Sunday, August 19, 2007

A more relaxed pace (and a Harry Potter check for journalists?)

Thanks to the people who attended last Friday's roundtable discussion on monitoring the news media coverage of the 2007 elections. It kept raining last Friday, but more than 50 people attended. Thank you, thank you.

Here is a short report of what happened.

Improvement noted in media coverage of 2007 elections Source: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility

There was widespread awareness of the professional and ethical responsibilities of the press among the major media players. TV networks ABS-CBN 2 and GMA-7 and the leading Manila broadsheets seemed very much aware of the importance of their role in the 2007 elections.

The leading media organizations in both print and television also prepared their staffs for the coverage through seminars and briefings, in which the ethics of reporting the elections was emphasized.

These were among the conclusions of the study on media coverage of the 2007 elections conducted by the non-governmental Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR). The results of the study were released today during a roundtable discussion at the Filipinas Heritage Library in Makati.

Read more here. Other reports published in newspapers and online available on Monday.
To the interns and volunteers who attended -- Dana, Criz (with friend Xan), Rocel, Mark -- thanks again.

Now that the book on the project is out, I think I can breathe a little better and resume my work -- and life -- at a slower, more relaxed pace.

Meanwhile, here's an interesting entry from the Chicago Tribune. A Harry Potter check for journalists? "Perhaps it is time for each news organization, reporter and editor to institute a Harry Potter check," P wrote in the Chicago Tribune last August 12. "Call it a human decency test."

What would Harry Potter do?

Source: Chicago Tribune

The extraordinary thing about the final Harry Potter book isn't that it has sold umpteen millions of copies. It's that the news media -- traditional and non-traditional, print and digital -- have treated the story with an unusual degree of human decency.

Maybe there's a lesson to be learned.

Although copies of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" were in circulation in the days leading up to its official publication date of July 21, news organizations and individual bloggers, almost unanimously, refused to disclose details of the novel. They didn't reveal the ending. They didn't make public even the usual plot and character bits routinely mentioned in book reviews.

In the weeks since, those same editors and writers have gone to extreme lengths to protect the book's secrets by splashing spoiler alerts prominently on any story that might give the merest whiff of the story's twists and turns.

In thousands of private decisions, writers, editors, publishers and bloggers have determined that they don't want to spoil the book for Harry Potter's fans. Maybe it would have been different if those fans had all been adults. But most are children. And the decision was made, over and over and over, not to break their hearts.

I'm glad. I think that was the right thing to do and a good instinct to follow. The world was better for it.

Normally, journalists aren't so mushy. Normally, the argument that the public has a right to know anything and everything trumps all other considerations. Behind this argument isn't just 1st Amendment pieties. There's also a competitive imperative. The rush to be first with news doesn't leave much room for consideration of whether a particular revelation is the sort of news that the public must know.

Usually, it's not a fictional plot that gets revealed but the real-world details of someone's private life.

This isn't the way it has always been. The famous example is Franklin Delano Roosevelt's polio-crippled legs.

Read more here.

On the local front, I am glad that the Philippine Daily Inquirer recently had a front-page report on the only winner from Ang Kapatiran Party in the last elections. Hats off to the Inquirer for continuously covering Ang Kapatiran even before the polls were already finished. In our monitoring project that monitored the country's three top broadsheets, Inquirer was cited for its exceptional coverage of the party.

Kapatiran’s lone winner keeps party’s flame burning
By Christian V. Esguerra
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The flame of Ang Kapatiran and its campaign for a God-centered politics did not die with its crushing defeat in the May elections.

Keeping it alive is a city councilor—the only one who won out of the 27 candidates that the party fielded—who is now engaged in a lonely battle against a key population control measure being introduced in Olongapo City.

John Carlos de los Reyes is fighting what he says is an attempt by foreign and local organizations to introduce a city measure to curb the Philippines’ runaway population growth “through the back door.”

Read more here.


Cedelf P. Tupas said...

Hi Bryant!

I am planning to borrow the CMFR book now but I haven't started reading it. Our editor, Carla Gomez was there for the discussions. And I was left here, taking over her desk chores *whining*. So, if its any consolation I will be the first one to borrow the book although I may have read some parts of it in the June PJR issue. Anyway, congratulations!


bryant said...

Hi Cedelf,

Thanks! Yes, Ma'am Carla was there, along with other community journalists we invited. It was great to invite members of the provincial press, as they helped make the discussion livelier and more interesting.

The June issue indeed carried bits and parts of the project, but I am sure you will find more things in the book. Please feel free to share with us your thoughts or reactions.

The project, as you may imagine, was really difficult and nerve-wracking. But thank God, we are already finished with that. Good thing the elections do not happen every year. Haha!


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