Meet Marcia Detoni: From BBC London To The Classrooms Of Cásper Líbero

“I’ve always had a project of personal growth.” This is one of the justifications that the journalist, and now professor, Márcia Detoni gives when questioned about the reason why she has chosen Journalism to be her profession. “I was also afraid of being out of job, but that didn’t stop me. I believe that if a person has a dream, it doesn’t help not acting because of the fear.

Graduated in Journalism at the Rio Grande do Sul Federal University (UFRS) and in Law at PUC Rio Grande do Sul, Márcia admits that she had done the second graduation due to the insecurities caused by the first one, but currently, she doesn’t recommend it to her pupils. “In Porto Alegre, there were two newspapers and one of them closed. I thought I was not going to get a job and so I started studying Law in PUC. Even so today I do not recommend it. I would’ve invested better if I had learnt a new language.”

After long years “getting her shoes dirty”, the ex-journalist had made to put together an enviable resume and has traced an enthralling trajectory that counts with the BBC London, Folha de S.Paulo, EBC and Reuters. She has also won awards, such as the National Award of Journalism by ONU in the Radio category, the Tim Lopes Awards of Investigative Journalism Projects also in the Radio category and the Vladimir Herzog of Human Rights.

Márcia is Master, Ph.D. and Post-Ph.D. by the University of São Paulo (USP) as well as has written works like Public Media in the Information Society and Practical Guide on Drugs: knowledge, prevention and treatment. Nowadays, she’s the newest member of Cásper Líbero College’s team.

Image Source: Personal archive

Check it out our interview with her:

HC: Have you always wanted to become a journalist? Have you never had any insecurity about the course?

MD: There was a lot of doubt. And in fact, I've always wanted to grow as a person. I also wanted to choose a profession that would allow me not only to have access to knowledge, but also to have a looser lifestyle, more creativity, more art. My first option was Advertising, until I enrolled in the Communication course at Rio Grande do Sul Federal University and realized that I had no profile for the other one. In that context of dictatorship, it was different and the style of Advertising that we had as well. I figured out that Journalism had to do with me.

However, I confess that I have always been afraid of not finding a job in Journalism, since this area has always been in crisis and got difficulties. I did Law in the morning, Journalism at night, and then I began an internship at the university radio in the afternoon.

My family said all the time that Journalism was not a promising profession, while I heard from my professors it was very difficult and competitive. Nevertheless, I don’t regret having chosen Journalism. I was delighted with it. I’ve met the world, lived overseas and also in a nice place. I always had a good life on behalf of Journalism, so I don’t care. I'm glad at what I do, it's my profile. I think we can’t get away from who we are. Every time we go away, life gives us an orientation.

HC: We know that Journalism is going through many changes and this creates insecurity for people who think about studying it. This interview will probably be read by someone who is wondering if Journalism is ending. Can you give a hint to this person and synthesize some of the current scenario in the area?

MD: I think there's a whole new field of work there was not before. Companies today realize that they need a media advisor to mediate with the big media, to work with social networks, with sites. So I think it has a new field and a recognition that everyone needs to communicate.

In regard of the closing of vacancies and jobs, this was always here. Closes, opens, closes, opens. Although you have some very well-established media that end up hiring a lot of young people. So what I would say to freshman students is that if they have that call, that vocation, well, I would never tell them to go do something that gives money or that has the prospect of money. Because when you are young, money matters the least. The thing that matters the most is the achievement.

HC: When and why did you start teaching?

MD: I've always enjoyed telling and sharing. I like to communicate and I think that the classroom is a kind of like a little stage where you're always talking to people and sharing.

My first opportunity to teach was at Uniban. But I stayed there during a very short period because, at the time, I was still working as a journalist. Then I went to Brasilia to work on a project at RádioBrás, what’s more later, when I returned to São Paulo, I was making the Ph.D., and popped up an opportunity to teach at Mackenzie as a full-time professor. I’ve accepted and now it's been 11 years I'm there. I really like to study and being a teacher is like to be an eternal student.

HC: Well, I think that one of the things that draws most attention to your resume is the BBC. Can you detail how this whole process went until then? How did you end up in London?

MD: I was in Porto Alegre, it was five years since I graduated and I was working in a newspaper there. But I was missing a lot of opportunities because I didn’t know how to speak English.  And that was a big problem for me.

