Think first before reporting the news
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - January 1, 2018 - 12:00am

News travels at the speed of light – or at the speed of keys on a keyboard at least. Today we can barely control what gets out before it has spread like wildfire. While there are definite upsides to news spreading so quickly there are just as many downsides as well. The biggest problem is that when there is an overabundance of information available all the time you are assuming that readers are able to discern on their own which are real pieces and which are not.

Alas that is the reason that fake news is able to proliferate the country at the rate that it is nowadays. People don’t know any better (or choose not to know better) and fall for articles that tell them what they want to hear – even if it’s not necessarily true. Then they take this piece of news and use it as a justification of forming an opinion or for their actions. That’s when fake news truly becomes a problem and it has become an epidemic in the country.

I suppose that is what happens when there is no filter on information. Any Tom, Dick, or Harry with a smartphone or a computer feels they are a “journalist” and can easily write and disseminate articles they wrote based mostly on information which they also gleaned from the internet. Gone are the days of heavy research and going out and talking to sources and verifying facts and figures. This is not really possible now because people are so wrapped up in getting the article out there first that they can’t take the time to do all the necessary steps.

The world really has changed – and at breakneck speed too. That’s perhaps why the generational gaps seem so big these days. There is hardly ever any time for things to percolate anymore. Things keep coming out one after the other and we barely have time to learn about or appreciate something when the replacement is already available (i.e. iPhone 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, X all in just a few years). How are we really able to learn or master anything when we know how disposable everything is now?

I remember when I was just a cub reporter for the newspaper many years ago. Back then it was also important to get the news first. After all, we all lived to get the “scoop.” Everyone wanted to out-scoop the other publications. That was a big deal to reporters who had to utilize creative means of getting the story and the photo before everyone else did. Even the wire agencies were the same – AFP, AP, Reuters. It was always a mad dash to stay on the forefront of news and that meant more than just getting the story but also getting the story in a way that no one else did – a quote from the right source, a photo no one else had. It was an exciting time for newspapers.

But even though we were always in a race to deliver the headlines before one another there was still a very intricate premium on fact checking and making sure we got the story right. After all, consequences were severe if we didn’t. We were in a rush but we were never trigger-happy or we would have to pay the price. That fear no longer really seems to exist in the digital space. People press “publish” or “post” at the drop of a hat without really worrying about the consequences. After all they can just edit or update the post later on if they want to make amendments. Even with the fear of screencaps or cyberlaws there is still little regulation with what is printed online. After all, implementation of these laws is still very tricky.

I have learned to appreciate the way the world and news works now but I have to admit I also miss the industry the way it used to be. I just feel there was a better system of checks and balances back then. After all the media was always meant to be a part of the fourth estate and help provide people with all the information they need to hold their governments to a higher standard while properly influencing society. This has worked for many years and is only in trouble now because of the proliferation of false information.

Hopefully better filters can be put into place in the year ahead. There was a story on an international news site about how Facebook has partnered with the Philippine government and is thus allowing the government to use its platform to spread the news important to them. It’s worth looking into because no portal for information should be tainted that way.

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I am for giving President Duterte another year to solve the ongoing armed conflict in Mindanao. I understand that things weren’t going to automatically right themselves once conflict was resolved in Marawi. However I hope this does not lead to a dictatorship. We have to remain vigilant and again apply a system of checks and balances so that the government knows they must do things above board. Solve the problem but don’t create a new one while you are doing it.

And of course it’s important to keep an eye on President Duterte’s friendship with the family of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos. He has already fulfilled many of their requests including the burial of the late dictator in Libingan ng mga Bayani. Hopefully the president will not be influenced to follow the same path as his friends. I am hopeful he won’t and believe he will step down in 2022 when his term is done.

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Just like that another year is done. 2017 was interesting to say the least and I don’t think I am alone when I say it had its share of challenges. However, we should still remain grateful for the many good things that happened and try to stay positive moving into the year ahead. This is always a good time to refocus and recharge and go into the new year with a positive outlook on achieving great things in the 12 months ahead. I wish you all a very Happy New Year and may 2018 bring you success, health, and prosperity!

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