Journalistic standards are in a spiral in the Philippines as hearsay “news” gets greater mileage in the biggest media network in the land. Recently, ABS-CBN News plumbed new lows as it positioned as its top headline a highly-speculative blog article by “investigative journalist” Raissa Robles on properties allegedly owned by Chief Justice Renato Corona in the United States.
As of the 2:56 pm Australian Eastern Daylight Saving Time, the 26th March 2012, the following was laid out on the front page of the ABS-CBN News website with the story on Robles’s blog at the top of the pile.
This follows the very “journalistic” and “fact-finding” tradition that got Niel Tupas Jr and his prosecution team in hot water with the impeachment court Senator-Judges when an allegation that Corona owned no less than 45 properties (which the media then turned into a publicity circus) turned out to be baseless. But it seems ABS-CBN News have still to learn from this. Not only is ABS-CBN reporting on a speculative report (making the goliath multinational news organisation twice-removed from accountability over the veracity of said “report”), it is giving premium space to information that simply does not pass the most basic standards of what constitutes news reporting.
A quick scan of current events related to the Philippines reveals topics that have more far-reaching potential impact on the average Filipino: the not-guillty plea of massacre suspect Andal Ampatuan, the alleged use of American weapons technology by the Philippine Air Force to mount a surgical bombardment of an Abu Sayyaf camp, the plight of teachers kidnapped by bandits in Mindanao, and the Philippine military response to a “test” missile launch to be conducted by North Korea among others. Aside from these stories being undeniably more important than Robles’s quaint Sherlock aspirations, the facts and corroborative reports available to write meaningful and insightful stories about these are more than ample and more readily accessible.
Indeed, according to Robles herself, the allegations that Corona maintained a portfolio of properties in the United States were based on information obtained “through ‘crowdsourcing’ in her blog”. Presumably she means the scores of netizens who follow and comment in it. It therefore becomes a question of how intelligent Robles’s clique of blog readers and commentators are. Certainly they are biblical in the adoration they reserve for the bastion of journalistic “integrity” they find in Robles — which brings to question just how objective they are in digging up the dirt that their cult master commands them to seek. Last I heard, objectivity is a cornerstone of journalistic integrity.