[Newspoint] A runaway train

Vergel O. Santos
[Newspoint] A runaway train
'I can imagine it's not difficult for [Martin Andanar] to have felt legitimized' when he was enlisted as newspaper columnist. 'Now he's thinking of legitimizing bloggers as members of the press themselves.'

President Duterte’s communication secretary, and effectively public-relations man, Martin Andanar, has floated the idea of accrediting bloggers as members of the presidential press corps. I find that gravely anomalous, and don’t quite know where to begin looking.

I don’t know whether Andanar was inspired by his own enlistment as a columnist for one of the nation’s press leaders, the Inquirer, but I imagine it’s not difficult for him to have felt legitimized that way. 

Apparently he’s now thinking of legitimizing bloggers as members of the press themselves. And how, indeed, can the Inquirer – and also the Star, which has its own attack blogger for Duterte, Mocha Uson – now disagree with Andanar?

There being a limitless supply of bloggers, anyway, the matter of physical accommodation alone, never mind qualification for the moment, becomes a real problem; it also opens Andanar to suspicions of bias. 

In fact, from the transcript of the meeting between him and the press on the issue, one already gets a sense of that bias. Andanar is quoted in it as saying bloggers were “a major factor” in getting Duterte elected – all in the name of freedom of expression, he says.

I’ve never seen that freedom so untenably stretched out of context.

To be sure, among both bloggers and journalists there are good and bad ones, too, but being good or bad has nothing to do with being one or the other. Bloggers are bloggers, and journalists are journalists, and the twain don’t mix.

Journalists do blog, too, and I guess they have chosen to do so to further assert their freedom and individualism. One reason is to escape their editors, the superior vetting powers in a practical, even pragmatic, arrangement made necessary by the nature of the journalistic enterprise: it is conducted in an atmosphere of hurry and flurry and calls for snap decision making at every level of the operating hierarchy. But when journalists blog, their freedom-of-the-press credentials shouldn’t count.

The issue is less about freedom than about responsibility, as I’ve told Rappler’s Pia Ranada, who had herself heard Andanar take up the case for bloggers and asked me about it. Here’s what I think, and have told her:

“Accrediting bloggers would encourage a blurring of the distinction between legitimate journalism and pseudo-journalism – of which blogging happens to be today’s most typical example; the confusion necessarily extends to the audiences, and that’s where the disservice and the danger lie. 

“Blogging is an individualistic, free-wheeling operation – although some bloggers are known to follow a common, if not collusive, line of thinking. It’s the readiest, least-discriminating (in fact, it’s open to anyone), widest-reaching, and therefore most tempting platform of free expression. It is cheap and easy enough for one to equip oneself for it and, once suitably equipped, one has the whole wired world for one’s potential audience.

“Journalism, on the other hand, is an organized enterprise, both a profession and a trade, governed by universal rules of practice and ethics and tradition. Journalists are trained in certain disciplines and skills; yet, their practice remains subject to layer upon layer of checks, and they are made to assume their share of individual as well as collective responsibility. 

“Journalism is an engineered train; blogging is a runaway one.” Rappler.com 

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