct information,” she says.
Majú, incidentally, is a personal nickname that was first used on national television on Bom Dia Brasil by Chico Pinheiro. This week William Bonner asked her live if she prefers to be called Majú, “as her fans ask us to call you,” and she said yes. I love it!” she replied laughing.
G1 – When did you know you wanted to be a journalist? Was it the influence of your parents?
Maria Júlia Coutinho – I am the daughter of educators, a father that was a Portuguese teacher and a pedagogical coordinator mother, both retired. I grew up surrounded by books and newspapers. I remember my parents discussing news at home. I think I was influenced by that environment. In childhood, I presented most of my homework in the form of TV news, print newspapers, booklets.
G1 – Did you always want to work in television?
MJC – In college, there were laboratories of newspaper, magazine, radio and TV. I went through all of them, but when I took the microphone to do my first report for the TV lab, I thought, ‘Lord, this is what I want out of life.’
G1 – When did you get on Globo and which program?
MJC – I started working at Globo in August 2007 and amazingly enough: my first report was on dry weather, conveyed on SPTV 2nd edition.
G1 – Do you remember your first live (report)?
MJC – I just remember it was terrible!
G1 – You’ve done various cultural stories on SPTV. Do you like to cover that area?
MJC – I love to cover culture, I love to cover cities. I like to tell stories.
G1 – What story was most striking to you?
MJC – It was the death of a worker in the construction of a mall. We were covering the accident of the job, the worker’s colleagues took advantage of the presence of the press to complain about the poor conditions in which they lived, in an accommodation in the south of the capital. We investigated and the the police precinct took action and the company that hired the workers, most from (the state of) Sergipe, was punished and had to pay for the return of many of them to the Northeast.
G1 – You assumed the post of weather girl on Bom dia SP/Brasil to cover the maternity leave of Eliana Marques. How was that transition?
MJC – It was less complicated than I expected. I believe that anyone who has worked as a street reporter, under crunch time pressure, covering various subjects, copes well with the studio environment. One thing that helped me a lot at work in the studio was using the Internet to continue to have access to the public, since as a street reporter I had more contact with viewers. I could test, over the internet, different ways to talk about the weather. For a year, I published almost daily posts with the weather forecast using a more relaxed language. I used on TV many of the expressions approved by the public network.
G1 – How is to be weathergirl? How do you edit the weather information that is relevant?
MJC – I am advised by meteorologists that follow our work on Globo. They analyze the charts and weather report and inform which to ones to highlight. My job is to “translate”, in a clear way, accessible and with flavor to the public, the technical information passed on to them. I have also contacted the affiliated stations that send us reports or pictures of subjects related to the weather that can be utilized on the map.
G1 – How was working with (journalist) Monalisa Perrone? You two passed on the impression of being best friends.
MJC – Yes. Our friendship is real. Mona has always supported me, guided me, made constructive criticism. We talked and laughed a lot before going on air. Two babblers until 4 am! This vibe backstage helped us to not drop the ball. Monalisa taught me how critical eye to eye is, when you have a partner in television news. She has a phrase that I keep to this day when I have to work with someone on a project, “I add, I never divide. I get the ball and you cut.” I think we played very well.
G1 – How did you get the news that you were going to be live alongside William Bonner and Renata Vasconcellos on the new Jornal Nacional?
MJC – I received it with great joy. For me it was a confirmation that I am on the right path: a path that has to be construced with honesty, accessible language and correct information. I behave on the air (I speak, I move, laugh) the same way I behave off the air.
G1 – What is your current routine, the time of which you get up until being ready for JN?
MJC – I get up between 6:30 and 7am, do yoga and meditation, read the newspaper, take care of the house. I enter the TV at 1pm, sometimes I present journalistic reports of programming that will air at 2:15pm. After I’m holed up in Globo’s art department, where are the meteorologist and illustrators (who take care of the map art). The meteorologist informs of what the highlights of the day are, we talked with illustrators to define the art, I do my text, I inform Bonner and Renata and the deputy editor of the journal, Fernando Castro, what topics will be discussed on the map. Then I take care of the text of the SPTV 2 edition journal forecast. I go to make up at 5pm. Around 7:15 I go on the air on SPTV. Then I take a quick breath, go to the studio to check the JN map art and move forward from 8.30pm. After my appearance, I have a brief evaluation meeting and a preview of what we can do the next day.
