Media-ocre

AS A MEDIA professional (doesn’t mean I’m any good at it, just that it’s what butters my bread) I have always followed with interest how news media practitioners and their respective organizations cover and treat events of national significance.

There are highs and lows in this industry, of course it is easier to remember the lows than the highs, like the extremely undue coverage and attention the top broadcast and print organizations the sordid affair Kris Aquino has with Joey Marquez – including the images of that slobbering tv celebrity recounting how she was given Chlamydia by the mayor on live national TV and on the front pages of national dailies.

Highs, of course, are when journalists sometimes put themselves in harm’s way just to get us what’s going on out there, like in natural disasters and firefights in Mindanao.

The current coverage of the Pork Scam demonstrates both highs and lows, but I guess it’s different now with Live TV coverage technology and real time online updates. You get full raw coverage, warts and all, of the Senate hearings and everybody glued to their sets and in the Senate gallery tweeting developments and armchair analysis real time.

But every once in a while you catch news media – those actual news gathering and reporting organizations, up to their old tricks to help peddle their newspapers or air time. I guess with all the live coverage they have no choice but to find fresh, snazzy, sensational angles that will grab audience attention and imagination.

For example, one of the tricks of the trade is to make the headline so attention grabbing that you just had to stop, buy that newspaper or click “read full story” on the online news service. As you scroll down, it turns out to be a dud.

For example, a few days back rappler.com came out with a headline screaming “Jinggoy net worth up 133% in six years.” The story, taken in the context to the P10 billion pork scam and implications of his alleged involvement in it makes one gasp and say, “the guy stole the money!” (http://www.rappler.com/nation/38330-jinggoy-net-worth-up)

But in reading the story, it simply went through the Senator’s net worth stats and. Indeed, in the six year period of 2007 to 2012 his net worth did grow six times. But ask any prudent investor, banker, or real estate agent: is it possible? Yes, apparently, because there are bank products that can double your money in five years, mutual funds like Ayala that have reported 40% return annually and land and condos that have grown five times in value.

Back in college, oh eons ago, we read through an essay entitled “Lying With Statistics”… (or something like that, if memory serves me right). Basically the essay pointed out that you can take a statistic or fact, twist its presentation and let it fit the message of your agenda, hidden or otherwise.

Speaking of Senator Jinggoy Estrada, at the start of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings he issued a statement on the floor that he was not participating in the investigation because his presence “may be conceived as deterring the resource persons from providing relevant information or may be perceived as impeding the free-flowing discussions among the participants here.” This was faily reported in most news coverage. However, TV5 news repeatedly reported that Jinggoy staged a “walk out” of the proceedings (http://n5e.interaksyon.com/Top.aspx?g=5F4BF7FA976443D) which obviously made a lot of difference in the reporting and audience perception.

You’re probably wondering why this blog post has turned Jinggoy-centric. Well, it’s another “sin” of news media, one that I basically had to live with in the practice of the profession. It’s called the “journalistic shortcut” – given the limitations of time, space and audience attention span news reports have to limit themselves top the less tedious presentation of facts, like giving one, most current example for a more general phenomenon rather that a whole treatise on the subject matter at hand.

Jinggoy’s travails are the current examples of the point I’m making now, so there. But there are many others that you neither have the time nor energy to read about.

Then there are labels used to describe more complex beings: leftists, rightists, Muslim, Christian.

While this would point to that Matthew Arnold quote that “Journalism is literature in a hurry,” I find there’s a tad more wisdom in the words of the indefatigable genius of Rene Saguisag who, when he was President Cory Aquino’s spokesman, said: “Media is plural for mediocre.”

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