Rappler team talks of dopamine, trolls and tweets

Nadine Hendrikka E. Legaspi
Combining the skills of traditional journalism and citizen journalism is key to leadership in the field

SIBYA. Rappler team engages Cagayan de Oro youth in their first-ever Northern Mindanao Youth Communicators Congress. Photo by Fourth Legara

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Maria Ressa, CEO and editor in chief of Rappler, says that social media spreads emotion; it is the force that fuels the loss of fear. We’ve seen it utilized successfully in the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street and abused in the London riots. The fact is inarguable: the Internet is the force that is rewiring your brain. It influences what you do, say, think and react.

Social media is also the future of journalism and presents different ways of telling stories. This is what the Rappler team, composed of Maria Ressa, Patricia Evangelista, Chay Hofileña, and Josh Villanueva talked about at SIBYA: The 1st Northern Mindanao Student Communicators Congress, held in SM City Cinema 2, February 17.


During the open forum moderated by Dr Maria Theresa Rivera of Xavier University, the team was asked about how best to make sense of chaos on the Internet and how to crowdsource effectively.

Ressa said that because the Internet amplifies information and everything that can be shared, trust is an important element. “It’s about who you trust,” she said. It is this generation that will define what trust is—what is credible and worthy of publishing or believing.

Crowdsourcing, on the other hand, is about creating stories together. The wisdom of crowds and the expertise of journalists combined can exert pressure on a festering issue that demands attention and change.  

End of print?

When asked if the advent of social media signals the end of print, Evangelista, who also writes a column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer said that the “written word” in whatever medium or platform will remain.

Ressa and Hofileña agreed that the newspaper would die with the generation that grew up with it, and that technological developments would be difficult to stop. In the future, they said, everyone will have to tell stories in multimedia ways.

If digital devices and tablets were given away for free, newspapers, which have been suffering from declining circulation, may find it increasingly difficult to survive. Besides, more trees will be saved.

Mediated communication

Is social media replacing personal communication? Villanueva acknowledged that many of the younger generation are addicted to their devices to the detriment of personal interaction, but emphasized that personal time is valuable.

What social media does is make communication easier in our multi-dimensional lives, even as it has changed multitasking drastically, Villanueva added.

Leadership in journalism

“Changing the status quo entails risks,” Ressa said and journalist-leaders must gauge it.

Hofileña added that clarifying and making sense of complex and confusing issues such as the impeachment trial also demands leadership on the part of journalists. They can set the agenda and define the issues, she said.

Combining the skills of traditional journalism and citizen journalism is key to leadership in journalism. Ressa said that it is important to rise above the level of emotion and use verified facts that will allow “writing and acting, journalism and action, to come together to generate desired change.”

When asked about their dreams about the development of social media, the speakers replied differently.

Villanueva said he dreams that everyone may be able to tell stories and challenged all to share what is close to their hearts. Hofileña added she hopes for everyone to find his or her voice, using whatever means is available to tell stories. Limitations and fears should not get in the way, as professional journalists can collaborate with citizen journalists and polish their work.

Evangelista said she hopes that people would move – “not just talk, but act.” Ressa, for her part, said she hopes “we do more as citizen journalists to fulfill the promise of People Power.”

Rappler’s edge

Asked what makes Rappler different, Ressa said it is built exclusively for the Internet, with the entire site’s content fully shareable and open to comments and insights.

Patricia quipped that “they have the weight of experience,” glancing slyly at her colleagues, “and the charm of youth,” obviously referring to herself.

Ressa added that today, trust is “shifting from authority to authenticity,” where entities that merely report are less trusted than the personalities themselves. These personalities are, thanks to technology, now so much easier to access.

Rappler has likewise combined journalism and blogging. Bloggers are passionate and unrestricted, while journalists have the passion but are taught to suppress it, Ressa said. Combining the discipline of traditional journalism and the passion of blogging makes Rappler’s stories easier to read, share, and invite commentary. – Rappler.com

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