Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The right thing to do

In a time when the government has shown that it will do anything to survive and cling to power at the expense of civil liberties including freedom of the press and of expression, it is only right that journalists fight back. Given the current political context we have right now--where the government has proven it will not mind curtailing press freedom and human rights especially since the Hello, Garci scandal broke out--to fight back and defend press freedom is the only fitting thing to do.

To fight back for a free press is a fight not only for the benefit of the press itself, but for the benefit of the whole public, which deserves true, informed, transparent, and honest service from the press.

A group of ABS-CBN journalists has asked the Supreme Court yesterday to declare their arrest illegal and to protect them and other journalists from future government harassment. Here's the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility alert on the issue as posted in the website of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance:

Philippine journalists seek court protection from government harassment
21 January 2008
Source: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR)

Eleven journalists from the Philippines' biggest television network arrested for covering the November 2007 stand-off between security forces and 20-odd soldiers at the Manila Peninsula Hotel have asked the Philippine Supreme Court to declare their arrest illegal and to protect them and other journalists from future government harassment.

Led by senior correspondent Ces Oreña Drilon, employees of media giant ABS-CBN who were among those arrested in the 29 November incident filed a petition for a "writ of amparo and prohibition" seeking protection from government "threats of future warrantless arrests, and acts of harassment against petitioners and other journalists, in the course or in consequence of the performance of their work, such as in the coverage of breaking news events similar to the Manila Peninsula stand-off".

Read more here. To review what happened in the Manila Peninsula siege, please read the main story of the December 2007 issue of the the PJR Reports.

Now, CMFR, along with other media groups and journalists are planning to file a class suit to protect press freedom. According to Malaya columnist Ellen Tordesillas--who was also among the 50 media people arrested shortly after the siege had ended--the suit filed by the ABS-CBN journalists and media practitioners is just the first of several suits media are planning to file.

The actions and plans taken by the press came after the government and police officials have warned of future arrests of journalists if they defied police orders while covering similar events. The most recent was a Jan. 11 "media advisory" by the Department of Justice, which said media organizations would be "criminally liable" if their reporters did not obey the orders of government authorities at the site of emergencies. The "advisory" was followed by a police declaration that they would use force to remove journalists from such sites should they refuse to leave. For more information about this, click here and here.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Should journalists stop using social media sites in reporting? How about banning booze in the newsroom?

The press snafu over the fake Facebook account of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari should not stop journalists from using social media sites in reporting. As a media reporter, I use social media sites like Facebook, Myspace, Friendster, and Twitter not only to get in touch with contacts and friends but also to monitor for breaking news and smell possible stories. It's just that when you use social media sites, do not forget to apply that old rule in journalism: Check and verify your facts.

As PBS MediaShift associate editor Jennifer Woodard Maderazo wrote in an article about the issue, with the ease of access to information and individuals these days comes an inherent risk. "Online communities — like villages and workplaces — are breeding grounds for rumors and speculation. And the nature of some of the tools we use might lead to inconsistent, incomplete and all-around incorrect information. Using social media tools to write a story has both its pros and cons, but with a little common sense and professionalism these tools can be very helpful."

"In the end," she wrote, "it boils down to knowing how to get the most out of these tools while being wary of them, and sticking to the rule that far pre-dates the Internet: find the truth behind the story and check your facts."

Read her article here.

Here's another interesting item from Slate. I do know, however, a number of good journalists who don't drink and/or smoke.

The Whiskey Rebellion
In praise of booze in the newsroom

By Jack Shafer
Posted Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2008, at 6:37 PM ET

Every profession needs what academics call an "occupational mythology" to sustain it, a set of personal and social dramas, arrangements, and devices, as sociologist Everett Hughes put it, "by which men make their work tolerable, or even make it glorious to themselves and others." As hard drugs are to the hard-rocker and tattoos are to the NBA player, so booze is to the journalist—even if he doesn't drink.

The journalist likes to think of himself as living close to the edge, whether he's covering real estate or Iraq. He (and she) shouts and curses and cracks wise at most every opportunity, considers divorce an occupational hazard, and loves telling ripping yarns about his greatest stories. If he likes sex, he has too much of it. Ditto for food. If he drinks, he considers booze his muse. If he smokes, he smokes to excess, and if he attempts to quit, he uses Nicorette and the patch.

Read more here.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Revisiting Checkbook Journalism

I think I'm not joining the fray on the television ratings brouhaha--yet. The amount of vitriol spewed everywhere by parties concerned and television fans over the controversy makes me dizzy even by just thinking about it. So maybe a bit later, but not now.

Here's an interesting journalism issue Howie Severino posted in his blog. Should journalists pay their sources?

The standard argument against checkbook journalism is that paying for information creates an additional incentive for subjects to lie or embellish the truth.

