IMAGINE YOU’RE A journalist tasked to write a news report on the president’s COVID-19 updates.
You wonder why his public speeches somehow always happen when the public is sleeping, but you do your job anyway.
You write your notes as the president speaks. It’s not your job to write everything down — you’re a journalist, not a typist — so you write only the most relevant parts according to your own judgment.
Once the speech is over, you start organizing your story. You begin by drafting the lead, the first paragraph of your report. The lead is the most important part, you know that, so you review your notes and you ask yourself: which among these details is the most newsworthy?
Your lead can be about the most basic information, the five Ws and one H as your high school teacher has taught you, but you’re not in high school anymore. You know news writing is more involved than that.
Your story can instead focus on the most drastic quarantine update, the health secretary’s new strategies, or even the president’s snarkiest remark. You can also just forego covering the event altogether and ask your editor to please give space to lighter, happier stories. (Ha, ha, ha.)
You consider all these and more, but you think fast — you have a deadline and your news might expire.
You choose your story’s angle. You decide which details to prioritize and which details to exclude (there’s always a limit on word count).
By the time you finish writing, you’ve made at least a hundred more decisions.
You know all these decisions are subjective. The choices you make are all influenced by a myriad of factors, whether you’re aware of them or not. You know this is true even when writing the news.
The very act of choosing a focal point, of deciding which info deserves to be on top, is largely subjective. What you deem newsworthy may not be as important to other journalists, not even to your editors. They, too, call the shots based on their own discretion.
“Journalists can never be completely objective and unbiased,” writes veteran journalist Ed Lingao on a Facebook post. “Anyone who tells you otherwise is either sadly unaware of the nuances of the concepts, or is plain and simply fooling himself.”
You acknowledge your subjectivities but you don’t allow them to impede the truthfulness of your work. When you write a story you remain fair, you vet your sources, and you never falsify facts.
You proofread your draft.
You understand that no matter how you write your story, there will always be readers who will find it disagreeable. They will call you biased, they will cry huhu you hurt my feelings, and, if they’re powerful enough, they will have you arrested or they will shut your company down.
You submit your draft to your editor.
You remind yourself that writing — be it on newspapers, on blogs, or on social media — is all about making decisions.
To write, or not to write, is already to take a position. #
ON FRIDAY, JULY 10, the congressional committee on legislative franchises voted against the renewal of ABS-CBN’s 25-year license. The decision concluded a 13-day hearing and followed a spate of statements from the president accusing the network of political bias and threatening to block their franchise application.
To say that the decision has nothing to do with vindictive egos is to therefore ignore the context of the issue. To claim that the shutdown does not infringe upon press freedom is to fail to understand what freedom implies.
Journalists get convicted for cyberlibel and people get subpoenas for airing opinions on the Internet. The message is clear: you refuse to toe the line and you will be silenced.
So I stand with ABS-CBN and with all my friends in the media. I stand with the 11,000 people who might lose their jobs, and I stand with the millions more who are denied access to news and entertainment while the world battles a public health crisis.
This is not a neutral blog post. I raise my fist. I write in dissent.
Oust the fucking president.