The series Diários Secretos (Secret Diaries) has provoked the biggest transformation in the history of the Legislative Assembly of the State of Parana, which represents 10 million inhabitants. The series is the result of a creation of a database that took over two years to be built, and was based on the integration newspaper-TV-internet and the collaborative journalism. The outcome is a series of reports unveiling a millionaire scheme with public money, which took at least 30,000 people to the streets to protest against political crimes. The work has also been awarded with the most important journalism award in Brazil.
A millionaire scheme using public funds from the Legislative Assembly of the State of Parana was unveiled based on the work of four journalists. We learnt that the official diaries (memos) of the Assembly – that should exist and be divulged to let the people know how public money is spent – were not actually disclosed to the public. Information was not being made know. With some struggle and counting on several sources, we were finally able to gather all memos published in three years in a row.
We comprised our own collection of memos based on the reading of more than 750 diaries. We analyzed and compiled all registries in payroll. The whole process of entering data and sorting out information took about eight months of practically exclusive dedication of the journalists, and the result was an Excel file with more than 15,000 lines, checked over five times to ensure mistyping wouldn’t compromise the veracity of the material. The database interpretation led to the writing of the reports. About three months were dedicated to field work, time which was dedicated to keep a close eye on the routine of ghost employees and track family relationships with the people involved in the crime.
The series is the result of the decision to go deep into the subject.
The goal was much more than reporting ghost employees – such histories are hackneyed if treated as isolated cases; they must be reported as a generalized, organized and institutionalized practice. With the creation of our own database, the intention was to go beyond the official response, to look further than the sources indicated, to come up with our material to be used in the articles and reports, taking full responsibility for the information we would disclose. Therefore, the investigation was not ordered by prosecutors, nor the police and political rivals. All data was collected by journalists
The work is also a pioneering example of the integration of the printed press (newspaper), the TV and the internet in Brazil. All the production was planned considering what would be disclosed in each media. Another innovative aspect was posting the database on the internet, so that people could access what was being hidden from them until then. The database was consulted more than 300,000 times. More than 1,000 anonymous tips were sent to the editorial by the population. The information in the database was also used by RPC’s competitors and mainly communication vehicles from several cities that created their own reports based on their knowledge of the local reality.
The publishing of the series unveiled the biggest scandal in the history of the the Legislative Assembly of the State of Parana. The cases reported in the articles took 30,000 people to the streets to protest against political crimes. Dozens of people were arrested. The authorities opened more than 20 criminal investigations as a result of the reports and five cases already were turned into legal suits. The main directors of the Assembly were fired and their assets were frozen. The number of employees dropped from 2,457 to 1,460 and over BRL 5 million a month have been saved in payroll since then. A law now establishes the criteria for hiring employees. The official diaries of the Assembly are now published on the internet. All the official acts (decisions) in the last five years were made public. A bill presented by the public initiative pledges for clear and objective rules seeking transparency in the management of all the organs of the states.
Besides the Grande Prêmio Esso de Jornalismo, the series Diários Secretos was also awarded with the Tim Lopes de Jornalismo Investigativo prize.