#AnimatED: Explaining the media

Rappler.com
We realize that for all the media’s vital role in a democracy and their influence on the country’s national affairs, little is known about how the Fourth Estate works, what principles guide us, and how we make decisions

Just as consumers consider financial literacy important, we urge readers, listeners and viewers to similarly regard media literacy

President Aquino often complains about the media, the most recent of which was during his speech at the Euromoney Philippines Investment Forum last month. We carry the “mindset that negativism sells,” he said, and that good news “has often been relegated to the back pages of our broadsheets.” 

Government officials echo this, adding that segments in the media are biased and unfair. In whispers, they talk about unethical journalists and those who are on the payroll of certain vested interests such as politicians and big business. These include reporters, radio commentators, editors and columnists.

Newsrooms have been aware of these long-running criticisms and have taken steps to address these. Rules on accuracy and fairness are observed, for the most part. Corruption in the media, while dealt with, is still a lingering malaise.

Stories that extol the human spirit are becoming regular fare. Media report on positive developments such as new processes in government that cut red tape and on the big strides toward transparency at agencies like the public works department.

Still, a recent experience at Rappler is instructive. After we ran exclusive stories that Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. lied about his degrees from Oxford University and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, we received comments  that we had an “agenda.” Another thread that ran through the posts was that we were “unfair” and “not balanced.”

We realize that for all the media’s vital role in a democracy and their influence on the country’s national affairs, little is known about how the Fourth Estate works, what principles guide us, and how we make decisions. Sometimes it seems that readers prefer to just consume news rather than see it as a way to become better citizens who, armed with critical thinking, put premium on honesty, competence and accountability in public life. In the age of social media, we encounter readers who respond to mere headlines or take part in a thread of stinging commentary that’s not related to the issue at all.

Often forgotten is the nature of Philippine media, the role it has played in exposing wrongdoing and the many instances it waged battles against dictators or kleptocrats to speak truth to power.

Lost in the conversation is the duty of the media to hold public officials accountable, no matter how uncomfortable this may be for them. We strive for accuracy and fairness; we air the side of the subjects of our stories, of course, unless they stonewall. 

When these men and women decided to join government, they took an oath that public office is a public trust. Part of that means facing the glare of media scrutiny as journalists beam the sunlight on them. 

In this maiden podcast, Rappler seeks to answer frequent questions about how newsrooms make day-to-day judgments on stories to pursue and publish. We want to give the public a glimpse into the workings of media—and hope that we enrich the conversation.

Just as consumers consider financial literacy important, we urge readers, listeners and viewers to regard media literacy in the same way. – Rappler.com