Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gatekeepers No More? Journalism in the Age of Web 2.0

In this day and age of Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and OhMyNews, how does the press adapt and find ways to survive? How does today’s journalism try and present its relevance in an age of information overload?

Meet Faith Salazar,who represents a growing number of Filipinos relying on new media technologies and tools for news and information. GMANews.TV's Howie Severino and Inquirer Group's JV Rufino present their views about and prospects for journalism amid rapid changes in the media landscape.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Day After Tragedy Struck

Ondoy ravages San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Interview with Maria Galope, Ondoy survivor

In this clip, Maria explains in Filipino how it happened.

The Day After

Like the rest of the provinces in Luzon, Bulacan was not spared from Ondoy’s onslaught. According to local disaster officials, at least 38 people were killed in Bulacan. Officials also said at least 2,835 families in Bulacan were affected by floods. The government placed Bulacan, nearby provinces, and Metro Manila under a state of calamity.

Here are photos of some places in San Jose del Monte, taken a day after Ondoy's disastrous rains.

Maria Galope, mother of six and earns a living by cleaning used plastic in the river and sells it, lost her house after torrential rains swept it away.

The only things she were able to save were her old TV set, some clothes, and a few metal scraps (photo below). She hopes she can still sell them. "Even just for a coffee," she said.

Swept Away

All that Maria Galope can save were her old television set, few wet clothes, and some scraps of rusty metal.

Maria, a mother of six children, lost her house and belongings after tropical storm Ondoy (international name: Ketsana) swept her makeshift hut last Sept. 26. Ondoy’s massive rains overflowed the river near her hut in the town of San Jose del Monte, Bulacan province.

“Thank God we’re alive,” said a teary-eyed Maria. She does not know, however, how she will be able to rebuild her house or earn a living again. All their belongings, including her children’s schoolbooks and husband’s job application documents, were swept away by the river.

“Why would I stay near the river when I know that it can kill me and my family if a typhoon like Ondoy happens again?” Maria asked in Filipino. “But I cannot do anything because I need to earn a living for my family.” Maria earns P100 (about $2) by cleaning used plastic in the river and selling it.

Torrential rains

Like the rest of the provinces in Luzon, Bulacan was not spared from Ondoy’s onslaught. According to local disaster officials, at least 38 people were killed in the province. Officials also said at least 2,835 families in Bulacan were affected by floods. The government placed Bulacan, nearby provinces, and Metro Manila under a state of calamity.

Drawing comparison with hurricane Katrina that battered the United States in 2005, Ondoy unleashed torrential rains in Metro Manila and provinces in Luzon.

As of 6 p.m, Sept. 27, at least 73 persons were killed and nearly 70,000 families were displaced due to the typhoon, according to the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) officials. NDCC officials also said there have been 337,216 persons affected in Metro Manila and nearby provinces. More than 9,600 families took shelter in 101 evacuation sites in affected areas.

Ondoy is the worst typhoon that hit the country in history, according to Dr. Nathaniel Cruz, director of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA). Ondoy, which officials say dumped the heaviest rainfall in Metro Manila in four decades, submerged hundreds of houses in Luzon and destroyed millions of properties.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Karahume: The Giver of Life

Here's a small clip I made for my multimedia class under Prof. DJ Clark. This is my first video, so all comments, negative or otherwise, are encouraged.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Why killing of journalists continues in the Philippines

Press freedom and other democratic institutions were officially restored during after the ouster of Marcos dictatorship in 1986, yet Filipino journalists continue to get killed for their work, according to the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists. Despite massive calls of outrage and for prompt action by local and international media watchdogs and various sectors, Filipino journalists are killed at an alarming rate because of the rampant culture of impunity that exists in the country.

"The persistence of the killings has been attributed to a culture of impunity in which the killers and the masterminds have mostly evaded prosecution in a flawed justice system," FFFJ said in a statement released on the eve of this year's commemoration of the assassination of Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. in 1983.

The FFFJ is an alliance of six media organizations—the Center for Community Journalism and Development, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, the Philippine Press Institute, and the US-based newspaper Philippine News—created to address the killing of journalists in the Philippines and to assist besieged journalists. It provides financial, legal and other support for prosecution of case and for the survivors of slain journalists, as well as for the witnesses in the killings. CMFR serves as the FFFJ Secretariat.

Journalists still being killed 26 years after Ninoy's death

Source: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Aug. 20, 2009

THE PHILIPPINES marks the 26th anniversary of the assassination of Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino on August 21. Aquino’s assassination emboldened the anti-dictatorship resistance, and led to the ouster of the Marcos regime and his widow Corazon’s assuming the Presidency in 1986. Press freedom and other rights were officially restored during Aquino’s term of office. But 26 years later its full realization is still problematic as reflected in the continuing killing of journalists for their work.

The persistence of the killings has been attributed to a culture of impunity in which the killers and the masterminds have mostly evaded prosecution in a flawed justice system.

The successful prosecution of a criminal case, to which the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ) and its member organizations are committed as part of their efforts to dismantle the culture of impunity, depends on several factors, the most basic of which is the arrest of the accused. There is no consolation in having a criminal case filed only to have the court order it archived prior to arraignment simply because the accused is at large. But it continues to happen.

Without the accused in court, there can be no arraignment. This stage of criminal proceedings in the Philippines requires informing the accused of the nature and cause of the charges, and the accused’s personally entering a plea. The rationale behind this rule is due process: the accused must know and understand the charges against him so that he may adequately prepare for his defense.

Click here for more.

The killings reflect how deep the roots of this rotten culture of impunity exists in the Philippines. As CMFR's Melanie Pinlac writes: "The continuing murder of Filipino journalists/media practitioners indicates how much the culture of impunity in the Philippines has flourished—one more result of the systemic weaknesses of the country’s justice system."

"In addition to the government’s lack of political will, inefficient law enforcement, prosecutors burdened with impossible case loads, the primitive state of forensic investigation, and the poorly-funded witness protection program are responsible for the culture of impunity," added Pinlac, who serves as the CMFR press alerts officer. She analyzed the culture of impunity and why a poor witness protection program contributes to the problem.

Impunity and Witness Protection: An Analysis

Source: Freedom Watch
Melanie Y. Pinlac
July 30, 2009

The continuing murder of Filipino journalists/media practitioners indicates how much the culture of impunity in the Philippines has flourished—one more result of the systemic weaknesses of the country’s justice system. In addition to the government’s lack of political will, inefficient law enforcement, prosecutors burdened with impossible case loads, the primitive state of forensic investigation, and the poorly-funded witness protection program are responsible for the culture of impunity.

The prosecution of criminal cases including media murders in the Philippines relies heavily, sometimes solely, on testimonial evidence rather than forensic evidence, the result of the rudimentary—and sometimes careless—processing and gathering of physical evidence by law enforcement agencies. Investigators, prosecutors and lawyers try to gather extensive and comprehensive testimonial evidence to make up for the lack of physical evidence, and their unreliability if available. The families and colleagues of slain journalists have also been burdened with the task of locating possible witnesses for the prosecution of the suspected killers of their kin.

