Are media soft or hard on Du30?

FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras - The Freeman

Other than the evaluation of President Duterte's performance in the first 100 days of his administration which have been more than exhaustively done, I would like to delve into the media treatment of Duterte in the first 100 days. This is a harbinger of the media position in the days and years to come of him and his government and could greatly influence his overall media relationship. Recall Duterte's complaints of the mainstream media that he threatened to boycott and not hold any more press conferences. Then his accusation of corrupt media people that deserve to be killed. These were bad starts on his media interactions but were smoothened after he relented on press conferences and media gave him some slack.

The Duterte campaign was fuelled a lot by social media, volunteers and organized, so social media coverage have been more favorable than that of the mainstream media. These carried over to the first 100 days and is partly responsible for the high positive satisfaction rating in the surveys. Social media however will be greatly influenced by the main media over time because main media are more substantive and reasonable. The volunteers and the organized social media reporters and commentators would not have the intellectual, moral, and the research resources of the main media. And the main media purveyors and individual social media commentators are also making their views known in the social media. So the tone in the social media will eventually align with the tone of the main media.

I am a member of the Cebu Citizens Press Council, so I get a copy of the magazine, Cebu Journalism and Journalist or CJJ. Volume 11 of the magazine which came out more than 30 days ago or 56 days after Duterte's term started, had a cover story entitled, "Media in the time of Duterte." Aside from the editorial there were four articles that delved into Duterte's relationship with the media written by veteran journalist who had covered him up close, including when he was mayor of Davao City.

From their articles, it seems Duterte has a love-hate relationship with media. He likes to talk to media in rambling monologues for hours, but is sensitive to criticism and temperamental. He is prone to making threats but does not dictate or prevent media reports about him. Questioning his credibility, saying something that can't be done, and being made to repeat himself will usually make him angry and start the cursing.

The conclusion is that the Davao journalist gave him too much leeway it might have spoiled him. His perceived success in taming Davao and getting reelected many times and his reputation was an implied threat to the journalists and to the people of Davao. In a way the Davao journalists by being soft on him made him unprepared for the national and international media.

Duterte is now president of the Philippines and not just mayor of Davao and he is doing the same things he did in Davao, and is expecting the national and international media to behave like the Davao journalists. This is the problem that his Cabinet secretaries and his communications people have to resolve. While he has said that he will "metamorphose" when he is sworn in as President, he now says that he will not change. So the spokesman and the press secretary are now asking the media to use "creative imagination" when reporting about Duterte. They are asking the reporters to editorialize and not just report the news as they see and hear it from the President.

This will not work. Eventually the reporters will ask the hard questions and expect a clear, integrated, and coordinated answer that is in line with the 11-point program of his government that he declared in his inauguration speech.

In deference to the 100 days grace period and the high satisfaction rating of Duterte from day one to day 100, the national media have been tolerant and easy on him. A less popular President would have been lambasted on his curses and threats, his condemnation without due process, public shaming, and other un-presidential behavior. I would say that while the international media have reported it straight, the national media have been more accommodating in its reporting. National media have neither been soft nor hard on Duterte, but as the say in a spa or massage parlor, moderate and I don't mean moderetso.

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There is a saying that Confucius might have said and it goes this way. "When everything seems to be going your way, it might be good to check if you are not in the wrong lane."

[email protected].

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