Why does seeing the success of a black journalist on Brazil’s top TV network seem to bother people? Criticism seeks to put Maju Coutinho back in “her place”
By Marques Travae
Imagine this situation. There’s a well-known journalist who has managed to construct an impressive resume over the course of her career. Let’s imagine she started off doing reports from the streets in small clips in which she did on the spot reporting and conducted interviews with people on the streets. After putting in her time and paying her dues, an opening becomes available when the network she works for needs a new weathergirl for its top nightly news journal. Looking at her past work, presentations and on-screen presence, said network thinks the reporter would be great for the new weathergirl position.
After joining the team of the top news journal, she does well in her new position presenting the weather. She does so well, in fact, that after a few years on this gig, the same network thinks of moving her up the TV news ladder again and requests that she start to ocassionally present reports in the role as anchor on the news cast in which she previously presented the weather. She does well filling in for the regular anchors on this program as well as another news program on the same network.
During this whole process, she earns accolades, compliments and congratulations from a large segment of the network’s viewers, but on the other hand, she has also drawn criticism from another segment regardless of how well she has performed in her career ascension. This critical segment criticized her on everything from the way she wears her hair, to her on camera correction of the network’s top journalist, to her supposed pronunciation mistakes. How would you judge this situation?
Not enough information?
OK, let’s consider a few other facts. 1) In terms of the criticism of her performance by naysayers, the very network that she works for is more than pleased with her presentation. 2) She is a black female in a space where very few black women have ever been seen. Now, what reason would you think that she has attracted so much criticism even though her own network has believed in her abilities so much that it has moved her up the journalism ladder three times?
This is the situation involving the Rede Globo TV network journalist Maria Júlia Coutinho, better known as Maju.
A few years ago, I highlighted when Maju was blasted with a barrage of racist, hateful comments on social networks after becoming the first black weathergirl on the network’s top news program, which is also the country’s top news journal. With the support of her colleagues, Maju continued presenting the weather segment of the journal. The negativity directed toward Maju never seemed to disappear completely and there were always little racist comments and jokes of bad taste floating around online.
By late 2019, with the announcements that Maju would take on anchoring chores on Globo’s Jornal Hoje as well as Jornal Nacional, the negativity made headlines again. This time, others in the press began to question her aptitude for the positions and her performance in front of the camera.
It all seemed to start when journalist Daniel Castro wrote a piece on Notícias da TV website, on Wednesday, October 9, with a list of simple diction errors he pointed out, the kind that were common for any journalist. Followers of the situation also didn’t take kindly to journalist Sônia Abrão of Rede TV’s A Tarde É Sua speaking of Maju’s “inexperience” in presenting the news.
Castro went as far as to report that the Globo network had already had a meeting to discuss problem’s with Maju’s presentation. Then, in October, former Globo jornalist Carla Vilhena took to Twitter to also criticize Maju for her coverage of the death of television director Jorge Fernando.
So, what did all of these criticisms lead to? Nothing. In fact, Vilhena would later delete her tweets and issue an apology to Maju, calling her great and charismatic. In terms of Castro’s story about Globo having a meeting to discuss concerns about Maju, the network itself came forward and said that no such meeting had ever taken place.
The network confirmed that Maju’s performance had thus far exceeded all of its expectations. Criticizing Castro’s report, the network found it amazing that he didn’t understand the difference between improvised language and that read by a teleprompter.
In fact, about a week after all of the talk of Maju’s “errors” made headlines, Globo itself fired three employees who were responsible for starting such rumors. Having succeeded in every new challenge presented to her, Maju’s star continues to shine bright. But I ask, what do YOU think would be the motive of such attempts to denigrate her image and performance? I’ve got my own ideas. And it wasn’t just me. Many people following the situation had their own ideas about why Maju was the target of such hate.
Translation of above comments:
- Maju Coutinho had her mistakes on the Jornal Hoje counted by a Uol journalist. Have you ever seen a white person’s mistakes counted?
- You were inelegant with your comments! Do you want to really help? Compliment in public and criticize in the confidential! Thank you Maju, you can improve, yes, but you’re doing very well! Congratulations!!!
- How many white journalists have had their grammatical errors accounted for in UOL? Do you know the name of this obsession with finding errors that put us in a subordinate place? Racism, pure and simple.
- When the great Renata Lo Prete debuted at Jornal da Globo, she made so many mistakes that it was impossible to count, and I don’t remember seeing a story as dirty as this at the time. The guy COUNTED Maju’s mistakes and put it in the text. And I can’t imagine why lol
- I’ve never seen that kind of comment with other journalists like Maju in having to deal with this every day. Holy Mary, a tip if given directly to people thrown on Twitter is not tip
- Have you ever seen a white journalist have their mistakes counted? What’s this really called?
If you’re still not clear on where I’m going with this, one picture should tell you all of you need to know. Brazil is a country where black people are expected to stay in “their place”.
And generally, when they ascend, they are surrounded mostly by people who look nothing like them which is one of the reasons that some people see them as being “out of place”. If a picture says a thousand words, what does the above photo of Maju and Globo TV’s crew tell you?