In the murder case against the alleged killer of Davao-based broadcaster Fernando “Batman” Lintuan, the testimony of the lone witness, described by the court judge as “ridiculous and unbelievable”, contributed most to the dismissal of the case and the acquittal of the suspect last April 22. The prosecution had failed to present additional evidence to corroborate the testimony of its lone witness.

On Christmas eve almost two years ago (Dec. 24, 2007), Lintuan—a radio blocktimer based in Davao City—was shot to death by a lone assassin.

What happened in the Lintuan case was not unusual. Many other media murder cases, like the 2003 killing of another Davao City broadcaster, Juan “Jun” Pala, never even reached the courts because no witness dared to come forward.

Click here for more.

Shawn Crispin of the Committee to Protect Journalists, also writes about the state of the country's witness protection program and the troubles witnesses face when they come forward to help solve cases. Crispin, who is CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative, focused on the killing of General Santos City-based radio broadcaster Dennis Cuesta and why his suspected killers remain free.

Philippines Special Report: Under Oath, Under Threat
Committee to Protect Journalist
Shawn W. Crispin
August 18, 2009

When motorcycle-riding assailants shot and fatally wounded Dennis Cuesta along a busy, tree-lined highway here last year, friend and fellow Radio Mindanao Network reporter Bob Flores was walking by his side. Flores recalls Cuesta’s body being flung into his own as one gunman fired three times at close range. As Cuesta dropped to the side of the road, a second assailant fired twice more, inflicting head injuries that contributed to the 38-year-old journalist’s death five days later, on August 9, 2008.

In a twist familiar in journalist killings in the Philippines that allegedly involve wayward public officials, local police initially labeled Flores a suspect rather than a witness. “They said I was the No. 1 suspect in the crime,” Flores told CPJ, recounting what police told him in the immediate aftermath of the murder. “I knew then my life would never be the same.”

Click here for more.

Here's an overview of the CMFR database on the killing of Filipino journalists/media practitioners since 1986 (as of July 2009).

CMFR, which publishes an annual review of the state of press freedom, posted online PDF copies of its Philippine Press Freedom Report 2007 and Philippine Press Freedom Report 2008.

For an interactive map of the killings, please click here.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Oh, the callousness and insensitivity

Just a quick post regarding the false alarm on President Corazon Aquino's death.

The British Embassy in Manila made a major booboo today when it sent journalists a press release stating that the UK Government is extending its condolences "following the death of President Corazon Aquino."

Here's what the embassy sent to journalists more than two hours ago:

UK Government extends condolences following the death of President Corazon

Following the news of Corazon Aquino's death Foreign Office Minister Lord Malloch Brown has extended the British Government's condolences to her family. Lord Brown, who worked closely with Mrs. Aquino during her election campaign said: "I received the news of Corazon Aquino's death with great sadness. As an advisor in her campaign against President Marcos, the privilege of working with Cory and watching her was one of my life's greatest lessons in courage, leadership, the art of politics and humanity. The way she and all her family made such friends of me as an outsider is something I have always treasured. On behalf of the British Government I extend our condolences to her family at this difficult time."

British Ambassador Peter Beckingham added: "I had the honour and pleasure of meeting former President Aquino on several occasions, when we were able to discuss her visits to London and her interests in members of the Filipino community in Britain, especially those serving in the Church. Those discussions left me with an overwhelming sense of her grace, charisma and compassion. The Philippines has lost a wonderful leader who is widely admired in Britain for her courage and inspiration."

Aquino, on the contrary, is still alive. Jiggy Cruz, Aquino's eldest grandson, has been tweeting that the former president is still alive. "(S)pending time with my Lola (grandmother). People, don't believe the rumor," Cruz tweeted earlier. Another tweet from Cruz, just a few minutes ago: "To all those concerned, please don't believe the rumors that are spreading..."

A few minutes after realizing its gaffe, the British embassy sent another email to journalists. In my opinion, the email sounded callous and less than sincere about the earlier release:

"Our deepest apologies, it appears the information we received was premature. Please embargo our statement until Pres. Aquino's passing has been confirmed. Thank you very much for your understanding."

Can't you just feel the love?

Okay, mistakes happen and I understand that the UK embassy realized that it had a made a mistake in sending the first release (although the embassy staff could have really waited for an official announcement on the issue, especially since we are talking about Pres. Aquino here--a global icon of democracy and a moral guiding light in this sorry country of ours). I also felt that the embassy officials were very sincere in their statements.

What irks me is the way they try to wangle themselves out of the situation by issuing the second email only to come across callous and insensitive.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In their dying industry, how long can journalists stay?

Even if this piece is written almost two months ago, I still find it refreshing and inspiring. Addressing the 2009 UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism class last May, San Francisco Chronicle's Barbara Ehrenreich argues why journalists are here to stay. At a time when media and press communities all over the world grapple for survival and relevance, it's an insightful reading for journalists and citizens alike.

Welcome to a dying industry, journalism grads

Barbara Ehrenreich
Sunday, May 31, 2009

The dean gave me some very strict instructions about what to say today. No whining and no crying at the podium. No wringing of hands or gnashing of teeth. Be upbeat, be optimistic, he said - adding that it wouldn't hurt to throw in a few tips about how to apply for food stamps.

So let's get the worst out of the way right up front: You are going to be trying to carve out a career in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. You are furthermore going to be trying to do so within what appears to be a dying industry. You have abundant skills and talents - it's just not clear that anyone wants to pay you for them.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Michael Jackson's death: A grand media spectacle

So how did the U.S. media, particularly the networks, fare with their coverage of Michael Jackson's memorial service?

"Some network anchors seemed a bit mortified by their own unstinting and reverential coverage," writes Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times ("Funeral of a Superstar as a Media Moment"). "But there was another, less obvious allure to the incessant, insatiable coverage. With so many hours to fill, television anchors and commentators give voice — literally and loudly — to the kinds of private, contradictory thoughts that so often dart through guests’ minds at a funeral. Flashes of sorrow and reminiscence collide with nosy curiosity about the will, the debts, custody battles, family entanglements and even the extravagant cost of the ceremony." She also raised other interesting points on the coverage.

Funeral of a Superstar as a Media Moment
By Alessandra Stanley
The New York Times
Published: July 7, 2009

Of course the networks interrupted their regular programming to cover it. Of course the 24-hour cable news stations never left it, and of course, most everybody around the world stopped what they were doing — on television, on the Internet and on the street — to look and listen.

Michael Jackson’s memorial service on Tuesday was solemnly presented on television as a state funeral, and not surprisingly. This was a star-studded live concert infused with all the pageantry, sorrow and ghoulish curiosity that attends the untimely demise of a beloved, troubled superstar. And more than almost anyone else, Mr. Jackson bracketed history and supermarket tabloids. Nelson Mandela sent a celebratory message to the tribute; Brooke Shields recalled going with the singer to sneak a first peek at Elizabeth Taylor’s (eighth) wedding dress.

