Published in May 2020
A project by Projor
Developed by Volt Data Lab


Municipalities that do not have news outlets are spread across Brazil. The so-called news deserts are, in general, small towns with a median population of 7,100 inhabitants.

These locations correspond to 62.6% of Brazilian municipalities. Although they represent the majority of cities in the country, they total 37 million people - that is, 18% of the national population.

Why is this relevant? Because a municipality without local journalism, which does not have its own news coverage, lacks independent information so that its population can vote, demand action from government officials and learn more about services, problems and specific local events.

Total news deserts in Brazil

population proportion
NOT DESERTS 171,197,923 82.1%
DESERTS 37,296,977 17.9%

News deserts are municipalities without independent journalistic news organizations.

In the midst of this scenario, there is also another one, also serious situation, regarding the almost deserts. These are the municipalities that have only one or two news organizations, whose chances of becoming localities without any local coverage are considerable. In general, they are usually larger than deserts (median population of 17,800 inhabitants).

The almost deserts bring an additional nuance to this whole scenario, that of the quality of journalism offered there. With little or no competition, local initiatives are more vulnerable to political or business interference, for example, although this is difficult to ascertain without evidence in a case-by-case basis.

There is still a lot that we do not know about the quality of these journalistic organizations - more research is needed, including in the field - but it is already possible to safely say that doing independent journalism in these places is not a simple task.


News deserts - no news media

3,487 municipalities do not have a local news organizations - 62% of Brazil's total

Each point represents 10 municipalities

News deserts - no news media

3,487 municipalities do not have a local news organizations - 62% of Brazil's total

Each point represents 10 municipalities

News deserts - no news media

3,487 municipalities do not have a local news organizations - 62% of Brazil's total

Each point represents 10 municipalities

Almost deserts - 1 or 2 news organizations

1,074 - 19% of Brazil's total

Almost deserts - 1 or 2 news organizations

1,074 - 19% of Brazil's total

Almost deserts - 1 or 2 news organizations

1,074 - 19% of Brazil's total

Non-deserts - 3 or more news organizations

1,009 - 19% of Brazil's total

Non-deserts - 3 or more news organizations

1,009 - 19% of Brazil's total

Non-deserts - 3 or more news organizations

1,009 - 19% of Brazil's total


It is worth noticing that the States in the North and Northeast of Brazil are the ones that have a greater proportion of news deserts , whereas the almost deserts are distributed more equally in the territory.

region total municipalities total deserts % of deserts
Northeast 1,794 1,318 73.5%
North 450 323 71.8%
Southeast 1,668 1,010 60.6%
South 1,191 653 54.8%
Mid-west 467 183 39.2%

% OF MUNICIPALITIES IN EACH STATE

Deserts

Almost deserts

Non-deserts

where no news

orgs were mapped

1 or 2

news orgs

more than 3

news orgs

total of

municipalities

South

50%

75%

25%

RS

497

SC

295

PR

399

Southeast

MG

853

SP

645

ES

78

RJ

92

North

139

TO

15

RR

144

PA

62

AM

52

RO

22

AC

16

AP

Northeast

RN

167

PI

224

PB

223

SE

75

MA

217

AL

102

PE

185

BA

417

CE

184

Mid-west

141

MT

246

GO

79

MS

The chart excludes the Federal District. Although it has several satellite cities, the survey considers only one municipality, following IBGE's municipal code.

% OF MUNICIPALITIES IN EACH STATE

Deserts

Almost deserts

Non-deserts

no news orgs

were mapped

1 or 2

news orgs

more than 3

news orgs

Total of

municipalities

South

50%

75%

25%

RS

497

SC

295

PR

399

Southeast

MG

853

SP

645

ES

78

RJ

92

North

139

TO

15

RR

144

PA

62

AM

52

RO

22

AC

16

AP

Northeast

RN

167

PI

224

PB

223

SE

75

MA

217

AL

102

PE

185

BA

417

CE

184

Mid-west

141

MT

246

GO

79

MS

The chart excludes the Federal District. Although it has several satellite cities, the survey considers only one municipality, following IBGE's municipal code.

% OF MUNICIPALITIES

IN EACH STATE

Deserts (no news media)

Almost deserts (1 or 2)

Non-deserts (+3)

Total of

municip.

South

50%

75%

25%

RS

497

SC

295

PR

399

Southeast

MG

853

SP

645

ES

78

RJ

92

North

139

TO

15

RR

144

PA

62

AM

52

RO

22

AC

16

AP

Northeast

RN

167

PI

224

PB

223

SE

75

MA

217

AL

102

PE

185

BA

417

CE

184

Mid-west

141

MT

246

GO

79

MS

The chart excludes the Federal District. Although it has several satellite cities, the survey considers only one municipality, following IBGE's municipal code.


Radio remains the main media in Brazil - or at least the most present one - despite the barriers of entry, such as obtaining a radio frequency concession and the high cost associated with transmission (also present on television). This reality reflects Brazil as a whole.

