Record of the presentation of the first faculty of the Social Communication course at the Centro Universitário Adventista de São Paulo, in 2000. From the left: Course Coordinator, Dr. Assad Bechara, Dr. Ruben Holdorf and Professors Joubert Perez and Valdecir Lima. (Photo Courtesy of the South American Division)

General Conference

“Preparing Journalists is a Strategic Action for the Mission”

With experience in education and communication, Ruben Holdorf defends the role of journalism in society and the Church

Brazil | Jael Eneas

The South American Adventist News Agency (ASN) brings another interview in this series about Adventist communication in South America. This time, the guest is Journalist Ruben Dargã Holdorf, PhD in Communication and Semiotics. He serves as a lecturer in the Journalism course at the Ukrainian Institute of Humanities in Butcha, Ukraine. He arrived there recently, invited by the Eurasian Division, the office that coordinates the work of the Adventist Church in 13 countries in the region.

Before that, he taught for 20 years in the Bachelor's Degree Program of Journalism at the Centro Universitário Adventista de São Paulo (UNASP), at the Engenheiro Coelho campus, among which, he was the course coordinator of five courses. As such, he collaborated in the achievement of two concepts for the National Student Performance Exam (Enade) and the Performance Difference Index (IDD). He also helped to develop the on-campus professional internship structure.

Before UNASP, he worked for more than five years in the newspapers O Estado do Paraná and Tribuna do Paraná, in which he became the first digital editor (Paraná Online) in southern Brazil, in 1997. He is the author of five books, in addition to having participated in the elaboration of the Communication Manual for Churches and Groups, of the Adventist South American Headquarters, and wrote the history of the Church in this territory for the Adventist Encyclopedia, organized by the world headquarters of the denomination.

During this interview, Holdorf defended journalist training to go beyond the skills of researching, investigating and reporting. “Preparing journalists is a strategic action for the Church's mission,” he says. 

Check out the conversation:

Who is Ruben Dargã Holdorf as an educator and journalist?

I'm someone always willing to learn, to correct mistakes, to start over, to design, to share experiences without fear and without reservations. I had the privilege of being a student of the writer Cristovão Tezza; study and do the TCC with José Carlos Fernandes; working with Mussa José Assis; to have Paulo Pimentel as boss; to be Malu Mazza's teacher; mentoring Márcio Tonetti, Fabiana Bertotti and Paulo Henrique Mondego; working as a teacher with Luís Roberto Halama, José Wille, Carlos Henrique Nunes and Laerte Lanza; and be guided by Franklin Valverde and José Luís Aidar Prado. Journalism and education have provided me with a very rich network.

Tell us a little about your background and your family.

I was born in Curitiba, on May 2, 1962. I married Librarian Lia Mara de Souza, and we have three children: Publicist Leilaini Elisse, married to Audio Engineer Yoseff Egoroff, with whom she has two daughters, and lives in Engineer Coelho; Journalist Paulo Darlan, who lives and works in Santa Clara, California; and the Architect and Interior Designer Larissa Elaine, who lives in São Paulo.

Do you come from a traditional Adventist family?

Yes, I am a fifth generation Adventist. The granddaughters are already the seventh [generation].

What was your academic training?

In addition to a Doctorate in Communication and Semiotics at PUC-SP, I [also received] a Master's Degree in Education, Administration and Communication at Unimarco, whose dissertation, “The Arab-Israeli conflicts in Zero Hora and the State of Paraná”, I defended in 2008. At UNASP, I [obtained a] Masters in Education (2005), [and] I also completed [a] Specialization in Higher Education Methodology. I also studied “English for Journalists” online at the University of California in 2020.

Where does your interest in education and communication come from?

From the moment I started to distrust the methodologies with which I disagreed, I felt the need to also be a teacher. First, in high school and elementary school, then in higher education. The perception that journalists did not have the minimum necessary basis for professional practice encouraged me to return to the university as a professor.

How did Radio Galena impact your upbringing?

I got a Radio Galena from my father to listen to football games. At the time, it was through the radio that we knew what was happening in the world. Not all of them had television, and their programming was limited to the evening hours, with uninformative television news. I listened to the commentators on the radio and was delighted to follow the games of Boca Juniors and River Plate from Argentina, and listen to stations from Japan even without understanding anything. Thus emerged the plan to study Journalism.

Who were your mentors?