Read here for the rest of her article.

Columbia Journalism Review noted the overwhelming coverage of Jackson's death. "And as important as Michael Jackson was—for his beloved music, for being a metaphor of America’s racial cipher, for the cautionary tale he represented—we all honestly know that his death is not the most important story in the world," CJR editors said.

CJR editors raised an important question that journalists everywhere should think about. "So when the audience demand for a story like Jackson’s death is there—and it is—how much of it should journalists cover? To what extent should major outlets try to set the news agenda, as opposed to follow popular demand? In short, how much Jackson is too much Jackson?"

(Photo above taken by Kevork Djansezian and sourced from The New York Times)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Covering Michael Jackson

Fan or not, do you think the coverage of Michael Jackson's death has already become excessive? With due respect to Jackson's family and recognition of his musical legacy, do you feel inundated with the press coverage? Well, expect news outlets (and new media sites) to provide a more relentless coverage with the memorial service for Jackson that is going to happen any time soon. Major U.S.-based TV networks--from CNN to ABC, MSNBC and E! Entertainment--are reportedly covering the event live.

Following Jackson's death, the press unsurprisingly shifted its focus from reporting on protests in Iran and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's admission to the celebrity's demise, according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

PEJ News Coverage Index: June 22 - 28, 2009
Media Swing from Protests in Iran to the Passing of the King of Pop
Source: Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism

In the age of 24 hours news, sometimes it’s hard to know how to measure time.

Last week the news narrative careened through three distinct, often dramatic phases, and ended overwhelmed by a celebrity story that echoed coverage from more than a decade ago.

As the week began, the continuing protests in Iran, now into their third week, dominated the media. But as the Iranian government began to drive the protests underground, coverage began to recede—even if the tensions in the country had not—a sign that street protests may be easier to cover than political maneuvering behind closed doors.

By Wednesday afternoon, media attention was already shifting from protest to disgrace when South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford made a stunning admission of having an extra-marital affair after having gone missing for several days.

Then, late Thursday afternoon, the reports ricocheted across Twitter, celebrity gossip Web sites and mainstream media alerts that Michael Jackson, the self-described “King of Pop,” had been rushed to the hospital in cardiac arrest. The tabloid celebrity Web site TMZ.com was the first to report that he had been pronounced dead. The Los Angeles Times soon confirmed, and within a few hours, Jackson’s demise proved to be the biggest celebrity story in perhaps a decade, something akin to the death of John F. Kennedy, Jr. in 1999 and perhaps even that of Princess Diana in 1997.

For the week, the protests in Iran ended up being the biggest story, totaling 19% of the newshole studied during June 22-28 by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. Though he died Thursday night, Michael Jackson’s death was nearly as big, filling 18%, and Governor Sanford’s story, which fully broke on Wednesday, was third at 11%.

But that time unit doesn’t capture the feel of the week. By week’s end, every other event struggled for attention amid the cascade of Jackson video clips and remembrances, panel discussions and interview segments.

It was a reminder of how the media at times can be captivated by the hold of celebrity on some people’s lives and at the same time will eagerly exploit it.

Read the full report here.

Two out of three Americans felt that "news organizations gave too much coverage to the story," according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Tired of the press attention on Jackson's death, San Francisco Chronicle's Joe Garofoli asks: "With all due respect to the Jackson family, anybody else for letting them mourn in peace? Or at least not on the news programs?"

Who is sick of Michael Jackson TV coverage?
SFGate: Politics Blog
Joe Garofoli

Anybody else oversaturated with cable news coverage of Michael Jackson's death? For us, the high-water mark hit when Anderson Cooper led "AC 360" Tuesday night with maybe a seven- or eight minute-interview (or so it seemed) with a woman purporting to be Jackson's nurse. Or nutritionist. Or both. She then detailed some requests that MJ made about his favorite pharmaceuticals over the past few months.

AC cautioned the audience that CNN couldn't confirm her story independently.

Read more here.

Jon Friedman of Marketwatch also wrote about the media coverage of Jackson's death, but he tackled instead what he felt major lapses in the coverage. "The media's most glaring deficiency was to focus almost exclusively on the glitz and glamour and overlook the nuances. Journalists should've done a much better job of explaining the big picture beyond the splashy headlines. The TV news journalists, in particular, seldom saw a need to go beyond the red-meat aspects of the headlines," he wrote in a recent column. "All they did was blab on and speculate, without offering hard facts or original ideas. And all we got was a bunch of stories intended to titillate, not educate us."

Michael Jackson to Madoff: A tale of two media circuses Commentary: Why splashy headlines don't serve the public's needs
Jon Friedman's Media Web
Market Watch
July 1, 2009

It was the kind of week that pays the bills for media outlets. But for discerning news junkies, it was a nightmare of excess and nonsense.

Last Thursday, Michael Jackson died in Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world. Only four days later, Bernard Madoff stood in a court in lower Manhattan, a stone's throw from the New York Stock Exchange, and was sentenced to serve 150 years. In other weeks, the deaths of other celebrities like Ed McMahon and Farrah Fawcett would have been big news. This time, they were invisible by comparison.

Read the full item here. Thanks to the Columbia Journalism Review for the tip.

So what are your thoughts about the issue? (Michael Jackson's art graphic above from this site)

This year's JVOAEJ winners

Here's an official announcement from the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) on the winners of this year's Jaime V. Ongpin Awards for Excellence in Journalism.

JVOAEJ Winners Announced
Source: CMFR

THE PHILIPPINE Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and VERA Files won the top prizes in the 20th Jaime V. Ongpin Awards for Excellence in Journalism (JVOAEJ) for works published in 2008.

The results of the competition were announced during the annual JVOAEJ ceremonies at the AIM Conference Center Manila on June 25. The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) has been the administrative and technical secretariat of the JVOAEJ since 1990.

Read more here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Just when you thought you've already heard the lowest writing pay rates ever

Yesterday, I was discussing with colleagues Edsel and Kathryn the current freelance rates of some local news websites. One site offers such a low rate that it's almost a sin to post it here.

This item just as well broke my heart.

“The Words ‘a’, ‘and’, And ‘the’ Are Not Included In The Rate”
By Hamilton Nolan
Source: Gawker.com
June 20, 2009 at 4:35 AM

"Journalism. It is not a lucrative profession. Maybe you could be a freelancer though? Easy gigs. Airline magazines! Travel pieces!"

Read the tragicomic ending here.

The best Philippine investigative and explanatory reports of 2008

The country's best investigative and explanatory reports published last year will be recognized this coming June 25 by the Jaime V. Ongpin Awards for Excellence in Journalism (JVOAEJ), one of the most prestigious journalism awards in the Philippines. (Disclosure: I work for the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility/CMFR which administers the awards.)

Last June 11, CMFR announced this year's JVOAEJ finalists. This is the 20th year of JVOAEJ.