Radio and TV broadcasting represent 45% of all journalistic organizations in Brazil.

Although in many municipalities certain radio station or small newspaper may be the only news organizations available, in the capitals and bigger cities the barrier of creating an online vehicle is somewhat smaller, a fact that has triggered the creation of new Internet initiatives in recent years.

This can be seen in a more specific cut: in the largest Brazilian cities, such as Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte, for example, the online segment has gained predominance. In those places, on average, about two thirds of news organizations are online.

The printed segment (newspapers and magazines) remains relevant, which means two things: the legacy of the traditional business model, based on advertising, remains outside the major centers, while the innovation in the journalistic sector provided by digital still lacks there .


NEWS ORGANIZATIONS, BY MEDIA

Radio

Print

35.2%

29.4%

TV

9.7%

Online

25.5%

Print considers newspaper and magazine

NEWS ORGANIZATIONS, BY MEDIA

Radio

Print

35.2%

29.4%

TV

9.7%

Online

25.5%

Print considers newspaper and magazine

NEWS ORGANIZATIONS, BY MEDIA

Radio

Print

35.2%

29.4%

TV

9.7%

Online

25.5%

Print considers newspaper and magazine


In order to research the news deserts we also need to understand some of the main characteristics that they have, mainly related to human development.

When comparing deserts and almost deserts with data from the United Nation's Human Development Index, we can see a clear correlation: in more developed municipalities, a greater presence of vehicles.

Take into consideration that the human development data dates back to 2012.

It is not yet possible to say that one thing results in the other. That is, a correlation does not lead to causality . There is no proof that having local journalism leads to better development rates, and that better development rates results in more local journalism.

What can be said now is that a greater presence of local journalism goes hand in hand with better human development, as they tend to happen at the same time in several locations. And that says a lot about the places we have to look at in order to understand more deeply the access (or lack of it) to local information in Brazil: the poorest and most deprived municipalities.


MEDIAN HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDEX

BY TYPE OF MUNICIPALITY

Deserts

Almost deserts

Non-deserts

no news

organizations

1 or 2

news orgs

+3

news orgs

HDI

HDI

Income

HDI

Education

0,0

0,1

0,2

0,3

0,4

0,5

0,6

0,7

0,8

0,9

1,0

MEDIAN HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDEX

BY TYPE OF MUNICIPALITY

Deserts

Almost deserts

Non-deserts

no news

organizations

1 or 2

news orgs

+3

news orgs

HDI

HDI

Income

HDI

Education

0,0

0,1

0,2

0,3

0,4

0,5

0,6

0,7

0,8

0,9

1,0

MEDIAN HUMAN

DEVELOPMENT INDEX

BY TYPE OF MUNICIP.

Deserts

Almost deserts

Non-deserts

HDI

HDI

Income

HDI

Education

0,0

0,1

0,2

0,3

0,4

0,5

0,6

0,7

0,8

0,9

1,0


The News Atlas is an initiative that researches and maps news organizations - especially local journalism - in the Brazilian territory.

We identify journalistic iniciatives that publish, even if only sparingly, news of public interest - whether printed or digital - on a daily, weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. We look for producers of local interest stories, such as public accountability, health, education, security, mobility and the environment. We have a detailed methodoly here (Portuguese-only, for now)

The project is an initiative of the Institute for the Development of Journalism (Projor), in partnership with the data-driven journalism agency Volt Data Lab.

The News Atlas is inspired by the America's Growing News Desert project, from Columbia Journalism Review, which mapped the presence of newspapers in the United States amid changes in the journalism business model.

The project's methodology is based mainly on the research of news organizations in Brazil, either through its own survey or through the collaboration of third parties. In December 2019, an API was launched in order to automate and facilitate data collection and analyzis.

The first edition of the News Atlas was published in November 2017.


SOURCES

  • News Atlas, 2019 edition;
  • Atlas Brasil/PNUD/IDHM;
  • National Association of Newspapers;
  • Regional Associations of Newspapers;
  • Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics;
  • Press Secretariat for the Presidency of Brazil;
  • Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communication.

Text by Sérgio Spagnuolo (VOLT DATA LAB)
Analyzis by Sérgio Spagnuolo (VOLT DATA LAB) and Renata Hirota (VOLT DATA LAB)
Graphics by Rodolfo Almeida (VOLT DATA LAB)
Research by ANGELA WERDEMBERG (Mid-west); DUBES SÔNEGO JR. (Southeast); JÉSSICA BOTELHO (North); MARCELO FONTOURA (South); MARIAMA CORREIA (Northeast) e SÉRGIO LÜDTKE (National Coordinator)
Supported by ANGELA PIMENTA (PROJOR); FRANCISCO BELDA (PROJOR); ADRIANA GARCIA (PROJOR) and PEDRO VARONI (OBSERVATÓRIO DA IMPRENSA)
API development by Felippe Mercurio (VOLT DATA LAB) and Fábio Branis (VOLT DATA LAB)