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 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.

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