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Student’s reporting part of award-winning Rio Olympics coverage on evictions

11/03/16 - BOSTON, MA. - Journalism student Giulia Afiune, MA'17, poses for a portrait at Northeastern University on Nov. 3, 2016. Afiune was part of a team who did some reporting this summer in Brazil around the Olympics, specifically the coverage focused on gathering stories from families forced to leave their homes due to construction for the 2016 Rio Games. The reporting recently received the Vladimir Herzog Award, an award in Brazil. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Giulia Afiune’s journalism career has already come full circle.

Before arriving at Northeastern, Afiune worked for Agência Pública, an investigative journalism agency in her native Brazil that focuses on human rights issues. She reported there for about two years, part of which coincided with earning her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Cásper Líbero College in São Paulo. But eager to become a more digitally fluent storyteller, Afiune enrolled as a graduate student in Northeastern’s Media Innovation program in fall 2015.

This past summer, Afiune, MA’17, returned to Brazil to freelance for Agência Pública, where she spent two months on an investigative team examining the fallout from Brazilians being evicted from their homes due to construction for the Rio Olympics. For “Project 100,” Afiune and other journalists interviewed 100 families about their harrowing experiences.

This fall, Agência Pública’s reporting earned a Vladimir Herzog Award, a prize that recognizes journalism that denounces human rights violations and promotes democracy. The multimedia project won in the “Internet” category.

For Afiune, it was an emotional moment, a powerful example of journalism’s importance, and an affirmation of her career choice. “It was so exciting,” she said, “and it was an indication to me that I’m on the right track. This experience showed me that this type of journalism that I love to do—investigative, multimedia, and concerning human rights—is also the type of journalism that the public and the journalism community value.”

Another interesting twist: Afiune’s first journalism internship was as a reporter for OBORÉ, a company that organizes communication projects, from journalism workshops for students, to movie sessions and community engagement forums to discuss social issues. The company also helps organize the Vladimir Herzog Award, and she covered the 2012 award ceremonies. At the time, she never thought the script would be flipped—that others would one day be reporting on her work being recognized with one of those awards. But on Oct. 25, there she was, award in hand, with colleagues, family, and friends by her side to celebrate.

Giulia Afiune, MA'17, holds the Vladimir Herzog Award recognizing a multimedia journalism project she contributed to that told the stories of families evicted due to Rio Olympics construction. Photo courtesy of Giulia Afiune

Giulia Afiune, MA’17, holds the Vladimir Herzog Award recognizing a multimedia journalism project she contributed to that told the stories of families evicted due to Rio Olympics construction. Photo courtesy of Giulia Afiune

‘Project 100’

Some 2,600 families—around 10,000 people—were forced to leave their homes due to Rio Olympics construction, according to an independent report produced by a community rights network of researchers, students, workers, and residents. Afiune arrived partway through “Project 100” and interviewed 16 families.

“In most cases, families said they had no choice but to leave,” Afiune wrote in a story for Public Radio International, in which she focused on Maria da Conceicao Queiroz da Silva, a 41-year-old babysitter who lived in Rio de Janeiro’s Vila Autodromo community for 19 years. “They fret about ending up on the streets if they don’t accept one of the government’s offers: rent assistance, indemnity or an apartment in a federal housing project, sometimes up to 25 miles away from their original neighborhood. All around the city, community ties were broken and the interaction with neighbors and family was hampered.”

This experience showed me that this type of journalism that I love to do—investigative, multimedia, and concerning human rights—is also the type of journalism that the public and the journalism community value.
—Giulia Afiune

Afiune said the work underscored the value of multimedia journalism, an increasingly important field in the digital era and an emphasis of Northeastern’s Media Innovation program, where she’s currently honing her multimedia and data journalism skills.

Her primary responsibilities for “Project 100” mostly involved researching, producing, interviewing, and capturing and editing video and audio on reporting. She said the experience strengthened her digital journalism acumen and left her eager to return to the classroom to continue sharpening those skills.

“As our class is maturing and becoming closer, we’re getting more chances to work together and see the possibilities of where we can go as a team,” she said.