We’re wasting our press freedom on immature, shallow reporters who unfortunately get to influence simple minds, the very ones they should help mold and educate in more positive ways. Instead of providing intelligent perspective, these reporters allow themselves to get sucked into the self-serving agendas of smooth-talking politicians.
The latest to demonstrate this sorry state of Philippine media was the press coverage immediately following the resignation of former Senator Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri. Without bothering to provide perspective, broadcast media dutifully reported the drama of an “anguished” Zubiri, decrying the injustice of being accused a cheat.
Broadcast media simply ignored the fact that the resignation speech was actually an early campaign pitch. The vote recount was clearly favoring Koko Pimentel. If Zubiri had not resigned, he would have to bow out in disgrace as a cheat and a fake Senator.
Resigning allowed Zubiri to save face, gave him the opportunity to praise his accomplishments, clear himself from being an accomplice to cheating and draw sympathy for his “sacrifice.” And that exactly is what media played into.
Subsequent coverage, mostly those coming from print, started to unravel the true story but the damage has been done. Media had already helped Zubiri accomplish his secret agenda.
Try asking the average Filipino who mainly get their news from TV. Most of them will draw their opinions based on the first breaking story. Most of them will continue to admire Zubiri’s “sacrifice” because this is what got into their minds first. Subsequent developments containing the real dope behind the resignation will only upset what they have already established in their heads. It does not help of course that media will no longer provide headline treatment to the follow up stories.
Our media often use the pressure of deadlines as their excuse for sloppy work. Instead of trying to get a sense of the big picture, our media prefer to engage in the “he said, she said” kind of journalism where the more aggressive talkers end up shaping the outcome of the story, sometimes to the detriment of the truth.
Presidents and other heads of State, whatever they do or say will always be top media copy. When President Noynoy Aquino (PNoy) requested media to please allow him some privacy for a love life, broadcast media was quick to counter that it was PNoy who was feeding the story, not them. Don’t our media have anything better to do than stalk people to wait for a slip up that will help make the network rate? Are our media like this because they are forced to submit four or five coverage stories a day, whether or not there are actual stories? How can we expect media to provide perspective when their reporters are pressured to provide quantity, rather than quality reports?
In an interview with Winnie Monsod, Ed Lingao of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism said that a good number of so-called journalists in the Philippines are in the “gray” area. He was referring to reporters who are also involved in partisan concerns that compromise honest-to-goodness journalism. How can media play its role in pushing the country forward if they’re also messed up? Who will clean up this mess then if media in the Philippines do not police themselves and try to ferret out the miscreant?
Countries with more stable economies tend to have a more responsible press. Journalists there tend to go beyond “he said, she said” reporting, providing instead perspective that enable readers to get a real sense of the issues. Understanding, not confusion is the operative word.
Abuses of the press in more mature democracies are dealt with firmly because there is a general understanding of the real role of the press in a free society. When the phone hacking scandal of the UK publication News of the World broke, it created such a public outrage that resulted in swift action. British citizens enjoy the fruits of press freedom but when the line is breached, the public knows its rights and media must acquiesce.
Try having an Erwin Tulfo using abusive language lambasting mayors in the US, New Zealand, Singapore or the UK. It will not happen because the news consumers will not allow such disrespectful behavior. You see, in the more mature democracies, an arrogant press will not be tolerated in a discipline that is regarded as a public trust.
As news consumers, we must demand for quality news, the kind of news that will bring the country forward, the kind that brings out optimism and positive thinking to help mend the flaws and bridge the obstacles that keep us from prospering.
This is not to say that the press should not criticize or expose wrongdoing because that, too, is part of the press’s role in clearing the pathways to moving forward.
A powerful media that will not help empower people to positive action can be a menace to the wellbeing of a country and its people. If our media, or at least some members of media, will not take it as part of their responsibility to help promote professional journalism, then who will?
It’s a sorry state of affairs indeed when the dimwitted and intellectually dishonest are tasked to enlighten a benighted nation.
* * *