Leashing the Watchdogs

FEU Advocate
September 29, 2016 12:00

By Diamond Y. Melendres
Managing Editor (2016-2017)

During the past week, the hottest political topic has been about Leila De Lima and well, her dilemma (no pun intended). Last September 21, it was no surprise to me when I saw posts about De Lima on Facebook. But what seemed to be the trending topic that day was not only about De Lima’s case but also how a local broadsheet failed to properly word out their front page headline.

I’m sure those who are reading this are aware of the headline and the broadsheet that I am talking about. But to those who aren’t, allow me to fill you in on what happened on this particular day.

The front page headline of the Manila Standard’s issue on September 21 was “Witnesses finger Leila”. Sounds pretty absurd for a broadsheet’s front page headline, right? Filipino netizens weren’t amused with the headline and neither was I.

Just to clear things out, the reason as to why I was not amused with this particular headline is not because I am a supporter of De Lima or a hater of Duterte’s administration. It’s because I find it irritating that the editors allowed such a headline to be published on their front page.

If you were to read the article, you’d understand that the headline meant that witnesses pointed their fingers at De Lima and did not perform any act of perversion towards her. But the content of the article is not being questioned here; it’s the reason as to why they allowed the headline to be published.

These type of misleading headlines is what sparks controversy between netizens and media outlets. It’s the reason why so many people say that media outlets are out to get President Duterte and his administration and that the media are manipulating the information they produce.

Perhaps there’s a reason for this. Maybe it’s all about the attention. What if at the end of the day, the reason as to why such misleading or controversial headlines are being produced is because the only thing that media outlets care about are the number of clicks they get whenever people visit their websites?

I don’t know if certain media groups chose to disseminate the news that way on purpose because I have no idea what goes on behind the scenes of their editorial departments. Perhaps they chose to do so because they knew that it would make the netizens go mad. Maybe they wanted to give people a taste of what it was like to be a troll.

Whatever the reason is, it has to stop. These reckless usages of words are putting the people’s faith in journalists and media in jeopardy. There isn’t a single day in which I haven’t seen a single person on my Facebook feed complain about Philippine media. As a student journalist, I find it embarrassing to try and defend them for their shenanigans.

I’ve always believed in responsible and unbiased journalism. I also have a large amount of respect for journalists, whether they are writers, broadcasters, field reporters or researchers. But the recent amounts of mishaps going on with media outlets have lead me to believe otherwise.

Maybe everything I know about being a journalist is a lie. The reputation of having people trust in you to report the news for what it is, reveal the truth, be the historians for generations to come and be responsible with the power to shape the mind of society, is obviously something that these journalists do not care about.

The way I see it, it’s not about the people constantly criticizing media outlets – it’s the media outlets giving the people a reason to criticize them. The constant mishaps of media outlets and their dissemination of information have made it difficult to actually believe in anything anymore.

It even came to a point when Duterte supporters decided to take things into their own hands and promote “authentic journalism” or become the president’s media, which is completely wrong as they would obviously show biases towards the president. But who could blame them for doing such a thing?

With the media constantly putting Duterte into hot water - the most recent being his alleged verbal attack on U.S President Obama – I can see why they would turn their cheek when seeing an article about him published in a newspaper.

Bottom line is, I am not a supporter of the idea that people should start creating their own “authentic journalism” nor am I a supporter of allowing media outlets to do whatever they please. I just want fair play. I want both sides of the story to always be told. I want the good and the bad. Being an aspiring journalist, I don’t want my possible future job to revolve on feeding lies or tweaking information.

Society doesn’t need to be fed with tweaked headlines, information and lies that will satisfy what they want to hear or see, what they need is the truth. They need to have a reason to believe and trust in journalists again. And this can only be done if journalists and the media do their jobs properly.

But it’s not like I am a real journalist (as what I’ve popularly been told by my family members), so what do I know, right? Perhaps I’m just being naïve with my personal idea of how media and members of society should coexist together in harmony and how every journalist should be a righteous martyr.

Whatever the reason may be for such things to occur in the media, I hope the day comes when people can trust the watchdogs of society again.

Think that our watchdogs are doing their jobs or do you think that they deserve to be leashed? You can give me your insights at diamond.melendres@gmail.com.