I was already 26 years old and always dreamed of studying abroad. Then, a friend of mine, who lived in London, invited me to move in with her, share the apartment and study English in London. And there I went and dropped everything. I went there without a job and eventually I’ve worked in a beauty salon as a hairdresser by the morning until 3:00 pm and then I went to my English course.

It made a year since I moved there and I was seeing no possibility of working with Journalism. I was pretty miserable, owing to before I had a good position in Rio Grande do Sul. I saw courses in London, and yet they were all too expensive to afford.

One day I was on the train with a Brazilian colleague, going to my house in the suburbs of London. I was carrying a pamphlet from an International Journalism course and a gentleman sitting in front of us listened to our conversation. He came and asked if I was a journalist and I confirmed. Then he said, “Oh it's because I work at the BBC, in the Russian service.” He came down the same station as me and then I figured out he was my neighbor.

Later on, an ad came out in the newspaper saying that the BBC's Brazilian service was looking for journalists who spoke Portuguese. I applied, but I never received an answer. I went for a break in Scotland in the summer and then I came back. When I returned, this gentleman called me and I told him that I had applied and received no reply. So he said, “oh, that’s not a problem! I'll take you there to talk to them.’’

I spoke with the head of the Brazilian department and he said there was no way I could enter at that moment, even so once in a while they worked with freelancers. I thanked and asked to watch a program recording. He said yes and asked me to come back another day.

I came back and, coincidentally, on that day, a freelancer had done a very bad reportage and it caused a mess in the studio. When I went to say goodbye to the head of the service he said, “look, I'll be honest with you. There is a freelancer here who isn’t doing his job right, so you can do a test and if you do good, you come and work with us.” Following that, I did it. And I passed! Because I was prepared.

I frequently say to my students: prepare yourself, as the opportunity will appear and when it does, you have to pick it up. I saw a lot of people coming to BBC because they were somebody’s friends or siblings, but they didn’t stay for two weeks, hence they didn’t buckle down. So it’s extremely important to be prepared.

I grew up a lot in there and after 6 months of freelancing, they offered me a contract. It was great! I finally settled down. And I think it was worth it.

Image Source: Personal archive

HC: What made you return to Brazil?

MD: The age. I was already 36 years old, so either I would go back to Brazil or I would stay there forever. And the decision of staying away forever is pretty difficult when you have family and friends here.

I also came back because I have an adventurous spirit that will not let me be doing the same thing for too long. I felt it was time to find out a new challenge for myself. All the dreams I had when I was young, I have fulfilled. So I had to find new dreams. And I think we have to be reinventing ourselves all the time.

Then, when I came back, I went to Folha de S. Paulo and to Reuters afterwards. From Reuters I went to Brasília to work on that project of RádioBras, which later became EBC. In 2006, I came back to São Paulo and worked as a freelancer on Reuters again for a few months. I started to study, I did a Master's degree, a Ph.D. and I went to Mackenzie.

HC: Of all your awards, which one is the most important to you?

MD: I think the first prize is always the most important since it's the first emotion you get. In 1996, I won the ONU Award due to a humanitarian report I have done about drugs in Brazil. So, it was an analysis of how Brazilian was dealing with the chemical dependency. The subject was proposed by BBC, so I came and traveled all over the country. I've interviewed people from the South to the North of Brazil. It was a radio report.

HC: Your resume is very filled and I have seen that you have worked in places highly desired by most journalists. I'd like to know what went wrong in your career? Which part we don’t know about? Any dismissal?

MD: I've already resigned and we all pass through this. Even in Porto Alegre I had already resigned, but not because I did something wrong. Simply because the newspaper closed. So I don’t think being fired is a problem, you know? I think being fired is part of it. Everyone will go through this at some point.

Another bad moment for me was when I left the BBC since I didn’t went back and went straight to Folha. I got unemployed for 7 months. And that moment was tough. I got depressed during this period.

However, I always applied for processes and that's how I got in Folha. I did the test as well as competed with other people. No one put me there, I suffered because I didn’t know it was going to work.

HC: Have you achieved your desire of personal growth?

MD: Absolutely! I’m much better than that girl from the countryside of Rio Grande do Sul. I learned a lot. I sleep quietly about the person I am today. Obviously, sometimes I have my crises with the students, but not with the Cásper's ones. I still have many flaws, although I'm working to improve them. Life is long so there’s time for me to accomplish many things yet.