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Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Death Of Objectivity

As we are all coming to terms with typhoon Haiyan's (local name: Yolanda) destruction of lives and properties, it's no surprise that news organizations are jostling for the "best", be it angle, human interest story,  or scandal. A disaster of this magnitude has gotten the world's attention - and helping hand - and that is where CNN's Anderson Cooper comes in.

(Courtesy of nydailynews.com)

One of the most recognizable faces where news reporting is concerned, Cooper has been to various high-risk areas (calamities, war zones) and is often seen reporting "from the ground" - where the action is. It seemed rather natural and expected that he would do the same in Haiyan's wake, as he has the experience in covering similar events.

What he reported from Tacloban City on the fifth day (after Haiyan left) was certainly a blow to our rescue efforts capabilities: he noted that power was still out, roads were still blocked, corpses were piled up by the road, there was extremely minimal - if any at all - government presence to convey authority and order. He compared our plight with those of Japan and Haiti's after they experienced their worst disasters, and found us to have the slowest response time, from an official government source.

Local news reader Korina Sanchez, wife of the current DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) secretary Mar Roxas, was reportedly displeased with Cooper's report, and shot back in her own radio show, saying (I'm paraphrasing) that he doesn't know what he was talking about/reporting on.

(Courtesy of sarablack.com)

This was certainly not unexpected on Korina's part. It is but natural to defend one's spouse, especially when he is cast in a bad light, in such public a manner.

The way I see it, there are two questions that are front and center:

(1) Was Cooper's report factual and objective?
(2) If so, why would a fellow journalist take issue with it?

If the answer to the first question is a No, the second question need not be tackled. (It opens up a whole slew of other concerns focusing on Cooper.)

I watched Cooper's report and found nothing false, misleading or exaggerated as to approach falsehood: there was no centralized government presence where he was reporting from, no makeshift medical booth or treatment area, no official giving out rations or supplies, bodies were strewn on roads, concrete, fallen roofs. It was the fifth day after Haiyan left, and Cooper was quite objective in stating what he saw, what we all saw on our TV screens.

It leads us to the second question: why was Sanchez bothered by facts? I presume that her comment was in response to the same Cooper report, and unless she saw something else, I am hard pressed to see why she would take issue with someone who did a textbook definition of objective reporting.

In my past blog entries, I have spoken against and taken issue with journalists who are seen endorsing products, or are relatives of current government officials, for the same reason: one way or another, their objectivity is bound to be compromised.

Whether they realize it or not, once they are connected - by ad or marriage - they can no longer claim impartiality, a hallmark of journalists, at least that's what I was taught. If a journalist is compromised, it is akin to being a lobbyist, only much worse: at least a lobbyist starts out with an agenda in mind, and makes that agenda known. With a journalist, s/he may act contrary to the public interest and the truth while assuming a deluded mantle of incorruptibility by way of his or her profession.

Think about it: how can you speak out against your own spouse - in public - when you are married to him? Even when factual observation bears out the truth, it becomes an untenable position to be in, the proverbial rock and a hard place.

Add to that Mr. Roxas' "chances" for 2016, and it becomes an everyday question I ask when I see Korina's face delivering the news: how can she effectively deliver the news about any inefficiencies of, say, the DILG, if she is married to its' head honcho?

There's a reason why raffle contests do not allow relatives of the organizers to join. And also why our Constitution wisely prohibits political dynasties. The outcomes, the processes cannot be undermined by a cloud of suspicion, the chance of tampering, the spectre of nepotism. It is to ensure that our tallies will be considered correct, that no intervention has taken place, and no corruption is allowed to fester. Once there is doubt, once there is compromise, everything and everyone becomes suspect.

Journalism, the press - sometimes referred to as the fourth branch of government in democracies - is given much leeway and latitude to ensure that the other three branches perform their duties, with the knowledge that they are always under scrutiny.

How can a journalist perform her duty, to her utmost capability of upholding the tenet of impartiality, when she is, quite literally, in bed with the subject of her report?

20 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. NO. SHE SHOULD BE FIRED, AND FOR HER JUST FOR DELICADISA OR FOR SAYING THAT, SHE MUST BE BANNED AS A JOURNALIST.

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  2. Nicely written. A good way to tackle the issue. I so love the closing sentence. :)

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  3. I am hoping mar roxas will never become president... Not because i dont't like him as president... But because i cannot and will not accept korina sanchez as first lady... I didnt vote for mar as vice because of korina!!!

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  4. Shot Up Korina Sanchez... Para kang hindi journalis! Dapat lang mahiya ka!

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  5. Thank you for writing this to us. I love your writing. Hope the governments will stop the corruption after Anderson Cooper report truth

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  6. CORINA SHOULD CLEAN HER IMAGE FIRST. THIS CANNOT HELP MAR ROXAS TO HIS AMBITION TO BE THE NEXT PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT.

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  7. Is Corina a journalist? You must be joking.

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  8. Was Corina in Tacloban reporting? nnnnnnnnnoooooooooooottttttttttttt!!!!!!!!! get your hands dirty before you talk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  9. Same sentiments here. Korina should've just kept her mouth shut. She should have known better that people will react to her blind item of Anderson Cooper because it's quite obvious she's defending her husband.

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  10. Korina, I hope you think it first before you talked and remember you have already an issue about how you mistreated your maid!! it is all over YouTube..... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1p25RDDbpB0

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  11. She has never been a broadcaster or a journalist. She was a news reader now a self-proclaimed Queen of a kindom beneath a 720foot tower at Quezon Ave that when that tower goes down she goes with it. "A fat conniving bitch from hell" says Marlene Aguilar. During her cover of Jess Robredo's burial in Naga, i have personally witnessed this woman treating the poor man incharge of her lighting like shit. She snobbed people around saying hello and just went on reprimanding her crew. Purely evil.

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  12. Korina should be on Cooper's shoe before she makes comments...

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  13. Korina should be on Cooper's shoe before making comments.

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  14. If you want to shine, be objective in commenting. be sure that you have all the facts and not just covering the image of your husband who is focusing for the next president. I hope that if you were not able to see the real situation in tv news or in any kind or even the first hand experience you shouldn't have keep your mouth SHUT!!!! rmpcebu
    remember, it will strike back to you and most especially to the ambition of your husband. your husband had said that there were no looting and that the peace and order situation was in place despite of the tv footage being shown but he insistently denied. WHAT KIND OF PRESIDENT WILL HE BE?

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  15. we should be thanking foreign journalists like anderson cooper. because of their reporting, the world found out what is the truth in leyte and samar....and because of this...help keeps on pouring in. she wants to cover the fact that people are hungry...sleeping beside the dead...dead remains on the streets...and the government is helpless. sec. gazmin and her husband went to the place after the super typhoon ill equipped with things they need...a satellite phone. even manalacanang cant reach them..

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