Folha de S. Paulo
|Editor||Otavio Frias Filho|
|Founded||19 February 1921|
|Political alignment||liberal; centre-left|
|Headquarters||Alameda Barão de Limeira, 425
São Paulo, Brazil
Folha de S. Paulo, also known as Folha de São Paulo, or simply Folha (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈfoʎɐ], Sheet), is a Brazilian daily newspaper founded in 1921 under the name Folha da Noite and published in São Paulo by Empresa Folha da Manhã.
The newspaper is the centerpiece for Grupo Folha, a conglomerate that also controls UOL (Universo Online), the leading Internet portal in Brazil; newspaper Agora São Paulo; polling institute Datafolha; publishing house Publifolha; book imprint Três Estrelas; printing company Plural; and, in a joint-venture with the Globo group, the business daily Valor, among other enterprises.
Throughout its history, Folha has always been a nimble publication, more responsive to social needs than its main competitors, all of which identified with the political and business ruling classes. It went through several phases and was targeted at different audiences – urban middle classes, rural landowners, the civil society -, but political independence has always been one of its editorial cornerstones.
Ever since 1986, Folha has the biggest circulation among the largest Brazilian newspapers – according to data by IVC (Instituto Verificador de Circulação), in January 2010, circulation was 279,000 copies on weekdays and 329,000 on Sundays. In company with “Estado de São Paulo” and “O Globo”, Folha is regarded as one of the most influential daily news vehicles in Brazil. Among daily newspapers, Folha has also the news Website with the largest number of visitors.
Folha was founded on February 19, 1921, by a group of journalists led by Olival Costa and Pedro Cunha, under the name Folha da Noite. It was an evening newspaper, with a project that privileged shorter, clearer articles, focusing more on news than on opinion, and a positioning closer to the themes that affected the daily life of the paulistanos (São Paulo city dwellers), particularly the working classes. The paper was competing against O Estado de S. Paulo the leading newspaper in the city, which represented rural moneyed interests and took on a conservative, traditional and rigid posture; Folha was always more responsive to societal needs.
Business flourished, and the controlling partners decided to buy a building to serve as headquarters, a printing press and then, in 1925, to create a second newspaper, Folha da Manhã. Also in 1925, Folha da Manhã premiered Juca Pato, a cartoon character drawn by Benedito Carneiro Bastos Barreto (1896-1947), better known as Belmonte. Juca Pato was supposed to represent the Average Joe, and served as a vehicle for ironic criticism of political and economic problems, always repeating the tagline “it could have been worse”.
The two Folha newspapers criticized mainly the Republican parties that monopolized power back then; the newspapers campaigned for social improvement. The company was involved in founding the Democratic Party, an opposition group. However, in 1929, Olival Costa, by then sole proprietor of the Folhas, mended his fences with the São Paulo Republicans, and broke his links to opposition groups connected to Getúlio Vargas and his Aliança Liberal.
In October 1930, when Vargas led a victorious revolution, newspapers that opposed him were attacked by Aliança Liberal supporters. Folha’s premises were destroyed, and Costa sold the company to Octaviano Alves de Lima, a businessman whose main activity was coffee production and trade.
Defense of rural landowners and opposition to Vargas
Alves de Lima’s initial goal, when he took over the newspapers in 1931, was defending the “agricultural interests”, meaning rural landowners. But important events elsewhere became the focus for news organizations: the 1932 revolution, when São Paulo tried to recover the power lost to Vargas; the World War II (1939 to 1945), and the Estado Novo (the Vargas dictatorial period that extended from 1937 to 1945).
Alves de Lima had no news experience, and so he charged poet Guilherme de Almeida with directing the company, and chose Rubens do Amaral as newsroom head; Amaral led a newsroom staffed by journalists hostile to Vargas. Hermínio Saccheta, a Trotskyite who was briefly a political prisoner under Estado Novo, became an executive news editor as soon as he left jail.
The dictatorial administration put political pressure onto news organs, and in São Paulo it took as its main target the daily O Estado de S. Paulo, a major supporter for the 1932 revolution. The newspaper’s director, Júlio de Mesquita Filho, was arrested three times and forced into exile, and “Estado” was under intervention by the authorities from 1940 to 1945. With its main rival muzzled, Folha da Manhã took a leading role in voicing opposition to Vargas’ dictatorship.
