Shoulda, coulda, woulda

Still on the Julius Babao case: Ricky Carandang asks the threshold question.

If the story was so flimsy, why did PDI run it on page one without itself checking if there were reason to believe it?

Then he adds for good measure: "Shouldn’t they have checked it out before running it?"

Mylene Suaco repeats the question, but with a slightly different twist:

Why did Inquirer give the story the prominence it did not deserve?

I hesitate to answer the question, because as I have said more than once before, I do not speak for the Inquirer, and this blog, such as it is, cannot serve as the venue for fielding questions about the newspaper. I hesitate, because in answering I might give the wrong impression: that this blog speaks for the paper, or that somehow it is the role of this blog, simply because it is kept by an editor of the Inquirer, to speak for the paper.

Let me put it this way. I am sure the wrong way to treat Ricky’s thoughtful blog is to ask him questions about why, or how, ABS-CBN ran a particular story; it would be to miss the point of his blog.

I do realize, however, that journalists (again, such as we are, meaning to say given our limitations) do have a certain responsibility to explain the news or at least the news process itself. Perhaps, or at least in certain cases, it would be possible to answer questions like those of Ricky and Mylene in a way that does not make one question the whole point of keeping a personal (as opposed to an institutional) blog.

Ellen Tordesillas has in fact already pointed the way, when she posted the following comment:

The intelligence report is flimsy but not the story that the president is leaking an unverified report that a reporter is a terrorist-coddler. That was the story and it’s solid.

That, in sum, is the answer. And I’m happy to note that it’s an answer that works without me going into the details of the editorial decision-making; in other words, it’s an answer that will work for ABS-CBN or any other news organization.

The President said it. She said it on the record. She said it as an accusation against a prominent journalist. She said it in the context of her own struggle for political survival. Any which way you look at it, it is a solid story.

Is there need for a verification or at least corroboration? No, because the President and other such prominent newsmakers are the exception to the two-source rule. It was the editor’s responsibility to run such a story, only making sure that the prominently accused party could defend himself. As Ellen also pointed out, the first-day story did carry a denial.

Thus: The President’s basis for accusing Julius was "flimsy," but the story about her accusation was not. It was as solid as front-page stories go. 

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3 Comments

Filed under Readings in Media, Readings in Politics

3 responses to “Shoulda, coulda, woulda

  1. mortamz

    Hi John. I’m enjoying reading your articles a lot. Makes me miss those high school days.

    Keep it up my friend and good luck in all your endeavors.

  2. Ricky Carandang

    John,
    I’m satisfied with the answer. I was not trying to get into a pissing contest with you or the Inquirer and to tell you the truth I myself have questioned many of the stories that come out in mainstream media, not just from Inquirer but sometimes even from my own organization. I guess my reaction was mostly because many of our friends in the industry suspect that the Palace was trying to drive a wedge between the Inquirer and ABS, both of whom they believe to be hostile to them.
    Our friends say that in the same way they benefitted from a divided opposition, a divided military, a divided middle class, and a divided church, they can benefit from a divided media.

  3. Thanks, Ricky. The “pissing contest” never even entered my mind; I thought yours was a genuine threshold question; I just hesitated to answer it for the reasons I gave. But yes, the divided media strategy is right up the Palace alley. There is, of course, no shortage of “issues” that “divide” ABS-CBN and the Inquirer. But I think that, in this issue where the line between a journalist and the alleged terrorist he covers is deliberately being blurred, industry unity may yet surprise the Palace.

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