Interview: Douglas Tavolaro

Many people wonder how the largest news channel in the world – present in 212 countries and territories – had never brought an operation of its own to the largest country in Latin America in almost four decades of existence. To date, more than 210 million Brazilians have only been able to watch CNN in English or Spanish. But that will change from March 2020. The person responsible for bringing the brand to Brazil – with a project produced by Brazilians for Brazilians, after years of unsuccessful attempts – could not help but be passionate about news – and entrepreneurship too.

Journalist Douglas Tavolaro earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the traditional Faculdade Cásper Líbero, in São Paulo, and pursued a career in newsrooms of various print media and TV channels. “Journalism clarifies and brings up better citizens. It’s an increasing pillar of developed societies,” says Tavolaro, who grew up in a middle-class family and spent most of his student years in public schools.

The executive’s professional destiny led him to create and implement the TV Record journalism project for 17 years until he left the group in January last year. Tavolaro resigned from the company as Vice President of News, after elevating a department of minor relevance to the second biggest force in television news and reaching the largest audience rates and revenues of the group. Under his steer, Record won its greatest awards in 65 years of history. With a sense of accomplishment, he left the company to pursue his dream of building his own business.

For more than 15 years as a television executive, Tavolaro has had close editorial and business relationships with CNN’s American counterparts. This relationship of trust led CNN International Commercial to invite him to set up the project in Brazil, becoming a shareholding shareholder in the company and occupying the position of “Founder” (Founding CEO). Tavolaro negotiated with foreign executives the participation of a national investor to proceed with the project.

The negotiations in Atlanta, London, and New York City, CNN’s world headquarters, were conducted by Tavolaro during months in which he worked out, together with his team, the editorial project, and the business plan that brought the new company to life. After that, he invited  construction industry and digital finance businessman Rubens Menin – with whom he claims to have “relationships of deep friendship and admiration” – to enter the business as his partner. The Brazilian law requires that news companies be majority-owned by Brazilians.

In the last 12 months, Tavolaro conducted the hiring of video stars, the company’s leadership, and journalism executives; planned the marketing strategy; implemented investments in programming, distribution and multiplatform; signed international partnerships; and structured the management and commercial areas of the new company. Now, the executive’s routine is one hundred percent taken by the final preparations for the premiere of the channel that has been stirring up the Brazilian media market.

Propaganda magazine talked to Tavolaro at the headquarters of the new broadcaster, on Paulista Avenue. The interview could not have taken place elsewhere but in the newsroom.

Tavolaro, William Waack and VP of Journalism Leandro Cipoloni

How did the CNN dream start for you?

CNN is a brand present in the training of any journalist in the world, admired and recognized as a top reference in the concept of news production. No one becomes a professional in our field without studying CNN’s trajectory as the first 24-hour journalism channel. I grew up with this view of CNN, like any other journalist. That aspiration was added to another one that I learned from my family, which is to seek entrepreneurship. My Italian grandfather, who is now 96 years old and was a prisoner in World War II, arrived in Brazil fleeing that difficult period in Europe and undertook enterprises. My parents also ran a small business in São Paulo. Those were simple examples, but very significant for me.

Does that seem to have been remarkable in your life?

Yes, a lot. This entrepreneurial vision has always been present at home. Even with small businesses, I learned from my family the importance of creating something important for people’s lives. The main goal of our project is to be relevant to Brazil and the Brazilians and to help improve our country with information. CNN was born here with this greater goal.

When you agreed to buy this idea, you were having a great and promising time in your career. What made you have the courage to take this turn and face a new challenge?

How could a journalist not embrace the project of implementing the world’s largest brand of journalism in the world in Brazil? It’s impossible! I am grateful to Record for everything I lived there and for the friendships that I will always take with me. The greatest honor now is to be part of a channel that wants to be important in the lives of Brazilians. To make journalism with accuracy and quality to better inform the population.

Brazil is experiencing a moment of strong political polarization. Will CNN Brasil position itself in this scenario?

This line of questioning is normal in Brazil today. The past few years have brought very opposite ideological sides. As I have repeated, we will be neither on the right nor on the left side. Our business is professional journalism – impartial, transparent and rigorous. The interest that moves us is that of society. We will work to broadcast information after completing a technical verification and checking process. We will have a plurality of opinions, with our analysts always looking for exemption and balance. Besides, an Editorial Board, which will be completely independent of the Board of Directors, was created to reinforce the credibility and impartiality of our journalism.