‘Political killings not official but an intended policy
By Nikko Dizon, Jocelyn R. Uy and Leila B. Salaverria
Editor: Fernando del Mundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
May 9-12, 2008

Guns with silencers are not usually issued to soldiers. So when a Scout Ranger officer got one, he knew what it was for.

'The procurement of this kind of firearms is just for special ops,' he says of clandestine operations that critics of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration claim to have resulted in hundreds of extrajudicial executions.

The officer, who requested anonymity for obvious reasons, says his unit received the guns three years ago, along with an “order of battle” listing the names of state enemies for “neutralization.”

US Subprime crisis: Why we should worry
By Des Ferriols
The Philippine Star
October 11-14, 2008

Someone in Wyoming is having a hard time paying for the house he bought years ago, so much so that last year, some bank took it from him.

Suddenly, that faceless man’s personal crisis is bringing down giants most people here have not heard about – Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Before we know it, the spiraling crisis is scuttling across the Atlantic and crawling up our shores from Ground Zero thousands of kilometers away.

The question is this: how did that man’s problem end up being our problem too? If the US government is already bailing out its financial system, why do we still have a problem?

A policy of betrayal
By Miriam Grace Go
Published in The Philippine Star on March 15-17, 2008

Since coming to power in 2001, the Arroyo administration has committed a series of acts geared toward compromising Philippine territorial interests in favor of China.

This was made possible through the agreement for joint marine seismic undertaking (JMSU) that the Philippines signed with China through their national oil corporations on Sept. 1, 2004. (Vietnam was an afterthought. It protested, and was therefore accommodated through a tripartite JMSU pact signed on March 14, 2005.)

Our investigation shows that in exchange for conceding territorial waters, the Arroyo administration, in the last seven years, agreed to receive padded loans from China. Critics say this is a betrayal of public trust.

Aid inflow sparks scandals for GMA, debt woes for RP
By Roel Landingin
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
Published in The Philippine Star on February 11-13, 2008

Foreign aid inflows to the Philippines are soaring to their highest levels in about six years, but the availability of more money for government projects has not made life any easier for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Filipino taxpayers.

Indeed, the latest controversy to rock her seven-year reign stems from the sharp surge in official development assistance (ODA) from China, an emerging economic behemoth, and the Philippines’s growing inability to impose its procurement policies and procedures on ODA projects.

A six-month study of project documents by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) also showed that seven of 10 projects reviewed fall short of economic benefits promised, even after completion and roll-out.

Squatters and the city
By Cherry Ann T. Lim and Rene H. Martel
Editor: Cherry Ann T. Lim
Sun.Star Cebu August 11-14, 2008

The many faces of bribery
By Aries Rufo
Published in The Philippine Star on September 11-13, 2008

Every Christmas season, a controversial taipan plays Santa to a number of justices in the Court of Appeals. With the help of two retired CA justices, he would distribute gift checks to the magistrates who would graciously accept the harmless offering. Or so it seems.

It would have been a simple act of generosity were it not for the fact that the taipan has a string of pending cases in various courts. He knows how to cultivate goodwill to ensure that his business thrives.

Quedancor swine program another fertilizer scam
By VERA Files
Published in BusinessMirror on September 2 and 4, 2008, Malaya and The Manila Times on September 1-3, 2008 and Philippines Graphic on September 15, 22 and 29, 2008

Aura Dew Escanlar was all set to take the nursing board examinations that December of 2004 when she decided instead to put up a piggery.

What changed her mind was an offer from the Quedan and Rural Credit Guarantee Corp. (Quedancor). Called “the poor man’s financing institution,” the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) credit guarantee arm was giving out loans in the form of piglets and feeds, with a buy-back scheme that assured borrowers some income.

Escanlar then used her parents’ savings to build pigpens and buy piglets, and signed up for the Quedancor Swine Program (QSP). Less than a year later, Escanlar lost almost everything. The income from the buy-back scheme was always delayed, and the feeds came late or were not delivered at all. After 50 of her piglets died, Escanlar stormed the Quedancor regional office here. “You have turned my farm into a graveyard,” she told Quedancor employees.

Less than 10 people in plot; 5 core, 5 others 'in the know'
By Fe Zamora
Philippine Daily Inquirer August 21-27, 2008

An hour after former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. was shot dead on Aug. 21, 1983, a military agent verbally reported to his unit commander his assignment of monitoring the tarmac of the Manila International Airport.

After listening to the report, the commander said: “O, who was there?” The agent replied: “Si Colonel Abadilla po, sir.”

The unit commander did not ask further questions. He knew Rolando Abadilla, chief of the Metropolitan Command (Metrocom) Intelligence and Security Group of the then Philippine Constabulary (now the Philippine National Police). They had coordinated with each other on several operations. They understood the culture of their job. An officer does not show up in any place if he had no business being there. In their kind of work, there were no coincidences.

"To focus attention and encourage reporting on the urgent issues of human rights, the environment, and governance and corruption, the JVOAEJ awards this year still scanned both investigative and explanatory articles on these three topics, but added a fourth theme, the economic and financial crisis," CMFR said in its announcement.

This will be the thirteenth year that the Canadian Embassy will award the Marshall McLuhan Prize, a travel study tour of Canada to one of the winners.

CMFR will hold the awards and the Jaime V. Ongpin Journalism Seminar on Thursday, June 25, 2009 at the SGV Hall, 3/F AIM Conference Center Manila (Benavidez cor. Trasierra Sts., Legaspi Village, Makati City). The seminar will be held at 9:30 AM. The awards ceremony will follow at 11:30 a.m.

The first JVOAEJ were given in 1990 to honor the late Jaime V. Ongpin, who was secretary of finance during the Aquino administration and press freedom advocate. For more information about this year's JVOAEJ, please click here. For additional information, please click here.


On a personal note, this is my first post after a long blog hiatus (again). I hope the change in the layout and the need to update the links (I'm still not finished copying here the links from the old template, sorry) will persuade me to blog more often.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Resume peace talks with rebel groups and stop the killing of activists and journalists, European Parliament urges Philippine government

The Philippine government should resume peace talks with rebel groups to address the massive bloodshed and displacement of civilians in the country, according to the European Parliament (EP) in a resolution last March 12. It also expressed grave concern at the rampant cases of extrajudicial killings of activists and journalists, and "the role that the security forces have played in orchestrating and perpetrating those murders."

The EP added that it wants to ensure that the European Union's financial assistance towards economic development in the Philippines is "accompanied by scrutiny of possible violations of economic, social and cultural rights, with special attention being paid to encouraging dialogue and inclusion of all groups in society."

For more information about EP, click here.