G1 – Do you opine on the outfits you wear on the journals?
MJC – Yes. The costume designers bring clothes that match best with my style: they are usually colorful dresses. I suggest pieces and wear what makes me feel comfortable.
G1 – Do you think, for the public, your ascension from local journal to JN may seem too fast? What else bothers you from the feedback?
MJC – I don’t think so. A lot of people know that, despite not having gone the traditional route (going through the morning journals, then lunchtime and only then go to JN), I worked hard, including at other stations: I passed through reporting on TV Cultura , where I also hosted a news program. I am reading D Quixote de La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes. In the second book, the character Sancho Pança, squire to Don Quixote, says: ‘I am old dog, I don’t turn around for whistles’. I try not to get turned around on complimentary whistles, nor on those that represent criticisms that do not construct anything. I also like this phrase: ‘What you think of me, that’s your problem.’
Note from BW of Brazil: Not sure if that last comment made by Maria came before or after the following incident but her attitude toward ‘haters’ couldn’t come with better timing! A shame that we can’t end a positive story as it is because of something negative, but it is what it is; no use hiding the truth. As in recent stories involving black women journalists (see here and here) being targeted online, Maria attracted some spiteful, negative comments from a viewer after one of her segments during the weather report.
It seems that someone didn’t take too kindly to Maria having the “audacity” to correct one of the media’s top anchors live on television. At least, that’s how it appears. What other reason would someone have for making such petty comments? As in past articles, it just appears that no matter how high up the social ladder a black person climbs, some people will still insist on trying to remind him/her of her ‘place’ because of skin color. The same lesson a gold-medal winning athlete recently learned. Oh, sorry, I forgot again…’racism doesn’t exist in Brazil’!
New girl on Jornal Nacional a victim of racism
by Odair Braz Junior with Pragmatismo Político
The journalist Maria Júlia Coutinho, who this week made headlines for having corrected her boss, William Bonner, live, became the target of racist comments on the Internet. So far, the journalist has called attention for her class, elegance and security, to the point even of a necessary slap on the wrist for Bonner.
When asked “if the South will continue to have tempo bom (good weather)?” Maria Júlia responded with the question “tempo firme?” (steady weather), in accordance with what determines the new recommendations.
Unfortunately, the competence of the journalist was not enough to save her from racist comments. News about her published on the portals are often accompanied by racist manifestations of Internet users. It happened, for example, when the portal R7 published a text in which Maria Júlia’s performance was praised on Jornal Nacional.
Despite the praise, internet users attacked the journalist because she is black. Being congratulated by another black internet user, a Facebook user named Venancio Rodrigues replied: “Cabelo ruim” (bad hair). You’re complimenting her because she’s preta (black) like you,” and repeated the phrase then replacing the word ‘preta’ with ‘negra’. The most shocking is that the comments received, respectively, sixteen and eight ‘likes’.
Venancio was not alone. “This impact is only because she is black. If she were white, like normal, it wouldn’t matter”, published another Internet user.
It is obvious that any journalist who “corrects” Bonner live will be news at that moment, whether white, black, male or female. And this taking into consideration that what Maria did was something good without really confronting the anchor. Maria just reminded Bonner that the more appropriate term is “tempo firme” and not “tempo bom” when one says that it will be sunny. Maria’s casualness is what brings notoriety to the new weather girl.
But what is incredible that nowadays there still exist people who have this mentality. The internet is an open field for people to post what they want, which is something positive. The problem is that we encounter this kind of attitude. Fortunately, while there are people like that, there is also the other side, people who denounce and fight these racists.
Last week, Pragmatismo Político also denounced another racial incident involving a black journalist. Cristiane Damacena suffered a barrage of racist comments after publishing a photo on her personal Facebook page. The case went to court and an investigation was opened to identify the aggressors.