Here’s a great example of how breaking news can change the whole focus of a story.

This piece in the Christian Science Monitor about the collapse of three buildings in Rio de Janeiro was supposed to be about Brazil’s housing deficit and the shoddy workmanship that left residents of new houses with damp walls, cracked floor tiles and unpaved roads. All just months after they moved in to their new homes.

Earlier this month I went to Ribeirão Preto and Franca in rural São Paulo state to talk to residents who were justly aggrieved at the construction company’s refusal to make their houses more liveable.

To quote Raquel Rolnik, a well-known architect who studies the issue.

“In terms of construction and design, the logic is one of ‘do it as cheaply as possible’ so the quality is always questionable. They think it is for the poor so it doesn’t have to be decent. The consequences for the people who live there are terrible.”

In reporting this story, I had made a passing reference to poor practices in the construction industry, writing:

Even at the highest levels, Brazil’s infrastructure projects are routinely late, poorly built, or over budget, or all three.

Stadiums for the World Cup were slow to get started and public transport, particularly airports, are so behind schedule that even soccer stars turned politicians like Pele and Romario are predicting chaos.

New metro lines open only during off peak hours because they not prepared to take the strain, craters appear in new motorways within weeks of the ribbon being cut and cracks run down the walls of brand new, multi-million dollar buildings just days after they are inaugurated.

But now, the Rio de Janeiro disaster is the news and the Monitor used that to start off a broader piece about construction, infrastructure projects, and Brazil’s preparedness to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.

(Here is a link to pics of the disaster.)

My reporting from Franca and Ribeirão Preto got pushed further down the story.

That is unfortunate, as I wanted those stories to be heard loud and clear.

But there’s no holding back the news.

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