European Parliament resolution of 12 March 2009 on the Philippines

The European Parliament ,

– having regard to the Declaration of 15 September 2008 by the Presidency on behalf of the EU on the situation in Mindanao,

– having regard to the appeal issued by the Ambassadors of the European Union and the United States of America and the Australian Embassy's deputy head of mission on 29 January 2009,

– having regard to the third session of the Tripartite Review of the implementation of the 1996 Peace Agreement between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) from 11 to 13 March 2009,

– having regard to the Hague Joint Declaration by the GRP and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) of 1 September 1992 and the First and Second Oslo Joint Statements of 14 February and of 3 April 2004,

– having regard to the Commission's Country Strategy Paper 2007-2013 for the Philippines, the programme of support to the Peace Process under the Stability Instrument and the negotiations for a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and the Philippines,

– having regard to its previous resolutions on the Philippines, notably that of 26 April 2007(1) , and reaffirming its support for the peace negotiations between the GRP and NDFP as expressed in its resolutions of 17 July 1997(2) and 14 January 1999(3) ,

– having regard to Rule 115(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas several armed groups, notably the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), have been combating government troops in the southern part of the Philippines since 1969, in one of Asia's longest-running insurgencies,

B. whereas the conflict between the GRP and the insurgents of the NDFP has claimed more than 40 000 lives and sporadic violence has continued despite the 2003 ceasefire and peace talks,

C. whereas hostilities between government forces and the MILF in Mindanao resumed in August 2008 after the Supreme Court of the Philippines declared unconstitutional the Memorandum of Agreement between the MILF and the GRP on the Ancestral Domain, which would have given substantial autonomy to the Bangsamoro nation,

D. whereas the renewed fighting has killed over one hundred and displaced approximately 300 000 people, many of whom are still in evacuation centres,

E. whereas Malaysia, the peace facilitator, withdrew its ceasefire monitors from Mindanao in April 2008 due to the lack of progress in the peace process, but is willing to reconsider its role if the GRP clarifies its negotiating position,

F. whereas peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP have stalled since 2004 and whereas the Norwegian Government has made great efforts to encourage both sides to resume formal talks,

G. whereas hundreds of activists, trade unionists, journalists and religious leaders in the Philippines have been killed or abducted since 2001 and the GRP denies any involvement of the security forces and the army in these political killings, despite ample evidence to the contrary,

H. whereas there were several cases in 2008 in which local courts found the arrest and detention of activists to be unlawful and ordered their release, but where those same people were subsequently rearrested and charged with rebellion or murder,

I. whereas the judiciary in the Philippines is not independent, while lawyers and judges are also subject to harassment and killings; whereas witness vulnerability makes it impossible to effectively investigate criminal offences and prosecute those responsible for them,

J. whereas, in the case of most of these extrajudicial killings, no formal criminal investigation has been opened and the perpetrators remain unpunished despite many government claims that it has adopted measures to stop the killings and bring their perpetrators to justice,

K. whereas in April 2008 the UN Human Rights Council examined the situation in the Philippines and stressed the impunity of those responsible for extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, but the GRP rejected recommendations for a follow-up report,

L. whereas in order to put an end to abductions and extrajudicial killings it is necessary to address the economic, social and cultural root causes of violence in the Philippines,

1. Expresses its grave concern about the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people in Mindanao, calls on the GRP and the MILF to do all in their power to bring about a situation which allows people to return home, and calls for enhanced national and international action to protect and to work towards the rehabilitation of the displaced persons;

2. Believes strongly that the conflict can only be resolved through dialogue, and that the resolution of this long-standing insurgency is essential for the sake of the overall development of the Philippines;

3. Calls on the GRP to urgently resume peace negotiations with the MILF and to clarify the status and future of the Memorandum of Agreement after the above-mentioned Supreme Court ruling; welcomes the GRP's announcement that it intends to drop preconditions for the resumption of talks;

4. Welcomes the talks, facilitated by Norway, between the GRP and the NDFP in Oslo in November 2008 and hopes, in this case also, that formal negotiations can rapidly resume; calls on the parties to comply with their bilateral agreements for the JMC, to meet in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and to allow joint investigations of human rights violations;

5. Calls on the Council and the Commission to provide and facilitate support and assistance to the parties in implementing the CARHRIHL, notably through development, relief and rehabilitation programmes;

6. Calls on the European Council and the Commission to support the GRP in its efforts to advance the peace negotiations, including by means of facilitation if requested, as well as through support for the International Monitoring Team responsible for overseeing the ceasefire between the military and the MILF;

7. Suggests that the role of the International Monitoring Team could be enhanced through a stronger mandate for investigations and through an agreed policy of making its findings public;

8. Calls on the GRP to increase development aid to Mindanao in order to improve the desperate living conditions of the local population and welcomes the financial support of more than EUR 13 million in food and non-food aid which the EU has given to Mindanao since fighting restarted in August 2008;

9. Expresses its grave concern at the hundreds of cases of extrajudicial killings of political activists and journalists that have occurred in recent years in the Philippines, and the role that the security forces have played in orchestrating and perpetrating those murders;

10. Calls on the GRP to investigate cases of extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances; calls at the same time on the GRP to put into place an independent monitoring mechanism to oversee the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of such acts;

11. Calls on the GRP to adopt measures to end the systematic intimidation and harassment of political and human rights activists, members of civil society, journalists and witnesses in criminal prosecutions, and to ensure truly effective witness protection;

12. Reiterates its request to the Philippine authorities to allow the UN special bodies dealing with human rights protection unrestricted access to the country; urges, also, the authorities to swiftly adopt and implement laws to incorporate the international human rights instruments (e.g. against torture and enforced disappearances) which have been ratified into national law;

13. Calls on the Council and the Commission to ensure that the EU's financial assistance towards economic development in the Philippines is accompanied by scrutiny of possible violations of economic, social and cultural rights, with special attention being paid to encouraging dialogue and inclusion of all groups in society;

14. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the President and Government of the Republic of the Philippines, the MILF, the NDFP, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the governments of the ASEAN Member States.

(1) OJ C 74 E, 20.3.2008, p. 788.
(2) OJ C 286, 22.9.1997, p. 245.
(3) OJ C 104, 14.4.1999, p. 116.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Philippines: most dangerous place in Asia for journalists

The Committee to Protection of Journalists (CPJ) and Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ) cordially invite everyone to the launch of CPJ’s 2009 Global Impunity Index in Manila on March 23, 2009.

There will be a presentation of CPJ’s findings in its global analysis of unsolved journalists’ murders over the last 10 years, a briefing on the case of Filipino journalist Marlene Garcia Esperat to mark the four-year anniversary of her killing, and a discussion of impunity in the attacks against the media in the Philippines.

The Philippines is the most dangerous place in Asia to work as a journalist, according to CPJ research. There have been 78 Filipino journalists/media practitioners killed in line of duty since 1986, according to the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, which is a member of the FFFJ and acts as its secretariat.

Speakers include:
Jose Pavia, Chair, FFFJ
Elisabeth Witchel, Impunity Campaign and Journalist Assistance Program Coordinator, CPJ
Shawn Crispin, Senior Representative for Southeast Asia, CPJ
Prima Jesusa Quinsayas, legal counsel, FFFJ

Date: March 23, 2009, Monday
Time: 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Location: Paul Room, Annabel's restaurant,
194 Tomas Morato Avenue corner Scout Delgado,Quezon City

Presentation will be followed by lunch.

