Automated game reporting on Folha is boring like VAR – 12/03/2022 – José Henrique Mariante – Ombudsman

“05′ 2nd half. Goal Japan. To Tanaka.” So the Sheet described one of the most controversial moments of the World Cup so far, Japan’s comeback goal against Spain on Thursday (1st). As Luís Curro, a colleague on many good and bad football days, said, a move that made us sad to see that our eyes “no longer have value”.

The referee, as well as the planet watching the match, saw the ball go out at the time of Mitoma’s cross, a desperate action, but which found Tanaka in the small area in position to touch the goal. The video assistant referee, known as VAR, saw something else: the ball did not completely cross the goal line and, therefore, did not leave the field according to the rule. Valid goal, joy of the Japanese, amazement of the Spaniards and work for the press, for the real specialists and those on duty, and even for FIFA, which came out in defense of its system with videos and explanations. Summing up this entire soap opera to “Gol Japan” is the height of synthesis.

It was not just in this way that the Sheet described the bizarre moment of a World Cup with upsets and injuries, but the telegraphic report appeared on the newspaper’s website Ao Vivo, which is done in an automated way. Not all duels are tracked like this. Those with greater appeal, such as those of the Brazilian team, have a more complete description of the moves, comments from commentators and observations from those in the stadium. Automated reporting is bureaucratic, it translates events accounted for via statistics into standardized phrases, such as cards, corners and substitutions, among others.

In the same match, this sequence in the second half is especially pathetic: “25′ Unai Simón takes the goal kick for Spain; 25′ Suichi Gonda takes the goal kick for Japan; 30′ Suichi Gonda takes the goal kick for Japan; 36′ Suichi Gonda takes the goal kick for Japan”. As described, more than ten minutes of mediocre goal-to-goal.

To the useless registration is added the non-registration. On Wednesday (30), France with reservations was beaten by Tunisia. Mbappé and Griezmann entered the field to try to resolve the stoppage and, in fact, reached the goal in stoppage time. VAR annulled the bid for offside, but after the transmission had already ended in France, causing confusion among viewers of the world champion country. There is no record of the goal or its annulment or any other detail in the Live view of the game on Sheet🇧🇷

It would be just one anecdote among many others from a large coverage like the one in Qatar, if it weren’t for the fact that it points to an uncomfortable future. Sports journalism, like economics, is one of those that most experiences automation. They are news with standard events, allowing robots to be able to organize and write notes in various formats. Raw information in general, which would also be done mechanically by a human, such as stock market rises and falls or the results of a championship. The workforce could then be used for nobler and more complex activities, such as discussing whether or not a ball crossed the bottom line.

The time will come, however, when VAR will no longer allow any further discussion.

Deforests but does not fall

The news came out on Sheet and in most other vehicles on Wednesday (30): “Deforestation in the Amazon drops 11%, but remains above 10,000 km2”. Deforestation has not fallen, it has grown by exactly 11,568 km2, according to INPE monitoring. It grew, incidentally, for the fourth consecutive time in the Bolsonaro administration. So how did it drop 11%? Did the gods of the forest recover any parts?

Deforestation in the Amazon slowed down by 11% compared to the previous period. Even though the verbs provide close readings, slowing down is not falling. Things didn’t get better. At most, it got a little worse, as Vinicius Torres Freire would say. Conciseness is important in journalism, it makes information fit in sizes that make it understandable, palatable. One of the risks of the process, however, is simplification, taking the weight off the news or even distorting its meaning. Obviously, nobody imagines that the deforested area has reduced, even more so in a deleterious era like the current one. This is what the newspaper’s option is based on.

At the same time, using the verb cair subliminally transforms the news into something positive, even with the adversative as weighting. As most readers do not go beyond reading the title, the choice should have been different.

The observation is philosophical, perhaps precious, but it reflects in a way the distance that the media, not just the Sheet, guard from the climate crisis. The most important thing is not the small drop in the pace of deforestation, but the Amazon being closer and closer to the point of no return, as the opening of the report well recalls. It’s a matter of inertia.


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