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Opinion

What is happening to the press?

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

Many of my fellow journalists bristle at the suggestion that social media is getting better (read that as more reliable) than us mainstream fellas. I do not share the feeling and find it funny that some friends who are really good at their craft would lose sleep over it. To me the separation, the difference, is still clear and palpable. It only seemed blurred during the election. Politics has a way of making things seem unseemly.

In normal times, that is, minus the rabid, murderous passion of politics, media in the mainstream is still leagues ahead in any department. Not that there are no real gems in socmed. Not only that there are, I in fact am a fan and follower of some of them who, I must admit, are far more learned, erudite, and sensible than I can ever be. But as a whole, they are too few to topple an entire industry built on credibility.

Alas for the mainstream media industry, nothing is truly forever, not this industry, not even credibility. Not that I am already scared (the feared changes will not happen in my lifetime), but the scary thing is that socmed is not gaining more influence because it is necessarily better but that mainstream is getting sloppier. Mainstream is giving up ground to socmed by its own hand.

Again, in a highly-charged environment such as an election campaign, audiences will readily flock to socmed where any Tom, Dick, and Harry can always go to town with anything, minus the accountability that comes with identity. But in more mundane times, when the only thing happening, according to Lord Laro in the song "Foreign Press" is "a breeze blowing up a woman's dress," then mainstream is king.

But the king is not impervious to sleepiness, which can quickly turn into sloppiness. The other day there was a story about a vessel that caught fire off Bohol. The vessel plies the Ubay, Bohol-Bato, Leyte route. Rescuers brought the survivors to Hilongos in Leyte and to President Carlos P. Garcia in Bohol. Some were also brought to Pitogo in Quezon Province. Huh?

Had the report been on socmed, I probably would have taken it in stride. Oh well. But it was carried by a leading light of the traditional press. It was a story in ink, framed by deadlines and passed from reporter to editor to editor and even a proofreader. What's the beef? The beef, for Christ's sake, is why some survivors were taken to Pitogo in Quezon in faraway Luzon and nobody explaining why.

As I would always tell my reporters many years ago, never leave a question hanging for your readers because it is unfair to people who pay money to buy news. Not that it is impossible for survivors in a Visayas accident to be taken to Luzon. But it has to be explained why, especially to those who have as much common sense as they know their geography.

Days earlier, another mainstream media outlet with a long history of credibility ran a story about a new hotel in Cebu with pieces of art on display, among them a painting of the route "taken by Magellan and his missionaries." Huh? Except for one priest, Pedro Valderrama, Magellan did not arrive in the Philippines with "missionaries." Two other priests were lost on the way, one to mutiny, the other to disease.

Magellan's was a voyage of discovery, not to teach religion. That is what history told us and should be reflected as such in any contextual account, even in a news story. Especially a story on mainstream media. Failure to safeguard the integrity of any story opens the storyteller, in this case mainstream media, to self-inflicted assaults on its credibility. Lose that and the next thing you know, socmed is the new king.

PRESS

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