Journalists and their sources 3

First, and if you will allow me, a recap of some of the main points I raised on Ricky Carandang’s Big Picture program.

1. On Jarius Bondoc’s ethical dilemma: We try not to be judgmental, but we certainly need to be critical. I hope Jarius appreciates the difference.

2. I sympathize with his situation, I understand where he’s coming from; but I am not alone in thinking he made the wrong choice.

3. He is torn between his responsibilities as a journalist and as a citizen; in my view, he would have fulfilled his citizenship responsibilities by meeting his obligations as a journalist.

4. The journalistic privilege is indispensable to the free flow of information; Justice (now Chief Justice) Reynato Puno, in a stirring dissenting opinion in the landmark Jurado case, declared that “independent sources of information” must be protected, otherwise the press as the agent of the people won’t be able to meet its duty to inform.

5. Journalists must keep an open line with “insiders” in the government or other power centers; these sources must feel confident enough in the discretion of the journalists they deal with to continue talking to them.

Second, and I think you may find the following more interesting, a quick roundup of the things that did not get said on air, that were shared in the corridors of ABS-CBN or in the lulls between takes.

1. All of us, the three guests and host Ricky too, most definitely want the probe into the ZTE scandal to continue.

2. But we all agreed that there was a right way to do it; when journalists become part of the story, the issue becomes murky, muddled.

3. Vergel argued, and I agreed, that what Jarius could have done, in outing Romy Neri, was to write a news story, not an opinion piece —- in large part because more editors would have had a chance to vet the story, and because the discipline would have required a stricter accounting. (Actually, come to think of it, Vergel said this on air, too.)

4. Jarius aired his concern about Romy Neri being severely under duress —- but his decision to out him and reveal some of the information relayed in confidence surely placed Neri under more stress.

5. (In other conversations with other journalists) Romy Neri spoke to several other journalists, not just Jarius alone.

I don’t doubt that, if there had been more time, these too would have found their way to the public discussion.

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1 Comment

Filed under Readings in Media

One response to “Journalists and their sources 3

  1. I’m assuming here that Jarius was the only mediaperson who wrote about the NBN story and, as such, this was his scoop. It is because of this that I think, to some degree, he developed a sense of entitlement to the story, especially because he became such a part of it.

    I think that when Jarius decided to out Neri and disclosed information that was told him in confidence, he was not acting as a journalist or columnist but more like an actor in the drama. This was evident when he stated that he outed Neri because of some moral imperative on his part.

    (I think this is what happens when journalists — and much as I don’t want to use that term on Jarius because he is a columnist, strictly speaking, he was, in fact, a journalist — lose their objectivity in their method, as you pointed out in an earlier post.)

    As a matter of discipline, journalists ought to inhibit themselves from the story, or exercise some modicum of self-restraint, the moment they become part of it. That Jarius chose not to and instead pushed his involvement in the story deeper raises some questions. But that’s just me.

    But having said that, I’m wondering why Neri is not raising a howl about Jarius’s act. If he talked to a number of journalists about NBN (and assuming that he had told them what he told Jarius), it seems to me that the confidentiality of the information that he shared may have been the last thing on his mind. Was he hoping that one of those he had talked to couldn’t resist the temptation to tell — in this case Jarius — simply because the story was evolving so fast and was becoming a real, honest-to-goodness bombshell?

    My sense is that Neri wanted to make public that stuff about Abalos’s bribe try. Remember that a day or two before his testimony in the senate, Neri said he would not offer information. But during his testimony, that was exactly what he did. No senator directly asked him about the bribe try. He volunteered the information without prompting from anybody. Curious, eh?

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