Two marginally related things that, taken together, paint a rather bleak picture of the Philippine media landscape this week.
The Philippine media industry is facing a crisis: In many newsrooms, journalists are quitting and while that is normal in an industry that has historically had a high rate of attrition, this is happening in the lead up to an election year.
As the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility , the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, and the National Press Club keep reminding us, press freedom in the Philippines is under a continuing threat. What they — well, okay, the CMFR does — sometimes neglect to mention is that sometimes that threat is from so-called journalists themselves.
Sports website Spin.ph warned on September 21 of a “chilling warning to media” in the Philippine Basketball Association banning sports writer Snow Badua from covering PBA games and barring PBA officials, referees, and players from granting him interviews.
The ban came after Badua alleged thatÂ a PBA officialÂ was having an affair with a model, but , Spin.ph says there is more to it than that:
A PBA official, requesting anonymity, intimated that some team officials present in that board meeting were fed up with articles that Spin.ph has dared run in the past. These presumably include the ‘farm teams’ issue and game-fixing in the league, which we did run, precisely to give the professional teams a chance to air their side and address accusations constantly thrown at them by fans online.
If it sometimes feels that you’re reading the same news stories across platforms, that’s because you probably are. read more
Here is something you don’t see every day: a major news website’sÂ public apology for getting a story wrong.
Surprisingly, the apology was not for offending society with a jokey caption but for attributing a statement to a militant women’s group which immediately denied the statement and raised heck (sub-hell levels) on the Internet.
It was a basic violation of an unwritten rule of journalism–never assuming something unless stated directly–and we hope that the people who worked on the story were taken out back and promptly shot, or at least told to review their Philo 11. In any case, we hope they took their lumps.
Here is something that you actually do see every day, and anytime two or more are gathered in the name of calling other people names: a cute little media critique in the Manila Times by Katrina Stuart Santiago, scoring news websites Rappler and GMA News Online for destroying the fine tradition of Philippine journalism, a tradition that she is part of by virtue of writing opinion columns, which is not quite the same thing and is, if you look at the quality of opinion columnists we have now, hardly a virtue. read more
‘Tis the season for satisfaction, that time of the year when everyone whom the press has put on the spot, except for people like Janet Lim-Napoles who will have to act through proxy, gets to see serious journalists bend over backwards for whatever scraps are still left in the public relations budgets. read more
Here’s a story from the sidelines that our friends at Spinbusters may have missed: Reportorial feathers were ruffled at a press conference by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad last Thursday because reporters on the Finance beat wanted first crack at the secretary. read more
Guess what, Philippine Daily Inquirer? Funny faces are only funny when theyâ€™re made on purpose, and not when theyâ€™re the uncontrollable result of a debilitating cerebrovascular accident.
With all the elegance of a national broadsheet stooping to unethical levels that would make a tabloid blush, todayâ€™s PDI published incredibly tasteful photographs of witness Demetrio Vicente grimacing his way through a testimony. On the front page, even.
The photos have been called â€œunflattering,â€ â€œtasteless,â€ and â€œmean.â€ We donâ€™t mince words. The decision to publish those particular photographs of the septuagenarian stroke survivor was downright cruel.
Inquirerâ€™s instant statement amidst the backlash was the exact opposite of their usual coverage of the impeachment trial: on the defense. Their claim that the four-frame collage of Mr. Vicenteâ€™s facial expressions contained â€œthe only photos availableâ€ is shut down by the fact that there are actually only two photos, with the other half of the quadrant being zoomed-in versions of the first two. What did you think that editorial call was, PDI? A stroke of genius?
As if the photographs werenâ€™t funny enough — and by â€œfunnyâ€ we mean â€œinsulting to Mr. Vicente and stroke survivors and people with basic human values everywhereâ€ — PDI couldnâ€™t resist digging their elbow a little deeper into the side of ethical journalism. Which, by the way, isnâ€™t ticklish.
â€œâ€˜CHARACTERâ€™ WITNESS The many faces of Demetrio Vicente on the witness stand. Heâ€™s no ordinary witness after all. Heâ€™s the cousin of the Chief Justice whose wife sold him seven parcels of land in 1990, where he now grows bonsai.â€
Oh, I get it! Heâ€™s a â€œcharacterâ€ because he canâ€™t control his facial muscles! Also, he is a witness! So witty, Inquirer. â€œCharacterâ€ is properly ascribed to vintage furniture and James Earl Jonesâ€™ voice, not disabilities. People who come up with quips like these are the same people who Photoshop Mickey Mouse ears onto pictures of hydrocephalic babies.
