Reclaim the narrative: Understanding the role citizen journalism plays in the digital world

Ivy Pedida

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Reclaim the narrative: Understanding the role citizen journalism plays in the digital world
MovePH kickstarts its #FactsFirst learning series with a forum discussing how citizens can better understand the digital world

LIPA, Batangas — How much time do you spend using social media?

This is how the pilot series of #FactsFirstPH started on Wednesday, July 19 at the De La Salle Lipa in Batangas.

The forum, themed “Understanding the digital world we live in and our role in it,” aimed to highlight the importance of digital citizenship, especially in practicing civic engagement and promoting media and information literacy.

Participants, mostly from different school publications around Batangas, joined the event, as well as members of the government and private sectors.

MovePH kickstarts its #FactsFirstPH learning series with a forum in De La Salle Lipa.

A double-edged sword

Gemma Mendoza, Rappler’s lead researcher on disinformation and platforms, emphasized how groundbreaking the creation of social media is. “There is no time in the history of mankind where human beings are linked together in one communication fabric.”

Despite this, institutions and users have seen shifts that have tipped the scales for the worse, particularly with the relationship between newsrooms and social media platforms.

Mendoza highlighted how the role of gatekeeping has shifted from the journalists to platforms when it comes to information and dessiminating them. Platforms have utilized their power over the algorithm and is deciding for its users what they see online.

“Digital exhaust can be mined and processed by machine learning algorithms. It knows you more than your mother does, it can personalize messages for you, and it can be more persuasive. It triggers their engagement, and in turn, we are slaves of these assumptions,” Mendoza said.

With generative AI getting better and better, it is now harder to spot the difference between what’s real and just fiction. Like the early stages of social media platforms,  AI has boundless potential, but it can also be used as a tool for disinformation. 

This is more apparent in times of disasters. Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) –  Calabarzon’s April Marquez noted the rise of fake news posts during Taal eruptions. She lamented how these can take away time and resources from legitimate emergencies. “One piece of distorted information can cause a lot of inconvenience. Stories have power,” she said.

De La Salle Lipa Associate Professor Dr. Cherie Glo Cabungcal has also seen fake posts about important announcements like school suspensions. She noted how important it is that the province has a system that allows schools to have the authority to put out the right information out there.

Reclaiming the narrative

Trust has been waning on media and journalists in general due to disinformation networks and propaganda

For Rappler multimedia reporter Jairo Bolledo, the current climate is an opportunity to teach not just student journalists, but ordinary citizens, on how to be responsible social media users.

This starts with the littlest of things. “Sometimes, the things we think are not harmful, they are in the long term. The things we neglect, the white lies, [they] are still lies and can still be distorted,” Bolledo said.

He cited the failure of newsrooms to address the absurd claim of Tallano gold, which was used as propaganda to bolster Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s campaign to presidency and the rebranding of his family.

MEDIA LITERACY. Panelists (from left to right) Rappler’s Jairo Bolledo, DILG Calabarzon’s April Marquez, Rappler’s Gemma Mendoza and DLSU Lipa’s Dr. Cherie Glo Cabungcal discuss ways on how citizens can be more responsible social media users.

Bolledo also stressed the importance of context not just in reporting, but posting on social media in general. “Even in our reporting, content is queen but context is king… We cannot simply report a he said she said.”

He added, “Journalists are trying to fight for their space in the social media. Don’t forget your core as a journalist, think FAB: fairness, accuracy and balance, [and] reclaim the narrative… Para tayong parola na gagabay sa mga tao sa katotohanan.”

(Journalists are trying to fight for their space in the social media. Don’t forget your core as a journalist, think FAB: fairness, accuracy and balance, [and] reclaim the narrative. We are like lighthouses that will guide people to the truth.)

Accessible information for everyone

Marquez noted that despite the wealth of information the government has, it still faces the challenge of translating that data into something easily digestible. They also have to deliver the information swiftly and accurately. 

“We have to triangulate, in the government we learned that people want information that has consequences,” Marquez said.

Marquez also said that despite the public perception that the media and the government are at odds, their collaboration is crucial in democratizing information. Public good is a number one priority for both parties.

Cabungcal discussed the importance of Media and Information Literacy in the curriculum. While the inclusion is great and it kickstarts early digital literacy, she said there are gaps that need to be filled and reviewed.

Accessible information starts with the government continuing to support fact-checking initiatives, as well as properly training teachers to give their students the confidence to be better digital citizens.

Cabungcal also suggested that citizens ‘humanize’ information. “Walang maliit o malaking tao sa commodification ng information. Lahat tayo ay nag ke-create ng information kaya lahat tayo ay dapat media and information literate.”

(There are no big or small personalities when it comes to commodifying information. We all create information so we all have to be media and information literate.)

FACTS FIRST. More than 100 campus journalists, students, and individuals attended the pilot launch of the #FactsFirstPH community learning series on responsible digital citizenship.

Bolledo also reminded social media users to be more empathetic if we want deeper connections that go beyond online. “We have to speak the language of the people, pumunta sa grassroots, and laymanize yung mga bagay-bagay.”

(We have to speak the language of the people, go to the grassroots, and laymanize things.)

Mendoza reminded users to be aware of the digital space. “Space is flooded with content, anyone is a creator, but that content can be fictional…. It’s important to be discerning and critical of what the platforms can do recognize media and people have roles to play, that information is accessible to all.”

Bolledo encouraged student journalists to use the opinion model when it comes to studying and delivering stories. “I believe that society is made of small units, with an opinion leader leading. Be the opinion leader your circle needs.” – Rappler.com

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Ivy Pedida

Ivy Pedida is a digital communications specialist for Rappler’s Digital Communications arm. A shameless bandwagoner, she likes everything pop culture, whether it be the latest anime or another HBO hit. She is a furmom to five cats and one dog.