This critical stance is one of reasons offered to explain a change in ownership during 1945. According to João Baptista Ramos, brother of João Nabantino Ramos – one of the company’s new controlling partners, with Clóvis Queiroga and Alcides Ribeiro Meirelles -, buying the Folhas was a maneuver Getúlio Vargas engineered to get rid of the oppositionist viewpoint Rubens do Amaral, a sworn enemy of “getulismo”, gave to the paper’s news coverage.
Queiroga, on his part, represented Count Francisco Matarazzo Júnior, barred from owning press outlets in Brazil because he was born in Italy. Matarazzo financed the purchase of new, modern printing presses and saw the investment as a way to respond to the attacks he suffered from newspapers owned by his business rival Assis Chateaubriand.
One of the weapons he developed for this battle was reducing the sales price of the Folhas in order to suffocate the business of Diários Associados, Chateaubriand’s company. However, the ploy backfired. Nabantino Ramos balanced those losses against the Count’s initial financing and, some months later, declared that the company’s debt to Matarazzo was fully paid and took over editorial control of the papers.
The middle classes’ newspaper, and civil activism
Nabantino Ramos, who was an attorney, was very interested in modern managerial techniques, and during the 1940s and 1950s adopted several innovations: competitive examinations for new hires, journalism courses, performance bonuses, fact checking. He wrote a newsroom manual and editorial policy guidelines.
In 1949, Ramos started a third newspaper, Folha da Tarde, and sponsored dozens of civic campaigns against corruption and organized crime, for the defense of water sources, infrastructure improvements, city works, and plenty more.
However organized as an executive, Ramos lacked business acumen and was not flexible enough to negotiate credit lines and balance budgets. In the early 1960s, the company was suffering due to a rise in the prices of printing paper. The three newspapers were merged under a new title, Folha de São Paulo, in 1960, but initially the morning, afternoon and evening editions were kept. However, with a worsening financial situation, only the morning edition survived.
Things deteriorated further in 1961, after the news staff organized a strike that forced the company to pay higher wages and grant them additional benefits. That meant additional costs for the paper. On August 13, 1962, the company was sold to entrepreneurs Octavio Frias de Oliveira and Carlos Caldeira Filho.
Pluralism and leadership
Frias and Caldeira became, respectively, CEO and COO of the company, and started their tenure by seeking to balance the newspaper’s financial position. Frias chose scientist José Reis, one of the leading lights in the Brazilian Association for the Advancement of Science (SBPC), as newsroom head, and also hired Cláudio Abramo, the journalist credited with the successful updating of rival “O Estado de S. Paulo”. Abramo would take Reis’ place and form a productive working partnership with Frias that extended for more than 20 years. In 1964, Folha de S. Paulo supported the coup that overthrew President João Goulart, and his replacement by a military junta; the military role would be only temporary—or so at least it was thought.
After the financial and business hardships were left behind, the new management started to concentrate on industrial modernization and in creating a distribution network that would facilitate the circulation leaps that would follow. The company bought new printing presses and equipment in the United States. In 1968, Folha became the first Latin-American newspaper to adopt the offset printing system. In 1971, it pioneered a new innovation: lead typesetting was replaced by cold composition. The newspaper’s circulation was improving and its share in the advertising market was growing.
Late in the 1960s, Frias even formed the nucleus of a national TV network, adding to TV Excelsior, which led in audience in São Paulo and he acquired in 1967, three other stations in Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and Rio Grande do Sul. However, Caldeira didn’t like the TV business and the partners sold their TV companies in 1969.
The early 1970s were a turbulent period for Folha. Accused by guerrilla groups of lending vehicles to the military regime repressive apparatus, Folha became a target for guerrilla action. Guerrilla groups intercepted and burned three of Folha’s delivery vans, two in September and one in October 1971, and made death threats against the newspaper owner.