(Thx, Indolent contributor Lady Dada!)
While the cameras were trained on the clash between the two sides on the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, there were smaller clashes among the media covering the event.
Which is understandable, really, given the emotionally-charged atmosphere of the whole thing. Tensions are so high, in fact, that journalists–both multimedia and traditional–were quick to see bombs when one of their own left a bag of equipment unattended for several hours.
The Special Weapons and Tactics team of the Pasay City Police had to be brought in and sniffer dogs had to check the bag for explosives. Senate security was not pleased, our correspondent says, because the scare made them look like fools. The radio crew who left their equipment were not too pleased either because they had to go without their equipment, will have to endure ribbing from their colleagues, and have to personally apologize to the Senate President.
Well, at least it gave everyone an excuse to whip out their smart phones and encourage discussion through this new thing called online journalism.
But more explosive is a brewing cat fight between a posse of reporters from a young media outlet and an existing clique of reporters with more experience both in front of the camera and on the beat. It does not help that the new reporters seem to still be undergoing birth pains. Covering an impeachment trial is, after all, not the easiest way to get your feet wet in journalism.
There was a shouting match this week after one of the new reporters, possibly harassed and treading water, pushed a bigger network’s camera aside. She accidentally touched the lens, which is apparently akin to slapping the Pope in the face, and so one of the veteran reporters let her have it (shouting, not the camera). To be fair, the newbie reporter had been hit on the head by a camera earlier that day (and who among us has not?) and she was just trying clear a path while protecting herself.
Another new reporter asked the defense lawyers why they were holding a press conference while the trial was going on. The lawyer, with a booming voice that would make a prosecutor quail, told her matter of factly that they were holding the press conference because the media had asked for one. “I thought we were doing you a favor,” he said as the reporter sank slowly into the plush carpets of the Senate before the Earth swallowed her up.
It was, to be sure, not the smartest question to ask a lawyer who used to be chief of staff to Supreme Court Justice Andres Narvasa. But it did not deserve the derisive laughter and the audible click of hundreds of eyes rolling in their sockets. Every journalist in that room began as a newbie, and the mean girls of the media have had their own share of booboos. It’s even debatable whether some of those in the old guard have learned anything in their many years in journalism.
A glaring example of that may be in this lady reporter with medusa locks who likes to take over press briefings with snide comments from the sidelines. “Give us the list!,” she shouted at the prosecutors from the House of Representatives, who were about to actually give the list of people they were calling as witnesses to the trial.
“It’s on the press release, honey!,” she screamed at a newbie reporter who had not, in fact, received the press release that would have answered her question. At any rate, the question was not addressed to her. With each comment, an ever widening circle as other reporters began cringing away in embarrassment.
We’re not saying that this same reporter has been harassing lawmakers for perks like food for the press office and free rides to and from the Senate. We hear, though, that other people are saying that.
Have you heard the latest on the dispute between Philippine Airlines (PAL) and its former labor unionÂ Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA)?
We have not either. Â What we have heard is PAL crying harassment over the labor union camping out at its in-flight center (whatever that is). And how could we have not? They said so on Facebook:
And on Philippine Star:
And on People’s Journal:
And the Manila Standard Today:
Now, it’s not unusual for newspapers to print press releases in toto. That’s where the lifestyle and entertainment sections get 75% of their content. Â But the PAL-PALEA dispute is not a new brand of lotion or a new clothing line for SM department store and deserves better treatment.
At the very least, these newspapers should have clearly labelled these stories as PR. The stories make it look like the papers are reporting what PAL said, but they don’t disclose that the story itself came from PAL. That means these stories come with whatever authority, integrity, and impartiality that these newspapers claim. (To be fair, nobody claims impartiality anymore)
They should have at least put PALEA’s protests in context, or at least explained how exactly those protests constitute harassment. Â They should at least have talked to PALEA for a reaction. They’re not that hard to find since they’re camped out at the in-flight center and presumably planning further acts of harassment. It was a long weekend of slow news days.
No jokes today, these papers are enough of a punchline as it is.