Please RSVP:

Lara / Carol
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
2/F, 130 H.V. dela Costa St.,
Salcedo Village, Makati City
Telephone: (+632) 894-1314 / (+632) 894-1326 /
(+632) 840-0903 / (+632) 840-0889 (telefax)
E-mail: staff@cmfr-phil.org

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Do you remember your first love?

Now, before I sound too nostalgic or corny--and just to take a break from the crazy world--here's a wonderful TV advertisement about the giant fast food company McDonald's (I'm not much of a McDonald's fan by the way). Got this first from ABC-5 reporter Jove Francisco who shared this uploaded video from Facebook user Lester Obice--who seems to be part of the team that created the ad--with his Facebook network. (Ooh, I hope they don't mind my posting their Facebook accounts here.)

I looked for a copy of the video on Youtube and here it is below (from Youtube user argemv):

According to Obice, here's the creative team behind the ad:

GADC : Margot Torres / Christina Lao / Mel Montemayor
Creatives : Teeny Gonzales / Argem Vinuya
Accounts : Tey San Diego / Wella Balagtas / Lester Obice
Producer : Irene Chingcuangco
Director : Stephen Ngo
Prod House : Provill / Sound Design
Caster : Enrich Munchua
Musical Work : "Ang Huling El Bimbo" by Ely Buendia

Already, the ad, released just a few days ago, has generated a lot of positive feedback online.

One positive feedback came from blogger Misteryosa, who wrote a good summary of the ad's plot:

McDonald’s New TV Ad: First Love

Basically, the story goes like this: There’s this bespectacled guy who remembers every moment of the first time he met his first love, whom I’ve codenamed pretty girl, whenever he goes to McDonald’s. Their mothers, complete with the 80’s big hairdo, were old friends and crossed paths again on that certain McDo branch. He felt that pretty girl and he had known each other a long time, having the same favorites (dipping the fries on the hot fudge sundae, which, as I side note, I have to admit I’ve been doing for a long time, hehe). So anyway, bespectacled guy fell in love with pretty girl, and this love never died.

Fast-forward to many years later, pretty girl drags him to meet her family, and you just have to see the expression on the bespectacled guy’s face to know how he feels. You know, when your steps falter and your heart suddenly takes a nosedive? It becomes a little bit hard to breathe, your palm gets sweaty, you try to smile but the ends of your mouth pulls down into a frown?

The ad ends with, “At kahit hindi rin naging kami sa huli, siya pa rin ang first love ko.” (Transliteration: And even if we didn’t end up together, she still is my first love.)....

Cute, huh? Doesn’t help that the song used is arguably one of the greatest Filipino songs of all time.

Have you noticed the pretty girl’s expression when the bespectacled guy dipped his fries into the sundae? Sort of, like, a mixture of nostalgia and a little bit of regret? Or maybe I’m putting color into how touched she seems?

Read Misteryosa's full post here.

Some have even compared this ad to another classic McDonald's commercial showing a girl named "Karen" (who became a teen celebrity after the ad became famous) and her grandfather at McDonald's. For those who cannot understand Tagalog or those too young or too old to remember, the story is about "Karen" who brings along her grandfather--who presumably has Alzheimer's disease--to a McDonald's branch. Much to Karen's dismay, her grandfather kept calling her Gina--presumably another granddaughter of his.

A few seconds later and much to Karen's surprise, her grandfather sliced his burger in half, saying: "Ito... para sa paborito kong apo, si Karen (This... is for my favorite grand child, Karen.)"

From Youtube user ADman1909:

For me, there is no need to compare which ad is better. Both ads are ingeniously created, tugging at our emotions and memories without going overboard. Like the "Karen" ad, there's no doubt that this latest one from McDonald's is going to be another classic.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Precision reporting in a time of crisis

How do the media cover the current Gaza conflict?

Below is an article that offers a view on how two main Arab news channels, Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, cover the current crisis.

Arab news channels differ over Gaza war coverage
Ali Khalil
Source: Zawya.com
Jan. 9, 2009

DUBAI, Jan 08, 2009 (AFP) - Israel's onslaught on Gaza has taken over the screens of the two main Arab news channels, Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, but each with its own perspective on objectivity and the airing of disturbing footage.

"Gaza Under Fire" is the title adopted by the Doha-based Al-Jazeera television for its round-the-clock coverage of Israel's all-out offensive.

According to Gaza medics, more than 700 Palestinians have now been killed since Israel's offensive began on December 27.

To some, the Qatari-funded channel may seem pro-Palestinian in its coverage by describing the dead as "martyrs". But its editor-in-chief, Ahmed al-Sheikh, has no apologies.

"Instead of asking why we call the dead 'martyrs,' we say stop the killing so that there would no longer be any martyrs," he told AFP, insisting the channel remains objective, allocating airtime for Israeli officials.

Read more here.

The article discusses, among others, the perspective of "objectivity" in covering the conflict, including the use of terms such as "martyrs" to refer to Palestinian victims.

But how should the press refer to Hamas: a Palestinian faction, an Islamic militant group, or a terrorist organization? Are these labels accurate or fair? Columbia Journalism Review assistant editor Katia Bachko tackles how press descriptions of Hamas shape the public's understanding of the conflict. "It’s a complicated history—which goes to underscore the inadequacy of the simplistic labels being deployed by the press during the current conflict," she explains. "Precision reporting is essential during wartime, when misinformation flows freely and all sides want to win the war for public opinion. But journalists continue to frame Hamas primarily as a terrorist organization."

War of the Words
Katia Bachko
Source: Columbia Journalism Review
Jan. 8, 2009

As the extent of physical damage and human suffering in Gaza comes into sharper focus, one aspect of the current conflict remains frustratingly unclear. Who or what is Hamas, exactly?

Definitions vary depending on which news outlet you consult. Al Jazeera English calls Hamas “the Palestinian faction that controls the Gaza Strip,” while the New York Post refers to “the Islamic militant group Hamas.” The New York Times sometimes calls Hamas “the militant Palestinian group” and sometimes adds a little more context with “Hamas, the Islamist militant group that governs Gaza.”

Read more here.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Alba: An emerging alternative to neoliberal economics

Amid the current financial crisis gripping worldwide today, is it enough to "redesign" the neoliberal economic and financial system?

Noted development studies and political economy professor and 2008 University of the Philippines Centennial Professorial Chair Awardee Roland Simbulan writes about an alternative to neoliberal economics. "It symbolizes the new solidarity and internationalism that draws inspiration from the integration of initiatives from popular organizations and progressive states," he explains in a Philippine Daily Inquirer commentary last Jan. 5.

Emerging alternative to neoliberalism

Roland G. Simbulan
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer
Jan. 5, 2009

THE crisis of neoliberal economic theory and practice is only proving that an economic and financial system based on the logic of deregulated profit maximization cannot go on. But is it just enough to reform or “redesign” neoliberal capitalism? Those who think that it can be saved by mere bailouts of big business failures by governments will be disappointed.

