From September 1st, the Rio de Janeiro-based daily Jornal do Brasil - one of the oldest and most eminent newspapers in South America - will only exist on the Internet. The newspaper printed its last copy Tuesday and will now fully embrace what it calls its “new digital phase.”
Widely referred to by its initials, the "JB" was founded in 1891 and quickly established itself as a source of quality and independent reporting, despite sporadic government attempts at censorship and control. It has now traded in newsstands for the Internet address www.jb.com.br
The newspaper cited interactivity, respect for the environment and innovation as the main reasons for its digital metamorphosis.
However, Peter Grossi Jr., who resigned as the JB’s director and president in August, has told the Brazilian press that the decision to stop printing was, above else, guided by a desire for bigger profits.
“No real or fabricated crises were the reason that informed the decision,” the daily told its readers on Tuesday, referring to speculation that the newspaper has been crippled by the financial troubles that other prominent international newspapers, such as France’s Le Monde, have made public.
In June 2009, another icon of the Brazilian newsstands, the Gazeta Mercantil business daily, shut down completely. The Gazeta Mercantil belonged to the same media group as the Jornal do Brasil.
Above all, the newspaper insisted the online move was in line with its vision of the future.
“What is a newspaper in this technological jungle? What is the role of a daily in an environment of digital radios, e-book readers, smart phones, on-demand television, and the most varied kinds of real-time websites…?” the JB asked in its last pulp issue.
Fears over job losses
In an opinion piece written for the digital JB’s first issue, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said the change reflected the newspaper’s pioneering history. “Brazil needs good dailies. It does not matter if they are in print or on electronic formats,” Lula wrote, wishing the paper success in its new “adventure”.
“It’s about a new business model, with its sights on a new era of technology and information,” Lula went on to say.
Nonetheless, opponents of the move regretted the loss of jobs and diversity of opinions in the newspaper market.
The daily reported that its new digital version would have 150 staff, which includes management and marketing personnel. But other national newspapers reported that dozens of employees at JB have been laid-off, and that only 10 of the current 50 in-house journalists would be staying on.
The JB’s new online version has been designed to be compatible with the latest digital technology, including Apple’s iPad, Kindle, Alfa, Nook and other portable e-reading devices.
However, JB did announce on Wednesday that the system became overloaded. It said the technical glitches were expected, and that they would be corrected.
For Renato Souza, a technology and telecommunications reporter for another large daily (the journalist asked to withhold the title), the JB’s electronic eclipse is sad but inevitable. “The JB has a long tradition in Brazil, but the days of paper are counted,” he says. For Souza, the digital version will also be less elitist than its predecessor. “There are less Brazilians who buy the newspaper than who surf the Web,” he explains.
The new digital version will cost subscribes 9.90 reais per month (4.5 euros), which is 20 percent less than subscriptions paid for the JB’s paper version. According to Grossi the newspaper enjoyed a circulation of 30,000 copies.