As the supposed watchdogs on power, journalists have to watch our own. We tiptoe through ethical minefields daily. Among my off-camera roles at our network is to sound a warning when we're about to blow our legs off. Of course no one is perfect so I'm glad that's just a figurative analogy or we'd have more than a few legless journalists crawling around.

Among those issues we wrestle with is how we should relate to our subjects/characters aka case studies, those people we focus our stories on. In long-format shows like I-Witness, we sometimes ask these folks, many of whom earn subsistence livelihoods, to spend days and often nights with us. Should we pay them for their efforts?

The gut reflex for journalists is to refuse because of the principle of non-payment for information. But I recently read a thoughtful essay reassessing that view in the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR).

Read here for more of Howie's thoughts on the issue.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

UP Centennial: "The next century has just begun"

Since I am practically stuck with the upcoming issue of the PJR Reports, I wasn't able to go to last night's opening ceremonies for the year-long centennial celebration of the University of the Philippines. Yes, yes, I know. All day long, especially towards the afternoon, fellow Iskos and Iskas -- dear friends some of which I haven't seen for a long time -- sent me messages (through phone, Friendster, Twitter, Yahoo messenger, what have you) asking me if I'm going. Well. At least I still have 364 more days to make it up for it.

Here's a blog entry on last night's activity from Malaya reporter and proud UP Los Baños alumnus Anthony Ian Cruz aka Tonyo:

Oblation rocks as UP kicks off centennial celebration
By Anthony Ian Cruz
January 9, 2008

TENS of thousands of students, faculty, staff and alumni of the University of the Philippines kicked off yesterday the national university’s year-long centennial celebration with a parade, a torch relay, a 100-gun salute and a concert by alumni.

Contingents from UP campuses in Manila, Los Baños, Mindanao, Pampanga and Baguio, and the Open University marched through University Avenue and around the Academic Oval.

A helicopter from the Air Force, flown by alumni, showered confetti on parade participants and onlookers.

One of the most applauded parade contingents was from the UP Diliman-based College of Fine Arts.

Read more here.

The centennial theme, according to a site UP provided for the centennial celebration, is: "UP: Excellence, Service, and Leadership in the Next 100 Years". "(The) kinetic dash into the next century involves rationalizing UP’s program offerings, strengthening its position as the leading research university, firming up its science and technology programs, and developing a community of scholars with academic credentials comparable to their counterparts in the best universities in the world," the site explained. "For UP, the next century has just begun." For more about the UP centennial theme, read more here. For complete news about the year-long celebration, visit the UP centennial website. An explanation of the centennial logo (photo above) can also be read there.

Below is a photo album posted in Youtube by user baniaguirre on the UP Carillon Tower before and after restoration (with new bells installed) in time for the 2008 UP Centennial.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Filipino singer Charice Pempengco wows Korea--again

I know a lot of people who are itching to see Charice Pempengco's second performance in the Korean show Star King. Out of 50 nominees, she was voted by the viewers as their top overseas guest they would like to see again in the show.

Media and the Manila Pen siege

Oh God, I can't believe it's now 2008 and the holiday break is over. I guess some of the books I got last Christmas have to wait a bit, including:
And oh, in case you haven't read it, the main story in the December 2007 issue of the PJR Reports is how media covered the Manila Pen siege last Nov. 29 and how the journalists felt it was they and their profession that were under attack by the end of the day.

A confrontation on basic issues
The Siege of the Pen
PJR Reports December 2007

by Booma Cruz, Junette B. Galagala and Hector Bryant L. Macale

Reviewing the video footage that she took while talking to a Magdalo soldier on the balcony in the Manila Peninsula during the siege, Probe producer Zanneth Tafalla froze for a few seconds and gasped. She called her colleagues to look at the tape.

On the television screen, the soldier—who was wearing the red and white armband that was the symbol of the Magdalo group—was calmly telling Tafalla, “Umiwas na kayo (Save yourselves).” Until the producer reviewed the tape, she did not notice that a red dot from the gunsight of a sniper stationed somewhere was being aimed between the eyes of the soldier who was asking her to leave.

If the sniper had pulled the trigger, Tafalla knew that she would never get over the horror of seeing a man killed right in front of her.

Tafalla and about a hundred members of media were inside the Manila Peninsula when former Navy Lieutenant Senior Grade Antonio Trillanes IV, now an elected senator, and Army Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim led a few dozen soldiers in calling for the withdrawal of public support from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Many other journalists covered from outside the hotel.

“It seemed like a regular coverage… until the intermittent gunshots (were fired) and the tear gas (was lobbed). You didn’t fear for your life when you were holding your camera. But there was tension all throughout,” said Hera Sanchez, senior producer-reporter of Probe.

Sanchez was stationed at the hallway of the second floor where Trillanes, Lim, and their supporters were holed up in a room monitoring the situation.

Read more here.
Blog directory