Octavio Frias de Oliveira responded with a first page editorial entitled “Banditry”, and stated that he wouldn’t accept the aggressions or threats. That was followed by an article on the news bulletin of ALN, a guerrilla group, in which Frias was classified as an enemy of the organization and Brazil. The bad blood between the newspaper and the left wing groups deepened and reached a climax with the editorial “Political Prisoners?”, published in 1972, in which the newspaper challenged the notion that there were people jailed for their political ideas in Brazil. The editorial was also a response to rival “O Estado”, for its defense of a special jail regime for political prisoners. The editorial claimed: “It is well known that those criminals, whom the daily [Estado] wrongly qualifies as political prisoners, are just bank robbers, kidnappers, thieves, arsonists and murderers, acting sometimes with more exquisite perversity than those other, lowly common criminals, that the media outlet in question thinks deserving of all promiscuity”.
The episode has also caused an internal crisis. One week later, the newspaper suspended its editorials. Later that same year, Cláudio Abramo lost his position as newsroom head, and Folha would only claim back a more avowedly political stance, instead of the uncritical “neutrality” adopted when editorials were suspended, late in 1973.
More innovative than its competitor, Folha started to gain hold of the middle classes that were growing under the Brazilian “economic miracle”, and became the newspaper of choice for young people and women. At the same time, it put effort into news areas that were not well covered in Brazil up to that time, like business news, sports, education and services. Folha supported the concept of a political opening and opened its pages to all opinion trends, and its news coverage adopted a more critical stance.
Frias believed in an editorial policy nonpartisan and pluralistic, able to offer the widest range of views about any subject, and he found a skilled collaborator in Cláudio Abramo, the newspaper’s editorial director from 1965 to 1973, followed by Ruy Lopes (1972–73) and Boris Casoy (1974-1976).
Abramo took over once again in 1976/77, but then a crisis caused by an attempted military coup against President Ernesto Geisel led Frias to bring back Casoy. Abramo reformulated the newspaper and led the first of many graphic reforms that would follow, in 1976; he hired columnists such as Janio de Freitas, Paulo Francis, Tarso de Castro, Glauber Rocha, Flavio Rangel, Alberto Dines, Mino Carta, Osvaldo Peralva, Luiz Alberto Bahia and Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Folha became one of the main forums for public debate in Brazil. Contrary to some expectations, this editorial posture was preserved and developed by Casoy during his tenure (1977-1984). In 1983/1984, Folha was the main bastion for the Diretas Já movement, an attempt to change the voting system adopted for presidential selection, from a Congressional vote to direct popular voting.
In 1984, Otavio Frias Filho became the editorial director, systematizing and developing the newspaper’s experiences during the political opening and Diretas Já. A series of documents circulated periodically, defining the newspaper’s editorial project as part of the so-called Projeto Folha, implemented in the newsroom under the supervision of Carlos Eduardo Lins da Silva and Caio Túlio Costa. The guidelines for Projeto Folha require critical, nonpartisan and pluralistic news coverage. Those principles also guide the Newsroom Manual, first released in 1984 and updated several times later on. More than a style guide, it serves as a guide to the rules and commitments Folha works under. It was the first publication of its kind to be made available to the general public.
The guidelines stipulate that Folha's journalism should be descriptive and accurate, but that themes that cause controversy can admit to more than one viewpoint and require a pluralistic treatment. Folha also became known for its highly diverse selection of columnists. At the same time, checks and balances were instituted through internal controls: the Manual, the daily “Corrections” section adopted in 1991, a rule stating that objections to any article expressed by readers or for people mentioned in the news should be published, and, above all, the ombudsman position created in 1989; this position entails job security for its holder, whose aim is to criticize Folha and deal with complaints by readers and people mentioned in the news.
From the midpoint of the Brazilian military rule, Folha kept a critical stance towards several succeeding administrations (Ernesto Geisel, João Figueiredo, José Sarney, Fernando Collor, Itamar Franco). Otavio Frias Filho was sued, with three of Folha’s reporters, by then President Fernando Collor.
Although Folha expressed support for Collor’s liberalizing economic views, it was the first publication to appeal for his impeachment, which finally came in 1992. The newspaper’s coverage about the administrations of Fernando Henrique Cardoso (PSDB) and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) led to accusations of anti-governmental bias in both cases, though the two Presidents belong to rival parties.