As the world reels from the crisis of neoliberal capitalism, an exciting process is happening in Latin America led by Venezuela and Cuba. It is a process that is emerging as an alternative to profit-oriented neoliberal economics and a foreign policy subservient to the United States, the IMF-World Bank and the World Trade Organization. It symbolizes the new solidarity and internationalism that draws inspiration from the integration of initiatives from popular organizations and progressive states.

In Latin America, taking concrete shape right in the backyard of the US Empire, there has emerged the Bolivarian Alternative to the Americas (Alba), which is an alternative form of regional integration that is not based on trade liberalization. If not on US-sponsored free trade agreements, what is it based on then? It is based on the vision and idea of social welfare and equity, advocating a socially oriented trade bloc. It is a regional solidarity whose purpose is to eradicate the poverty of the most dispossessed sectors of society. Its linchpin is to allow the economically weakest countries to gain more favorable terms in trade negotiations, thereby undercutting the prerogatives of profit-driven transnational corporations. But it is more than a new and alternative trade agreement.

Read here for more.

Here are some online materials about Alba:

ALBA Venezuela’s answer to “free trade”: the Bolivarian alternative for the Americas
Source: Focus on the Global South

The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) represents the first attempt at regional integration that is not based primarily on trade liberalization but on a new vision of social welfare and equity. Alternatives are often either theoretical to the point of impracticality, or so micro that scaling up presents huge challenges; ALBA is both large-scale and, to an increasing degree, taking concrete shape. While many aspects of the project are still unrealized or only in the process of realization, and despite some apparent contradictions between theory and practice, ALBA is an important case study.

Read more here.

ALBA: Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean
Teresa Arreaza
Source: Venezuelanalysis
Jan. 30, 2004

The ALBA (Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas), as its Spanish initials indicate, is a proposed alternative to the U.S.-sponsored Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA, ALCA in its Spanish initials), differing from the latter in that it advocates a socially-oriented trade block rather than one strictly based on the logic of deregulated profit maximization. ALBA appeals to the egalitarian principles of justice and equality that are innate in human beings, the well-being of the most dispossessed sectors of society, and a reinvigorated sense of solidarity toward the underdeveloped countries of the western hemisphere, so that with the required assistance, they can enter into trade negotiations on more favorable terms than has been the case under the dictates of developed countries.

By employing more effective mechanisms to eradicate poverty, ALBA—as proposed by the Venezuelan government—provides a counterweight to the policies and goals of the FTAA. This alternative model also identifies the most crucial impediments to achieve a genuine regional integration that transcends the prerogatives of the transnational corporations. One of the obstacles to confront is the deep disparity that exists in development between the countries of the hemisphere, whereby poor countries such as Haiti or Bolivia are compelled to compete with the world’s leading economic power. In order to help overcome trade disadvantages, ALBA pushes for solidarity with the economically weakest countries, with the aim of achieving a free trade area in which all of its members benefit (a win-win alliance).

Read more here.

Controversies, crises greet 2009

And so the "Alabang Boys" case continues to sizzle, and rightly so.

Since December, I have been looking at the press reports on the controversy and watching the House investigations aired over ANC.

Of course, other issues that are equally important have been continuing as well. One story is the alleged mauling incident involving the sons of Agrarian Reform Secretary and peace negotiator Nasser Pangandaman Sr.

Five days ago, journalist Caloy Conde raised an important point regarding the Pangandaman controversy and the power of blogging.

A Challenge to Bambee dela Paz and Other Bloggers
By Carlos H. Conde
January 3, 2009

Bloggers who benefited from the power of blogging to correct the injustice done to them have a duty to pay society back. And the only way I can think of is for them to raise hell, too, about the injustice done to other people.

Read more here.

The war in Gaza continues, and might even worsen. From Dec. 29 to Jan. 4, the Gaza fighting between Israel and Hamas became the top news staple in the U.S. press, accounting for 21% of the newshole, according to the weekly News Coverage Index from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

PEJ News Coverage Index: December 29, 2008 - January 4, 2009
War in Gaza Casts Shadow over Transition
Source: Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism

A bloody new chapter in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians dramatically shifted the news agenda from domestic to foreign crises, dominating media attention in an otherwise crowded week of news.

The Gaza fighting between Israel and Hamas, which escalated from aerial warfare to fierce ground fighting, accounted for 21% of the newshole from Dec. 29-Jan. 4, according to the weekly News Coverage Index from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Other than the Iraq war, that made Gaza the second-biggest overseas story for any week during the past two years. Only the brief and one-sided conflict between Georgia and Russia, which filled 26% of the newshole from Aug. 11-17 2008, generated more coverage.

The new spasm of Mideast violence attracted significantly more coverage than the No. 2 story, the economic crisis, which filled 14% of the newshole. Although it had been widely believed that new President Barack Obama’s first priority would be working to mitigate that meltdown, last week’s events raised the possibility that the Gaza bloodshed could pose his most immediate challenge instead.

Indeed, Obama’s response to that conflict—which has thus far been muted—was the biggest theme of the Presidential transition (the week’s No. 4 story at 8% of the newshole).

Sandwiched in between was a political sideshow that presented yet another headache for the President-elect. The fallout from the scandal involving Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, which last week focused on his controversial selection of unlikely candidate Roland Burris to replace Obama in the Senate, accounted for 10% of the coverage.

It was a week in which those top four stories all generated significant media attention and accounted for more than half the overall newshole.

Click here for more. PDF copy of the report here.

Here's an article from The New York Times on the Israeli government's ban against the media entering Gaza in order to control the message and narrative in its favor.

Israel Puts Media Clamp on Gaza

By Ethan Bronner
Source: The New York Times
January 6, 2009

Like all wars, this one is partly about public relations. But unlike any war in Israel’s history, in this one the government is seeking to entirely control the message and narrative for reasons both of politics and military strategy.

Read more here.

Interesting reads: ("The Gaza crisis and the perspective of permanent revolution" and "Israeli atrocities in Gaza: a political impasse and moral collapse" from the World Socialist Web Site)

And a funny 2008 year-end review from the famous Uncle Jay. With over 6.5 million views already on Youtube and more than 1,500 comments, Uncle Jay sings the major news items in 2008 within three and a half minutes. This video has become among the most popular Youtube clips so far this year.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Hoping for change and reflection

I welcome 2009 with a new post.

I look forward to meaningful, liberating changes this year. I hope all the dark events that transpired in the past months (and years), especially on how the political elite has repeatedly raped our democracy and nation, will soon come to an end. I hope Filipinos would continue--and strengthen--their fight for truth, justice, and accountability from our government officials.

I hope 2009 would be a better year for press freedom in the Philippines and throughout the world, although under the current administration, I don't know if this is going happen. Looking at the interactive map the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) has created on the killing of journalists in the Philippines, it shows that more journalists/media practitioners have been killed since President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ascended to the presidency in 2001 than the combined terms of Presidents Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, and Joseph Estrada. You can click here to see the map or go to this link: http://www.cmfr-phil.org/map/index_inline.html.

