Change has come!
Mainstream media face challenges in today’s polarized environment

In the 12th Media Nation, an annual gathering of journalists to exchange views and air pressing concerns, some facts stood clear: 

  • An organized campaign to discredit mainstream news organizations is alive and well in social media.
  • Online bashing and intimidation of individual journalists and media organizations is unrelenting.
  • Facts have become a casualty.
  • The role of media as an independent voice and watchdog is forgotten, buried in the political hyper-partisanship.

Held on September 9 and 10, the 12th Media Nation is the first under the Duterte administration. Participants included editors and staff of ABS-CBN, CNN Philippines, GMA7, Inquirer, TV5, Rappler, and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication.

Organized by a civil society group, pagbabago@pilipinas, Media Nation has tackled subjects such as corruption, killing of journalists, impact of new technology, and professional safety.

In times past, Media Nation gathered in momentous times, like in the lead up to the 2013 elections, when news organizations and political parties signed a covenant to curb corruption, and in the aftermath of the Maguindanao massacre when the dark clouds of impunity hovered.

Today, the media operate in new conditions brought about by the polarized environment. Many supporters of Duterte regard any reporting that is critical of the new president as biased. In fact, BIAS! was their battle cry during the election campaign – and continues to this day.

They conveniently label legitimate media organizations which do their job to chronicle events, no matter that they hurt the powers that be, and fact-check official claims as Yellow, meaning partisans of the Aquino administration. (Yellow was the campaign color of Benigno Aquino III when he ran for president.)

In the light of all this, participants in this last Media Nation recognized the need to reach out to the public and engage them through a media literacy campaign. We have to inform and remind the readers and viewers about what to expect from news organizations: independence is our hallmark and a source of credibility. We do not report to please our leaders. We are not part of the official echo chamber.

Already, some of the news organizations are addressing the new normal by providing space for reasonable discourse and edging out the trolls and haters. GMA7, for example, has its Heart over Hate campaign against cyber bullying and Rappler recently launched #NoPlaceForHate.

In moments of self-reflection, Media Nation participants also talked about not letting one’s guard down and hewing to strict standards of accuracy and fairness because facts are easily disregarded these days. 

Equally important was the realization that we need to tap into to our reservoir of vigilance. We will not let the mobs, partisans, and vested interests drown out our voices. –