- Assis Chateaubriand
Francisco de Assis Chateaubriand Bandeira de Melo (1892-1968) was a
Brazilian lawyer, journalistand politician. He was born in Umbuzeiro, state of Paraíba, on October 4, 1892, and died on April 4, 1968.
Assis Chateaubriand (nicknamed Chatô) was founder and director of the main press chain of Brazil, the "
Diários Associados": 34 newspapers, 36 radio stations, 18 television stations, one news agency, one weekly magazine (" O Cruzeiro"), one monthly magazine (" A Cigarra") as well as many magazines for children.
Chateaubriand started on journalism at the age of 15, on the newspaper "
Gazeta do Norte". He also wrote for " Jornal Pequeno" and " Diário de Pernambuco". In 1917, already living in Rio de Janeiro, he worked for "Correio da Manhã". In this newspaper, he would publish his impressions about his trip to Europe, in 1920.
In 1924, Chatô became the director of "
O Jornal". This was the initial mark of the building of a press empire, to which were added important newspapers from Brazil, such as "Diário de Pernambuco" (the oldest newspaper of Latin America) and " Jornal do Commercio" (the oldest newspaper of Rio de Janeiro). On the following year, a newspaper from São Paulowas added to his press conglomerate: " Diário da Noite". By this time, Chatô owned all the best selling newspapers from most capital cities in Brazil.
From a meagre and troublesome youth in relative ignorance on the north east coast of Brazil - he only learnt how to read at the age of 10 - he followed what can be called the great American Dream, South American dream that is. From the state of Pernambuco, soon a lawyer, he rapidly grew to fame and acknowledgement through a series of verbal clashes with dominant politicians in Pernambuco. Hard-headed and stubborn, he fought for the right of freedom of press and the individual's right to expression within a conformist and power driven society.
He won his appointment as professor of philosophy at the State University of Pernambuco after a dramatic battle against General Dantas Barreto and Doutor Manuel Borba. During his fight he made powerful friends and allies in Rio de Janeiro. What finally resolved the battle was a telegram from the president of the republic, Wenceslau Brás, [December] [8th]  . His stunning victory at attaining the position as professor further became a platform for his even more ambitious goal; to own a newspaper of his own by the age of thirty.
If one man is to be pointed out as having formed the basis for a modern Brazilian press and mass culture, it has to be Francisco de Assis Chateaubriand Bandeira de Melo, or Assis Chateaubriand for short, known mostly by his nickname, Chatô. He must be accredited the honour of shaping the forms of Brazilian journalism and media-institutions for a great part of the 20th century. Not well known to the English speaking world, his power over Brazilian and indeed South American media during his height from the 1920s and well into the '60s can be compared to that of e.g.
William Randolph Hearstin the in USA. Chatô was one of the most influential, yet noisiest individuals in Brazilian history, an endless source of oral vexation and lucid criticism of the current government, whichever political stance. He was known for having strong ties to the current leaders within both politics and economy. With a career as solicitor, journalist, media mogul, ambassador and multimillionaire, he often was the decisive drop on the scale of political campaigns and decisions. He was part of the creation of presidents and the undisputed ruler of a free press.
During his life he embarked upon many a crusade and managed to keep his political views intact even under the rule of dictators. He made understanding and respecting the indigenous population of Brazil an important topic on the agenda and saw it as his mission to further the knowledge about great European philosophers. He saw both these causes as means to progress the Brazilian society, to combine humanity and knowledge while he scorned the prejudices and racism of former colonists.
* Morais, Fernando (1994). "Chatô - O rei do Brasil" (1st ed.). São Paulo: Edutira Schwarcz LTDA. ISBN 85-7164-396-2.
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