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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