These charts show the topics addressed in presidential inauguration speeches since Brazil’s redemocratization

Category: Best data-driven reporting (small and large newsrooms)

Country/area: Brazil

Organisation: O Estado de S. Paulo

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 1 Feb 2019

Credit: Augusto Conconi, Rodrigo Menegat, Bruno Ponceano, Matheus Lara, Ariel Tonglet

Project description:

This visualization compares the inauguration speeches of all Brazilian presidents since the return of the direct election system. It uses a method developed by a linguist and political communications researcher to classify each paragraph of the speeches into categories such as propositions”, “beliefs” and “warnings”. By putting the texts and their classification side by side, the story tries to guide the reader through the different rhetorical styles of the political leaders of the country.

Impact reached:

The report had repercussions in several sectors of society, especially among digital influencers, political scientists and politicians of different ideologies. The report allowed the reader/user to find other angles, besides the one selected in the published content. The left, for example, focused on former President Lula and his legacy. The center-right focused on the period of Fernando Henrique Cardoso

Techniques/technologies used:

We used the research of a linguistics and political communication specialist to put in context how the Brazilian presidents chose to present themselves to the nation. The visualization allows the reader to easily compare both the length and the overall tone of each speech. The interactive graphic also allows the user to read each extract of the pronunciation, adding an exploratory dimension to the experience. 

The piece was based on the work of João Bosco Bezerra Bonfim a Ph.D. in linguistics from the UnB (National University of Brasilia). He wrote the book “Word of President”, published in 2004 and available in the digital library of the Federal Senate. 

His work breaks down all the inauguration speeches in the history of the Republic, from Deodoro da Fonseca (1889) to Lula’s (2003) first term: the author evaluated the pronouncements paragraph by paragraph and classifies each passage in the six categories previously mentioned. Based on the methodology developed by Bonfim, we classified the later speeches, from Lula’s second term to Bolsonaro’s, the most recent.

What was the hardest part of this project?

The hardest part was to read and catalog all the speeches of the brazilian presidents since 1989. Because of the deadline, we wouldn’t have time to try to create a script or similar, so, everything was done manually. We left the nine presidents – before 2019 – already ready. Bolsonaro – the tenth president since the “new Republic”, would take office on January 1, 2019, so we had less than a day to transcribe, this was done in real time, and then categorize the newest president’s speech de posso. On January 2nd, our report was already on the air.

What can others learn from this project?

I believe that the greatest lesson we have had is to be able to extract data from not so well structured places and basically create our own basis to explore in different ways. Without a doubt, this is a challenge, even more with the rhythm of traditional journalism, but it is something unforgettable and enriching.

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