Beginning with the exposure of a massive fraud on the Norte-Sul railway (1985), and through the Mensalão scandal (2005), Folha kept revealing abuses and misrule.
In 1986, Folha became the newspaper with the largest circulation among big Brazilian dailies, and it still leads today. In 1995, one year after reaching the landmark of one million copies for its Sunday edition, the company put into operation its new printing center, seen as the most technologically advanced in Latin-America. The company’s circulation and sales record was set in 1994, with the launch of the “Atlas Folha/The New York Times” (1,117,802 copies for the Sunday edition.)
Currently, Folha extended its range of communication activities, with newspapers, databanks, a polling institute, a newswire, a real-time news and entertainment service, a printing company for magazines and a delivery company.
In 1991, all shares of Empresa Folha da Manhã then belonging to Carlos Caldeira Filho were transferred to Octavio Frias de Oliveira, Folha’s publisher until his death in 2007. Folha’s executive editors since 1984 have been journalists Matinas Suzuki (1991-1997), Eleonora de Lucena (2001-2010) and Sérgio Dávila (from March 2010).
Technology and innovation
In 1967, Folha adopted full-color offset presses, becoming the first large-circulation publication to do so in Brazil. In 1971, the newspaper replaced lead typesetting with the first cold composition system in Brazil. In 1983, when its first computer terminals were installed, it became the first computerized newsroom in South America. In 1984, Folha launched its first newsroom manual; those books would in time become valuable reference works for students and journalists. The manual was updated in new editions launched in 1987, 1992 and 2001.
In 1989, Folha became the first Brazilian media vehicle to appoint an ombudsman, charged with receiving, evaluating and forwarding complaints by the readers, and to present critical comments both about Folha and other media vehicles. Nine journalists have occupied this position since then: Caio Túlio Costa, Mario Vitor Santos, Junia Nogueira de Sá, Marcelo Leite, Renata Lo Prete, Bernardo Ajzenberg, Marcelo Beraba, Mário Magalhães and Carlos Eduardo Lins da Silva. In February 2010, Suzana Singer was appointed to the position.
In 1995, when the Folha Printing and Technology Center started operations in Tamboré (near São Paulo), this modern printing plant built at a cost of US$ 120 million allowed Folha to circulate with most of its pages in full color.
Sections, desks and supplements
In the first half of 2012, Folha carried the following sections and supplements:
- A. Front Page, Opinion (comprehending the former Trends/Debates and Reader Panel sections), Panel, Power and World.
- B. Market (including the Open Market column)
- C. City, Health, Science, Folha Corrida
- D. Sports
- E. Ilustrada (entertainment), including the Mônica Bergamo column; and Acontece (daily guide).
- Monday: Folhateen, Tec
- Tuesday: Equilíbrio (welfare, lifestyle)
- Wednesday: Tourism
- Thursday: Food
- Friday: Folha Guide (São Paulo only)
- Saturday: Folhinha (children)
- Sunday: Ilustríssima (culture), sãopaulo magazine (São Paulo only), Vehicles, Construction, Property, Jobs, Business
Monthly magazine: Serafina (São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasília only)
In early 2012, Folha had correspondents, either full-time or research fellows, in the following cities:
- Carlos Guilherme Mota e Maria Helena Capelato (1981). História da Folha de S. Paulo: 1921-1981. Impres.
- IVC - Instituto Verificador de Circulação
- [Gisela Taschner. Folhas ao vento: análise de um conglomerado jornalístico no Brasil.
- Oscar Pilagallo (2012). História da imprensa paulista: jornalismo e poder de D. Pedro I a Dilma. Unknown parameter
- “As nossas diretrizes”, Folha da Manhã, p. 1, 15/1/1931
- "Presos Políticos?". Unknown parameter
- See Politi, Maurice, Resistência atrás das grades. São Paulo: Plena Editorial/Núcleo Memória, 2009
- Folha Online English version of the online newspaper
- Folha Online (Portuguese)
- Mobile phone version (Portuguese)
- Folha de S.Paulo (printed version) (Portuguese)
- English translations of Folha articles available at nonprofit WorldMeets.US
- MAC-Morpho. Annotated corpus of Portuguese language based on texts from the newspaper.