The map contains the names and case profiles of the slain journalists/media practitioners, including those who were not killed in the line of duty. You can categorize the cases based on the medium, region, gender, and administration. The map, as far as I know, is the first interactive tool of such kind in the Philippines and in the region.

The map was made possible with support provided by The Asia Foundation and U.S. Agency for International Development.

In 2009, I hope the press community continues to reflect on its relevance in an age of information overload and in a period when investigative journalism are becoming less (despite the increasing complexity of our times), news organizations around the world are downsizing their staff, and revenues are diminishing.

Here's good read from the Columbia Journalism Review on the issue. The article explains journalism's current struggle for relevance and role in today's society, and argues that journalists would continue to play a very important function in an age of information overload.

Journalism’s battle for relevance in an 
age of too much information

By Bree Nordenson
Source: Columbia Journalism Review
Feature — November / December 2008

Thus, we come to the heart of journalism’s challenge in an attention economy: in order to preserve their vital public-service function—not to mention survive—news organizations need to reevaluate their role in the information landscape and reinvent themselves to better serve their consumers. They need to raise the value of the information they present, rather than diminish it. As it stands now, they often do the opposite.

Read more here.

Other interesting reads below.

What Are Newspapers Selling?
Time to mine the depth and knowledge niche

Source: Columbia Journalism Review
Editorial — September / October 2008

By The Editors

Hired by Sam Zell to find innovative ways to market Tribune’s newspapers, and for the moment, Abrams is among the more controversial actors in the drama of American newspapers at the start of the new century. Regardless of what you think of Abrams and his ideas, there is a more fundamental question to consider: What is Abrams selling? Indeed, what are newspapers around the country selling these days?

Every few weeks, it seems, we read about another daily “transforming” itself, searching for a formula that will compel people to read it and, hopefully, go spend a lot of time on its Web site. These overhauls are often accompanied by a memo from the editor that explains how the changes are designed to help the newsroom “do more with less.”

That’s because the reality beneath the rhetoric is grim: fewer reporters, shorter stories, smaller newsholes, less institutional memory, more sections with titles like “Fun & Games” (The Sacramento Bee), and more Web features devoted to celebrities (Los Angeles Times). “Hyperlocalism,” which tends to have pride of place in these memos, has become the go-to strategy—last recourse?—for newspapers whose ambitions are rapidly contracting.

Read more here.

Fed-up newsrooms want a voice in their future

Source: Columbia Journalism Review
Essay — November / December 2008
By Julia M. Klein

When her Contra Costa Times colleagues compared her union organizing efforts to those of Norma Rae, Sara Steffens rented the 1979 Martin Ritt film—and was disconcerted to discover that the feisty textile worker immortalized by Sally Field lost her job. “I remember thinking, ‘I hope that doesn’t mean I’m going to lose my job,’ ” Steffens said late last summer.

On June 13, editorial workers at the Bay Area News Group—East Bay, a group of nine MediaNews properties that includes the Contra Costa Times, voted to be represented by The Newspaper Guild—Communication Workers of America. It was the guild’s largest U.S. organizing win since the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel some two decades ago, according to Eric Geist, the union’s administrative director.

But victory came with a twist. Two weeks later, management announced a 13 percent reduction in the unionized workforce—and the thirty-six-year-old Steffens, an award-winning poverty and social-services reporter, was among the twenty-nine laid off.

The guild has filed an unfair-labor-practices charge with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of Steffens and two other laid-off reporters involved in the organizing drive. The company, not surprisingly, denies any wrongdoing. “The decision on the RIF [reduction in force] had nothing to do with the people—it was the positions that people held and the elimination of redundancies,” says Marshall Anstandig, a senior vice president and general counsel for MediaNews’s California News Group. Nor, says Anstandig, was Steffens specifically targeted. “Believe me, she’s not that important.”


Whatever the legal outcome, the Contra Costa case illustrates the rising frustration—for both labor and management—in today’s shrinking newsrooms. It also hints at the obstacles confronted by rank-and-file editorial employees fed up with cost cutting and the erosion of newspaper quality and eager for more constructive change.

Read more here.

RegretTheError.com editor Craig Silverman lists his news accuracy and corrections wishes for 2009. Some of his wishes: "Wouldn’t it be great if every news website had a regularly-updated online corrections page linked from their homepage? Wouldn’t it be great if all news sites placed corrections within the offending article?" Someone commented on his list, and interestingly wrote: "Lots of good ideas - but wouldn’t it be great if newspapers still had fully staffed copy desks?"

Thank you to all those who regularly visit my blog, even if I haven't posted for a long time. I've been very busy with work. Plus, as some of you know, I am currently an M.A. Journalism fellow at the Ateneo de Manila University. The Konrad Adenauer Asian Center for Journalism has graciously chosen me as one their "Fellowships for Emerging Leaders in Asian Newsrooms". Fellows are chosen for "their potential to contribute to the development of an independent, responsible and viable press in their communities." Click here for the full list of MA Journalism fellows for school year 2008-2009. MindaNews also wrote about the fellows here.

One of my stories, an assignment for my Advanced Reporting and Writing class under Dr. Eric Loo, was posted online, along with some works of the other students.

Beyond the veneer
Quiapo and Makati are worlds apart, but they share a few things

Interesting how two districts in the Philippine capital of Manila are so alike and yet so different. Hector Bryant Macale takes a peek, and gives a good view.

By Hector Bryant Macale
Oct. 2, 2008

MANILA -- Quiapo Church, Friday noon. Wearing a faded yellow shirt and tattered slippers, Mark tolerates the sweltering heat, unfazed by the hollering vendors or the smoke spewing from nearby jeepneys and buses. Mark is used to the chaos after working the streets for 25 years now.

“It’s Friday,” he says. “It’s a busy day for us.”

Friday is Quiapo Day when Catholics troop to the Quiapo Church to pray for miracles from the Black Nazarene. To vendors like Mark, they pray that churchgoers will notice them and buy their items.

Since early morning, Mark has been hawking his maroon handkerchiefs with Nazarene’s image. “The handkerchief is very effective. Just touch the Nazarene using this handkerchief and it will cure you of sickness,” he pitches to the devotees.

Mark is one of countless vendors around the Quiapo Church, built in 1588 by the Spanish. It’s home to the Black Nazarene, a 400-year-old life-size wooden statue of Jesus Christ. Devotees believe the statue has miraculous powers.

Every year, thousands of followers pay homage to the image during The Feast of Black Nazarene on Jan. 9. During the event’s 400th anniversary last year, close to 100,000 devotees attended the procession in Quiapo.

Read more here.

I'm ending this rather long post with a fond farewell to Bimbo, a colleague who just left CMFR to enter the newspaper industry and daily reporting beat. We will all miss you buddy. At the same time, let me welcome our newest staffwriter Aika Pascual, who in her few weeks' stay at the office has already shown us promise in work as well as in rare staff gimmicks.
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