Friday, September 24, 2021

Tal&Qual: Full stop, new paragraph…

José Paulo Fernandes Fafe, Former journalist and the majority shareholder of the company that owns “Tal & Qual” newspaper

It all started precisely 41 years ago. Where? One night during the Lisbon ‘Popular Saints’ festivities, when half Lisbon takes to the street – that time of the year when there is that unique mix of joy, sardines and lots of wine. In Alfama, all but oblivious to the cheerful crowds that surrounded them, Joaquim Letria was having dinner with his Spanish (sorry, Catalan…) friend Ramon Font, who was at that time the correspondent in Portugal of Spain’s national radio broadcaster. The topic of conversation was almost obvious in those days and it was easy to guess: the recent suspension, almost overnight, of one of the most popular and most viewed television shows at the time, “Tal & Qual”, which Letria directed and presented and which had aired for the last time that night. “What now?”, was the question that hung over the conversation between the two friends. Then, suddenly, Ramon uttered in his lovely “portunhol” mix of Portuguese of Spanish that he hasn’t been able to shake off to this day: “So why don’t you set up a newspaper with the same basic name and philosophy of the TV show?!”.

As Gonçalo Pereira Rosa recalls in his excellent introduction to the book “Tal& Qual, memoirs of a certain kind of journalism”, released a few months ago, “the model for the newspaper was outlined amid sardines and alcohol, without their even knowing who would pay for such an adventure or who would put it into practice”.

But a fortnight after that late-night dinner, having secured the credit that was indispensable to cover the printing costs, and after a friend had lent them a room in the Bairro Azul, and after putting together a mini-team that, in addition to Letria and Font, also featured Hernani Santos who until then had been editor-in-chief of the powerhouse weekly newspaper “Expresso”, and who brought with him a young journalist who, just like in the story of the “Three Musketeers”, became a kind of fourth member of this trio, the weekly “Tal&Qual” hit the newsstands. It was Saturday, 28 June 1980, the newspaper had eight pages, was on sale at 5 escudos (Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa joked and called it “the small-change Expresso” since the latter at the time cost 15 escudos) and its cover story was a topic that everyone was talking about but nobody dared say out loud: the obvious passion between Francisco Sá Carneiro, then prime minister, and Snu Bonnier, or Abecassis, as was her married name.

But the truth is that, right from the start and in its first issues, “Tal & Qual”, rather than a small-change “Expresso”, became what someone defined with the happy phrase “the vitamin of the regime” – based on the way that it quickly began shaking up the status quo, reporting freely and irreverently, but with a great deal of rigour, things that no one dared to write in other newspapers. Pereira Rosa, in his book, called this “the first golden rule” that the newspaper’s founders imposed on themselves. And he adds, among others, four more: that “there are no sacred cows”; the newspaper was to “a watchdog of democracy”; it was to be “the voice of those who have no voice”; and finally, something that was, a requirement more than a rule, that the real “Tal & Qual”, the true “Tal & Qual” has always followed: “no photo, no story”.

Almost 41 years later, just 19 days short of the precise date, and after almost 14 years out of print, “Tal & Qual” is about to see the light of day again. Thanks, to a certain extent, to the book mentioned above and its sales success, which proved the weight and importance that the brand still has, but also thanks to the work and favour of 11 people, almost all of who had links to the newspaper at some point and who decided, a little like Joaquim Letria and Ramon Font on that night during the Lisbon festival more than four decades ago, to embark on an “adventure” and, if I may say in light of the current situation of the press in our country, a rather risky onee…

Why are we doing it? Firstly, because we miss it – a lot. Secondly, because we are sure that there is room for this type of journalism – journalism that wants (and will!) report on what others don’t, that wants to show what is often behind the scenes of what happens in politics, in business, or in other sectors here and everywhere. Journalism that does not just snipe, that does not ignore the main issue, or pretend to, and which deep down is just that… journalism.

It will not be a scandal sheet, just as “Tal & Qual” in its golden days was not, despite what many sometimes say, out of ignorance or bad faith. We will be, as we always have been, a newspaper of stories, a newspaper of news, and ultimately, a newspaper that tells life as it is. And, of course, with Joaquim Letria, our “founding father”! Full stop, new paragraph.

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