In the church I attended there were three journalists: Elon Garcia, holder of one of the most outstanding voices on TV Paranaense; Ivan Schmidt, Former Editor of the Nosso Amiguinho magazine and editorial secretary of the newspaper O Estado do Paraná ; and Odailson Spada, the first Adventist Church member to graduate in Journalism in Brazil from the Federal University of Paraná, in 1973. They motivated my education, mainly because of their legacy and expertise .

Talk about your trajectory in Adventist Education.

I always liked the classroom. At Colégio Adventista do Boqueirão (in Curitiba), I was a History teacher from 1991 to 1999. At UNASP I worked as an associate professor, communication advisor, editorial director of the Brazilian Journalism Agency (ABJ), editorial director of Radio UNASP FM and Unaspress reviewer, from 2000 to 2021.

What other activities have marked your career?

At the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR), I worked as a substitute professor and editor of the newspaper Comunicação, from 1995 to 1996. I also worked for the publishing house O Estado do Paraná SA as a reporter, reviewer, chief reviewer, columnist, columnist and digital editor, from 1994 to 1999.

Why did you decide to go to Ukraine?

By conviction of the call of Jesus to the mission.

And what is your mission there?

To train journalists. Discovering talent and encouraging entrepreneurship will be the challenge to strengthen the Church's youth base in Ukraine. Therefore, the first task will be to increase the accreditation time of the course, whose government grant is only one year, that is, it ends in this academic period, in May 2022.

In this context, are there personal challenges?

(Smile). No doubt! And the biggest one is mastering, as quickly as possible, the Ukrainian and Russian languages, which are also widespread in much of the country.

Why insist on training journalists for the Church's mission?

Because our role is to do good and contribute to a dignified and quality life. This includes the preservation of democracy, whose functioning is supported by three pillars: education, justice and the press. Journalism fits the latter as a bulwark of our collective and individual freedoms, including that of conscience.

In practice, how is this relevant?

Journalist training is still recent in Ukraine. In Eastern Europe, ravaged for decades by Soviet communism, democracy is a desired civic value. In this scenario, journalism has broad and profound importance, not only for the Church, but for the whole of society.

In the Brazilian context, what is the impact of ABJ for the Adventist Church?

The Brazilian Journalism Agency was born at UNASP. She prepared the current leadership of Adventist communication in all scenarios, whether in the offices of the Church's regional offices or in its other institutions, such as Casa Publishadora Brasileira , Rede Novo Tempo (and Nuevo Tiempo), Radio NT stations, ADRA, etc.

Mention former ABJs who are opinion leaders in the Adventist Church today.

At the Brazilian Publishing House, Editors Márcio Tonetti, Wendel Lima, Diogo Cavalcanti, Ágatha Lemos and Lucas Rocha; at Novo Tempo there are many, but I highlight André Leite and Migueli Simioni; Jefferson Paradello, in Brasília, at the Adventist Church's headquarters for South America; Jenifer Neves, Coordinator of Journalism at UNASP; and Dr. Allan Novaes, pro-rector of UNASP.

Are there professionals working abroad?

Lisandro Staut, Former Director of TV Novo Tempo, is now working on another project in California; Juliana Muniz, at Adventist Record, in Australia; Marisa Ferreira, Communications Advisor at União Libanesa, in Beirut; Ana Paula Ramos, on mission in Cairo, Egypt; Dr. Tales Tomaz, Professor at the University of Salzburg, Austria. These are just a few names, not mentioning those who study in different countries.

Looks like there are more names...

One cannot fail to mention ex-ABJ journalists such as Raquel Derevecki, Reporter for Gazeta do Povo , in Curitiba; the Youtuber and Writer Fabiana Bertotti, now residing in Engenheiro Coelho; and Dr. Matheus Siqueira, also a professor at UNASP.

Why insist on training Adventist journalists?

We need excellent communicators, speakers and writers. With these professionals, the Church's communication is perfectly adjusted to the demands of a society in need of messages of comfort and hope.

Are journalists born ready?

If you like a career, you need to seize opportunities and improve your knowledge, developing yourself professionally. No one is born a doctor, lawyer, teacher, carpenter, scientist or journalist. The interested party needs to stock up on vital information in the respective area. So, to become a journalist, it takes a lot of reading, textual practice, improvement of approach and investigation techniques, acquisition of knowledge in multiple areas, etc. Perseverance, curiosity and humility complement the basic picture of journalist characteristics.

This article was originally published on the South American Division’s Portuguese news site.