Jayhawk journalist in Brazil covers all aspects of World Cup

Posted on Jun 16, 2014 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

As Brazil bureau chief for The Associated Press, Bradley Brooks, j’98, will be part of a news team that includes more than 100 print, online and television reporters marshaled to cover the world’s biggest sporting event, the FIFA World Cup.

While most of those journalists came into the country from elsewhere to report on the soccer games, which started June 12 and wrap up with the title match July 13, Brooks and his colleagues in the bureau will be more focused on what happens outside the 12 stadiums in 12 Brazilian cities that are host to World Cup play.

“Those of us who are based in Brazil have to not only help our colleagues who are coming in with contacts and with the language, we also have to cover the flip side of the coin.”

The “flip side” is a story of street protests venting public anger at the $11.5 billion cost of tournament preparations in a country where poverty is widespread and infrastructure improvements are badly needed.

“It’s dueling story lines and very powerful storylines,” Brooks said June 13 during a phone interview from Rio de Janeiro. “On the surface one wouldn’t seem to have to do with the other, a sporting event and widespread angst against the government about corruption, about poor public services. But this is a really unique moment for Brazil and also for the World Cup, because you’re seeing politics and sport melded together like never before.”

About 3.5 billion people are expected to watch international television coverage of the World Cup, a once-every-four-years global happening that creates a level of fandemonium by which March Madness pales in comparison.

“It’s like an entire month of the Final Four every day,” Brooks says, noting that about half the world’s population tunes in at some point, most probably more than once.

“It’s hard to explain how an entire nation—in this case 32 nations—go completely mad all at the same time for their team.”

The host country is gunning for its sixth World Cup title (Brazil already stands alone with five titles) while struggling to reconcile its passion for “jogo bonito” (the “beautiful game,” as Brazilians call football) with its deep political anger. Brazil will also host the Olympics in two years, and the government is eager to use both events to stake the country’s claim as a serious player on the world stage.

“Just hours before play begins, it still isn’t clear which Brazil we’ll see,” Brooks wrote in a June 12 story headlined “Will Brazil’s Cup spotlight burn too bright?”

“Will it be the irreverent nation known for its festive, freewheeling spirit? Or the country that for the past year has been a hotbed of fury over poor public services, discontent over a political system widely viewed as corrupt, and deep anger over the $11.5 billion spent on hosting the World Cup?”

So far, both Brazils have been on display, with street protests and fan celebrations at the country’s opening-round victory overlapping.

However the story unfolds, Brooks will be there to cover it, working 13- to 15-hour days.

“It’s incredibly intense, and it means not seeing your wife or kid for a month,” he says. “But as somebody who’s lived in Brazil for five years, and writing for the AP and writing for an international audience, it’s also extremely satisfying to have the opportunity to try to accurately and honestly distill what is going on in this really fascinating country during this enormous event at this really transformative time in Brazil’s history.

“Everybody feels a sense of deep responsibility to not just fall back on easy clichés or lazy reporting, to really dig deep and try to get at what this event means for Brazil and what it means for the world and to portray that as accurately as we possibly can.”

—Steven Hill

Follow Bradley Brooks’ AP coverage on Twitter @bradleybrooks.

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