journalism in the Philippines

Rappler’s Jodesz Gavilan is 2023 McLuhan fellow

Lian Buan

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Rappler’s Jodesz Gavilan is 2023 McLuhan fellow

2023 MCLUHAN FELLOW. Jodesz Gavilan, Rappler's researcher-writer covering human rights, is the 2023 Marshall McLuhan fellow.

Jairo Bolledo/Rappler

ABS-CBN News' Mike Navallo is recognized with the Award of Distinction

MANILA, Philippines – Rappler researcher-writer Jodesz Gavilan is this year’s recipient of the Marshall McLuhan fellowship, awarded on Thursday, October 19, by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) and the Canadian embassy for her “unique commitment to investigative journalism.”

ABS-CBN News’ Mike Navallo was recognized with the Award of Distinction.

“We have selected an individual who we believe has shown a unique commitment to investigative journalism, to informing the public about decisions and policies that affect their lives in support of the public interest. We were struck in particular by the tenacity exhibited by this journalist, and by the remarkable effort to illuminate the challenges, issues and people at the heart of every story,” said Colin Townson, counsellor for political and public affairs of the embassy of Canada, about Gavilan.

Gavilan, who obtained her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, covers the human rights and impunity beats for Rappler, and has produced in-depth reports and investigations particularly about the quest for justice of the victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, and war on dissent.

As a McLuhan fellow, Gavilan will be on a speaking tour in Canada to discuss issues facing the Philippine press.

“This journalist’s commitment to inform, to enable meaningful public engagement on issues in service of the public, and illustrate how investigations, facts, and transparency can ensure meaningful democratic accountability,” Townson said of Gavilan, who recently completed a fellowship in The Netherlands under the Shelter City Programme given to justice and human rights defenders.

The McLuhan fellow was chosen among a panel of journalists handpicked every year by the CMFR for their exemplary reporting. This year, the panel was composed of Gavilan, Rappler’s Senate reporter Bonz Magsambol, ABS-CBN News’ Palace reporter Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News’ justice reporter Mike Navallo, and’s education reporter Cristina Chi.

During the panel, Gavilan said her journalism was driven by the commitment to treat victims, and communities in general, “as more than just a soundbyte for a story.”

“Community is something that AI (artificial intelligence) cannot take away from us…. Beyond institutions, there are communities and families willing to fight for justice. If they can keep doing this even if they are visited by cops, then why should I stop?” said Gavilan.

Gavilan is the fifth Rappler to be a McLuhan fellow through the years after Rappler executive editor Glenda Gloria, managing editor Miriam Grace Go, regions head Inday Espina-Varona, and former investigative reporter Patricia Evangelista.

‘Don’t forget your roots’

Navallo was given the Award of Distinction, a recognition of his body of work covering the justice, human rights, and impunity beats for ABS-CBN News, the news unit of publicly listed ABS-CBN Corporation.

The Duterte administration shut down ABS-CBN’s free TV and radio operations in 2020, although it continues to deliver news via the web and cable television. Its flagship news program TV Patrol also returned to free TV via the news channel A2Z of evangelist Brother Eddie Villanueva.

“Even if you go to TikTok, you don’t forget your roots which is investigative journalism, which is how you uncover stories, then you can go to TikTok to spread and make those stories accessible,” said Navallo during the panel.

This year’s panel focused on how the press can navigate the government of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who has adopted a friendlier attitude toward the media, a stark difference from the antagonize-and-attack style of his predecessor Duterte.

“There’s a perception they’re friendlier, but that doesn’t make the job any easier,” said Navallo.

Gavilan said “they tend to drown you into nonsense and give you terrible data,” adding that she has never gotten a response from the Philippine National Police since the start of Marcos’ term.

Domingo, who has been covering Marcos after he won the May 2022 polls, said it has a lot to do with Malacañang’s communication strategy, explaining that the administration knows how to contain the news. The Marcos government’s simplest strategy is to not respond to queries.

“I think the honeymoon period has long been over, it’s just how their communication managers are doing their work and to their credit they’ve been doing it well,” said Domingo, comparing the strategy of the Aquino and Duterte governments. “Even if we keep on bombarding them with your messages, but when they seenzone you, it’s a difficult thing to balance.”

Groupshot, Person, Adult
JVO PANEL. The 2023 CMFR Jaime V. Ongpin panel is composed of Cristina Chi of (2nd from left), Mike Navallo of ABS-CBN (3rd from left), Bonz Magsambol of Rappler (4th from right), Katrina Domingo of ABS-CBN (3rd from right), and Jodesz Gavilan of Rappler (2nd from right). Photo by Jairo Bolledo/Rappler
‘AI is not an issue unless you allow it to be’

Along with the emerging issues of the Philippine press are the global concerns over AI. Magsambol, who teaches journalism and media ethics at UP Los Baños, said, “AI will only be an issue in journalism if we allow it to be an issue.”

Chi, the youngest in the panel, said she uses generative AI to help her analyze large data and spot patterns. “AI cannot just be a threat, but an opportunity as well, especially generative AI – it shouldn’t write our stories for us, journalism is still always about judgment, it’s an opportunity to have a feedback cycle, to assess a tool and see for ourselves and then make our own judgment,” said Chi.

The panelists were asked where they derive hope for the future considering that one of the main challenges faced by newsrooms is how to sustain the business amid layoffs and closures.

Domingo said “the right question is not what keeps us hoping but what keeps us going,” adding suggestions for newsrooms to improve their reporting such as diversifying the staff, hiring more Muslim reporters, for example, to better contextualize stories involving Islam.

“I would always ask my students if they still want to be journalists despite witnessing the media landscape, and they would say yes, 70% to 80% say yes. If my students are hopeful, why shouldn’t I be hopeful?” said Magsambol. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.