What is happening to Philippine Media?

By: Jerome Auza

President Rodrigo Duterte’s trip to the ASEAN Summit in Laos had Philippine and international media buzzing with controversial reports. The president held a press conference just before leaving for Laos and uttered inappropriate words that were interpreted as directed towards US President Barack Obama. While the cursing really happened, the interpretations as to whom it was directed to seemed to be deliberately reported in a way that will pin down President Duterte.

The good thing nowadays is that we can easily verify news reports online by looking at unedited video footage released by the presidential communications office and other sources. There are really glaring inaccuracies with many reports in the past several weeks when I have been following various topics in the news.

Just during the week of the ASEAN summit, we saw the following headlines:

From ABS-CBN: “Duterte calls Obama a ‘son of a w****'”. But if you review the video, the Tagalog cursing context was not interpreted correctly, even if the writers were obviously Filipinos. It was a theoretical scenario because the question is what if he is lectured about extra judicial killings. This could be a long winded argument between supporters of Duterte and his detractors. At any rate, saying curse words is inappropriate. But writing a headline to turn a hypothetical scenario into a fact is misleading. The headline should have been “Duterte threatens to curse Obama if lectured on EJK”, because that was his statement was “mumurahin kita diyan sa forum” which was a threat but it hasn’t occured yet. But the writers took the curse word (PI) before that phrase as the actual curse and made it appear as a fact.

As the ASEAN summit was on-going, another obviously incorrect headline by Inquirer “Metro Manila traffic just a ‘state of mind'” was attributed to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade. However, if you read the content of the news, what he said was “the prevailing Filipino psyche of using traffic as an excuse must be changed. That kind of state of mind that automatically uses traffic as an excuse, unnecessarily adds to the problem of traffic.”

My recent favorite is this headline from ABS-CBN: ‘No Duterte-Obama handshake at East Asia Summit’. The headlines from Reuters said “Duterte, Obama shake hands and chat after rift over insult”. The Washinton Post also said “Obama: ‘I did shake hands with President Duterte'” with a video showing Obama really saying that statement. What’s going on here?

Add to this situation the proliferation of satirical and false news websites and you get a confused and often misled readers.

How can we rely on media to be the source of truth with this habit of inaccuracies? Are these deliberate efforts to bring down some people? Honest mistakes? Plain incompetence? Or are these just techniques to entice people to click on the headlines to read the articles and gain advertising mileage?

Fortunately, social media can provide some verification and it is actually easy to spot inaccurate news by reading multiple sources about that topic. However, if you have to read multiple sources about a news report to get an accurate picture, that wastes a lot of your time. Currently, I keep a skeptic attitude about any news, especially on the national level. Maybe you should too.

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