Policing the newsroom

I’ve read comments in other blogs, suggesting that journalists’ reaction to Proclamation 1017 has been, well, an overreaction. The fact that we continue to publish or air the stories we want to publish or air has been used as an argument, sometimes against the pretensions of a still all-too-freewheeling media.

It doesn’t matter if the police are to be posted to the newsrooms, the argument goes, as long as journalists continue to do their work.

This is a grave misunderstanding of the dynamics of a newsroom, and of human nature itself. Worse, it mistakes the present lack of effect for the total absence of risk. The truth is, a good newsroom is marked by freewheeling discussions about what constitutes the day’s news. Some of the best stories are the result of editors and reporters and producers and cameramen thinking out of the box. The presence of policemen in a newsroom may throw everyone involved in putting the news out for a loop.

The truly independent will make sport of police censors who won’t know the difference between, say, background and deep background (the prospect will energize many). But police presence may also make the less than fully independent (those who depend on government or government-endorsed ads or government regulatory caprice, for example) hold their fire.

Besides, media outrage in the last few days was a make-or-break matter. If after the raid on the Daily Tribune, the media had not been heard from, we can be sure the timetable for police presence in the newsrooms would have accelerated. In other words, journalists needed to make noise in the wake of Proclamation 1017, otherwise the resulting silence would have been ear-splitting.


Filed under Readings in Media, Readings in Politics

6 responses to “Policing the newsroom

  1. caloy

    the argument is no different — perhaps worse — than the one that says, Why be afraid of the an autocratic government if you have done nothing wrong?

  2. exie

    My fear is that the justified outrage over the blow Gloria has struck against the media is that the indignation is falling on deaf ears, ears that have tuned them out. Perhaps people think the press is merely getting its just desserts, something that has been a long time coming. Our “licentious” press is paying the price for its license. Now the boy cries wolf, and no one takes him seriously at just the moment they should.

    If this is indeed the case, it would be understandable but unfortunate.

    By the way, I’m glad you’re blogging regularly again. Great stuff!

  3. Just like mom-in-law in the matrimonial bedroom . . . a steal in the night is possible but no aahs and oohs and a-a-a-aahs . . . hehe

  4. ah, but exei, this supposed licentiousness of the press is debatable, at the very least. besides, it has become a convenient tool to justify arroyo’s crackdown on the media.

    keep in mind that the administration has never made secret its contempt for the press. she has been demonizing the press for months before this. she has called the press all sorts of names, including terrorist-coddlers, bad boys, etc. she and her men have poisoned the public mind early on, that what we have is a press that will someday have its just desserts, as you put it.

    but what is it that the press actually did to deserve such a treatment — a policy treatment, if i may add — from the administration? true, the philippine media can be irresponsble, shrill, you name it. but the things this adminsitration always complained about are allegations made through the media about scams and scandals she and her men allegedly committed — not that noontime TV shows are shallow, for instance. put another way, she is using the sins of some members of the media to terrorize all of them.

    the inquirer, the PCIJ, newsbreak and other publications and networks have done great work exposing the shenanigans — shenanigans that other branches of government are too terrified or too inept or too compromised to investigate — of this administration. why should we be surprised that she is now going at the press hammer and tongs?

    if you start justifying the patently dictatorial actions of this government — actions that are nothing but an attempt to prevent the truth from coming out about the election cheating allegations against her (because, really, all of this, including the Fort Bonifacio standoff, can be traced to the 2004 election and how she used the military to rig it) — if you start justifying tyranny by the lapses of those it victimizes, then we’re doomed.

  5. DJB

    No freeman should take this sitting
    down:First they came for the Jews
    and I did not speak out–because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for the communists
    and I did not speak out–because I was not a communist.
    Then they came for the trade unionists
    and I did not speak out–because I was not a trade unionist.
    Then they came for me–
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.

    [A famous poem by Pastor Martin Niemoller, Berlin, 1939. Niemoller was a pastor in the German Confessing Church who spent eight and one-half years in a Nazi concentration camp.]

  6. exie

    I agree with you on all your points, Caloy. It’s just that the press has indeed been “shrill” — Pico Iyer noted in the mid-1980s that Philippine newspapers have a “breathless” quality to them — and so it becomes more difficult to hear it when it raises its voice. Because it seems to make every bit of news seem urgent, I’m not surprised if people shrug off the vehement objections to Proclamation 1017 as still more shrillness. Like the boy who cried wolf but is ignored when he finally means it. I’m not condoning this reaction, but I understand why people might react that way.

    If this is indeed the popular reaction, then it would be unfortunate, because the danger — as you and many others have said, and with whom I agree — is real.

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